7 Strategies for Facing Taller Opponents – Control the ‘T’ Sports

Control the ‘T’ Sports


Squash players come in many shapes and sizes.

Different builds, heights, weights, and muscle masses all come with their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to competitive squash, and they also all present a variety of challenges to opponents as well.

One particular body type that we’ll all encounter at some point is the tall squash player.

I’m pretty much bang on 185cm tall, which some people may class as tall. I guess this is on the taller side, which does bring some advantages. However, I wouldn’t say that I play with a ‘tall player’s’ style in general.

However, I know lots and lots and lots of squash players who are taller than myself and who are able to use their larger height, stride, lunge, reach, and wingspan to their advantage, and, these are the types of players I want to focus on this week.

I’m going to go through 7 different strategies that you can deploy when you come up against a player like this.

Now, it’s very likely that we have some taller players reading this article too. I hope nothing I say here causes any offense, and, the strengths and weaknesses I talk about in this article are based mainly on generalities.

They may not be specific to you personally, I’m just drawing from my own experience from years of playing against taller players.

Plus, if you are a tall player yourself, you can use this week’s newsletter as a cheat sheet. It may give you some inspiration or guidance into some strengths of your own game that you can build and capitalise on, and, it might make you aware of some of your weaknesses that you need to work on too.

You might notice that, throughout the course of this article, elements of these 7 strategies relate and overlap with each other, but, this is a good thing since it means that you can incorporate many of these strategies at once!

So, let’s dive in…


1. Exploit Their Movement

Taller players may have a stride and wingspan, however, this can make it more challenging for them to change direction quickly and move with speed since they have a bigger frame to co-ordinate. You can exploit this by incorporating sudden changes in direction to catch them off guard, forcing them to twist and turn.

Some ways to do this involve throwing in cross courts, boasts, cross-court drops, reverse boasts, or pretty much any shot that forces them to perform a ‘stop-start’ motion to change direction (rather than being to go through the more fluid motion of a straight length rally, for example).

This approach can disrupt taller players’ balance and rhythm, making it difficult for them to reach shots effectively and quickly. It also forces them to work that little bit harder and, if done consistently and correctly, can begin to take its toll physically over the court of a match.

The best ways to exploit movement depend on mixing up your shots and mixing up the pace, two strategies that I’ll discuss in more detail later.

When it comes to the movement of taller players, it’s important to note that they generally need to take fewer steps to get to the ball and can often get to your shots at the front pretty fast. This can make it quite difficult to win rallies against them by using shots like straight drops and volley drops.

If we look at the PSA World Tour, for example, men’s World No.1 Ali Farag is certainly on the taller side. One of his most obvious strengths is his ability to get to pretty much any ball that his opponent plays, especially to the front of the court. He makes it look effortless!

So, when I talk about exploiting the movement of taller players, I don’t mean that you should be going for super accurate drops and winners to make them move straight into the front corners, because that’s harder against taller players.

Instead, the aim should be to keep them twisting and turning and making uncomfortable or unnatural movements (that may be more uncomfortable for them to make than players of average or smaller heights).

It’s more of a medium—to long-term strategy that, if deployed right, will begin to show results in the middle to later stages of matches, particularly as the taller player begins to tire. You might get some easy/cheap points in the short term, but you shouldn’t be banking on it!

2. Don’t Let Them Volley

This is one of the most obvious things to think about when you come up against a taller player. Of course, the taller player’s larger wing span and height allow them to be very effective at volleying. If you’ve ever played a tall player, you’ll know how frustrating it can be when you try to lob them from the front of the court and they just reach up and volley it easily.

Or, when you’re stuck in the back of the court and they’re just standing on the T and volleying all of your lengths by just taking one lateral step to either side to intercept them.

If you can figure out a way to neutralise the taller player’s volleying advantage, it can really level the playing field and give you the chance to proactively play your own game, rather than reactively playing to their pace.

One effective approach for limiting your opponent’s volleying opportunities is to keep the ball low, hard, and tight to the side walls. These harder drives are often low or dropping by the time your opponent can try to take the volley, plus, if they’re also hugging the side wall, your opponent risks returning a loose shot, giving away a stroke, or even making a mistake.

This is a strategy you should employ throughout the entire match. If you can consistently focus on maintaining a deep and accurate length game, you will force your opponent to play from more defensive positions and give yourself more opportunities to attack.

