November 4th, 2009 by Darrin Schenck
Well, another calendar year is almost in the books. I know this since I, like a lot of racquetball players out there keep track of time by the yearly tournament schedule. National Doubles means I need to buy a Valentines Day present, the Amateur Nationals in Houston means summer is here, and of course the US Open in Memphis means that the holiday season is almost upon us.
So whether you attended the event in person or watched on line, once again we were treated to the best of the best our sport has to offer. Kane is still the man…and the gap does not seem to be closing. Despite winning close first games against Jose Rojas in the quarters and Huzcek in the finals, most of the games he won were not closely contested. Rhonda Rajisch squeaked past last years Women’s Champ Paola Longoria to add to her list of titles. This rivalry should keep us entertained for years to come; makes me wonder who can step up on the Men’s side to challenge Kane. Any takers?
So what can we learn from watching these top players play the game in one of the sports biggest venues? Do me and yourself a huge favor and repeat after me:
“I am not Kane Waselenchuk (or Rhonda Rajisch) ”
Why do I want to hear you say this? Because I want you to be a better player than you already are. Sounds contradictory, I know. However, unless you are a really late bloomer, you do not have the athletic ability of the top men and women pros. I am sorry to be the one to break this news to you, but it is true.
So with this in mind, I want to encourage you to build a better, more stable game plan than you witness at the US Open. The top pros rarely miss, and they have the skill foundation to hit winners from every position on the court. They have done the work, and build the base to be able to play like this. You will be far better off implementing a more conservative game plan and allowing your opponent to be the one to take low percentage shots, making a few of them but not enough to win.
The first thing I preach to my students when we get to the discussion about shot selection is to use all of the court behind your opponent. A large majority of the shots you take are when your opponent is set up in center court. Don’t try to hit a kill or a splat in front of someone who is planted in center court looking to cover this shot. The one you make might look cool, but the six you miss are hurting you far more than one good shot gains. Yes, I am talking to you. HIT PASSES…please! It drives me crazy to sit and watch people miss easy, wide open opportunities to end rallies and win points because they are choosing the wrong shot.
PRACTICE DRILL—-When you are practicing, put your bag against the front wall about 12″ to 18″ away from the right wall. (BTW…remove any breakable items from the side of the bag that you will be pelting with forehands) Stand at the five foot line. Now drop and hit 20 forehands (for you righties) and see how many times you can hit the ball down the line without hitting your bag. Now back up to 38′ deep and do the same. If your number is less than 70% from either position, you need more practice. Do the same thing on the backhand side as well.
What is the purpose of the bag? It will teach you to hit the ball higher (less risk) and make it travel deeper into the court, resulting in a pass. Your shot should land around the service line on the first bounce and the second bounce before the back wall (or hit very low on the back wall) This is the most difficult shot for your opponent to defend, and it will make your job of winning rallies far easier. Want to up the difficulty? Feed yourself a shot and then hit down the line, count and measure your results.
This drill is more difficult than you think, but it will hopefully ingrain this shot into your game and when you play this should become your shot of choice. It makes your opponent cover the most court, and is easier for you to execute. You have roughly 250 square feet behind your opponent (who is set in center court) and about 50 square feet in front of them to make the ball bounce the second time. Which do you think is easier???
Head Coach–ASU Racquetball
Former IRT Touring Pro