Now, I know I mentioned that lobs are often easilty intercepted by taller players, however, if you’re controlling the rallies on your own terms with those lower, harder lengths and cross court lengths, you can also start mixing up the pace and height of your shots every now and again.

If your lifts are accurate and your opponent is beginning to get fatigued, too, they may be unwilling to even try to volley them. Just make sure to test the waters first with the odd lift. If it’s not working, then perhaps this approach isn’t the best one for that particular match.

But, if it does work, straight and cross court lifts are a great way to buy yourself some time to get back in control of the ‘T’, and, to push your opponent deep into those back corners of the court.

By constantly changing the trajectory and speed of your shots, you can keep your opponent off balance and out of position, preventing them from settling into a comfortable volleying rhythm.

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3. Vary The Pace

Now, I mentioned this above a couple of times, but it certainly deserves its own section. Varying the pace is a good strategy against several different types of players for many different reasons. However, the main objective of this strategy is to prevent your opponent from getting into a rhythm and to control the game on your terms.

When it comes to playing taller opponents, it also keeps them guessing and reacting, forcing them to make harsher movements.

Mixing powerful strikes in with medium cut lengths that glue to the side wall and then throwing in the odd high lob here and there will force your opponent to keep having to adjust their positioning and footwork, making it more challenging for them to anticipate and react to your shots effectively.

Overall, I would say that lower, harder lengths should still be the majority of your shots, however, if you play two or three of them in a row and then start to throw in shots with softer paces it can throw your opponent off.

Then, you can revert to those powerful strikes and repeat the process.

Your opponent will constantly have to make small adjustments to the speed of their movement, the way that they push off, and the position that they move back to.

If you can also add some deception to your shots, that’s just a bonus!

For example, you could throw in some holds and show that you’re going to crack a low hard shot, but then lift it at the last second, or, play a drop, or vice versa.

Anything to keep your opponent hesitating and guessing, and, anything that stops them from sinking into their comfortable rhythm is a good thing, especially if they’re a taller player.

4. Use The Lower Front Wall
If you think about it, taller players have to lean further down when picking up lower shots.

They’re probably most comfortable with medium to low-paced shots because those shots are generally volleying height, however, if you’re aiming one, two, or even three feet below the service line, they will have to get down lower and lower into positions that are more and more uncomfortable to pick those shots up into

One of the most important things to think about here is your targets.

You can utilise the lower front wall by hitting dying lengths that still land deep in the back corners (but ideally bounce twice just before they reach the back wall), or, you can hit even lower on the front wall to hit kills that die second bounce in the service box. You can also do this using straight shots or cross court shots, and, you can do it from the front, middle, or back of the squash court.

So, you can really use that lower front wall from pretty much anywhere on the court! When hitting straight, low kills, tightness is very important as you want to restrict your opponent’s shot selection if they are going to get to your shot. When hitting cross court kills, try to make sure they don’t land in the middle of the court and get that width the reduce the risk of your taller opponent being able to step across and take it early.

I’ll also mention that you can vary the pace when using the lower front wall too, you don’t have to just crack everything as low and as hard as possible. You can also experiment with cuts, slices, and softer cross court flicks after doing a hold. Any shot that forces your taller opponent to have to scramble, get down low, and be in uncomfortable positions will help you deal maximum damage!

This is just another great way to neutralise the height advantage of taller opponents and even the playing field.

5. Disrupt their Rhythm/Timing
with Deception

Again, I have indeed touched on this in the past few sections, however, it also counts as a strategy in and of itself.

Taller players generally move their best when rallies are flowing at a consistent pace, however, if you can disrupt that by mixing up your timing and shot selection, it can do even more damage.

One way to utilise timing and deception is through the use of feints and fake shots, where you set up to play one type of shot but then execute a different shot at the last moment. These deceptive holds can catch taller opponents off guard and force them to commit to a particular movement or positioning, only to be wrong-footed by your deceptive play.

And, as we mentioned earlier, it can often be a little harder for taller players to change direction in this fast-paced manner, so, it should hopefully do some physical damage too. The best time to do these kinds of shots is when your opponent has played a weak shot that gives you some time on the ball, such as a boast, a back wall boast, or a weak, loose drop shot.

Mixing up the pace of these shots can also make them even more effective (as I mentioned above). By alternating between fast-paced attacking shots and slower, more controlled shots, you can keep your opponent off balance and prevent them from settling into that comfortable rhythm.

Additionally, incorporating subtle changes in grip, body positioning, and swing technique can add further elements of unpredictability to your shots, making it more challenging for taller opponents to read your intentions and anticipate your next move.

These tricky, deceptive shots can work wonders when trying to create even more openings for you to attack. They can help you build and construct a rally that’s difficult for your opponent physically, and, one that also eventually forces your opponent to hit a shot that’s weak enough for you to go for an outright winner.

But, again, the main goal of this strategy isn’t to win easy points, it’s to do more damage in the medium and long-term by keeping your opponent guessing and stopping them from getting into that comfortable, consistent rhythm (that will give taller players an advantage in particular).

6. Try Not To Let Them In Front

Now, this could be related to strategy number 2 of restricting the volley, however, in my opinion, this one is more about not playing weaker shots to the front of the court that give your taller opponent time on the ball (such as high three wall boasts or loose drop shots).

Taller opponents are at their most threatening when they’re in front of you.

I’ll give you an example, a good friend of mine is a good few inches taller than me, and, he has a stocky build. He’s an absolute master at one shot in particular, and that’s the mid-court kill. So, if I’m playing against him and he’s on the T, any time I hit a slightly loose straight or cross-court drive, he can step across, take the volley in very low, very hard, and very tight to the side wall. It’s especially hard when he does it from my cross-court, this is because I hit my cross-court from the back, and, while I’m moving diagonally towards the T, he steps across and plays this kill that’s very accurate nine times out of ten.

But, since he’s in front of me, it’s usually very hard for me to see where the ball is, or, what shot he played. But, I can’t ask for a stroke or a let because I’m nowhere near the ball and I’ve got no idea what the correct route to the ball is. It’s a very frustrating shot to try to retrieve!

So, this is why taller players are so threatening when they’re in front of you. You’ve got to do everything you can to gain control of the T, keep them in the back corners, and control the pace of play on your terms. If you can, it’s a good option to try to do some volleying of your own to take time away from the taller player. Aim to be proactive in cutting off your opponent’s angles and intercepting their shots before they have a chance to reach the front of the court and threaten you.

The moment they get in front of you, this is when you may need to slow things down again with a lift to try to get them back deep into the corners. So, stay proactive, anticipate their movements, and be prepared to adapt your game plan as needed to keep them on the defensive and maintain pressure on the court.

7. Stay Patient And Keep Your Head

Any time I mention tips that involve staying mentally strong, it sounds easier said than done. I’m fully aware of how difficult it can be to keep your head together in the fast-paced game of squash, regardless of who your opponent is!

Certain types of players and playing styles can be more frustrating than others, and, speaking from experience, this can very often be the case against taller players, especially if they are controlling the rallies. It can feel as though you’re playing against an immovable wall at times!

The strategies I’ve mentioned in this newsletter all require consistency, patience, and a level head.

The moment you start getting impatient, hitting loose shots, or just being careless, this is when the taller player can begin to control the rallies and the ‘T’. Make sure to avoid rushing your shots or making hasty decisions.

Since taller opponents have a longer reach and can cover more ground, it’s important to wait for the right opportunity to attack rather than forcing shots that aren’t there. By staying patient and waiting for openings to present themselves, you can minimise unforced errors and maximise your chances of staying in the rallies, and, more importantly, winning them!

Now, this is definitely not the case in most instances, but, you may also experience a taller opponent trying to use their height, size, and power to make things more physical, block shots, and generally overpower you.

This isn’t usually in a malicious way. More often than not, that taller player is just playing to their own advantage. But from a mental perspective, the only thing you can do against these types of players is stay calm and composed. The moment you slip and get frustrated, they get on the front foot.

It’s vital to focus on playing your own game and sticking to your strengths rather than getting caught up in trying to match your opponent’s style of play. This is one of the most common mistakes that players make against taller, more powerful opponents.

By staying true to your game plan and executing your shots with confidence, you can put pressure on your opponent and force them to adapt to your pace and rhythm, which is the overall goal of nearly every tip in this week’s newsletter.

Remember to stay positive and maintain a winning mindset throughout the match.

Of course, it always sounds a little cringey, but, never give up because, even if things aren’t going your way or you find yourself trailing in the score, staying optimistic and believing in your ability to turn the match around can give you the mental edge you need to come out on top.

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