Many players have problems when facing left-handers. Everything seems unusual, the angles of the shots are different, the patterns of play all seem alien. During a game it is often too late to come up with a set plan to counter all this before the game is more or less over.
So what strategies can you use against left handed players? In squash you should play left-handers by reversing lots of the things you do normally. Serve from the left hand box. Play lob serves to the right, and use cross-court lobs to the back right. Try to play backhand shots tight down the wall, as many left hander like to capitalize on this side.
I have done some research and come up with the best 15 tips I can find from a range of sources. I hope you find them useful.
1. Try Not To Think Of Them As Left Handers
This can be the best way of approaching the situation.
The truth is that good squash shots will work well whether your opponent is right-handed or left. Tight shots down the wall are effective whoever you are plaing against.
A better way is to perhaps think about which parts of the court they dominate and are strong. Which parts of the court do they have any issues with, or which shots are they not so strong in.
Once identified, you can target these parts of the court and work on them, with a bit of variety thrown in of course.
2. Use The Pace They Put On Their Forehands
Many left-handers like to thump their forehands because they see it as their natural advantage on the left side.
Use their pace and deflect the ball to a target area on the front wall.
Keep your racket well back and prepared in advance, as there may not be much time to get ready if the ball is really whacked at you.
Accuracy is crucial on this left-hand side. If the ball is coming out away from the wall, the left-hander can use a full swing for the follow up shot. Power is only possible in any shot if the ball is well away from the wall.
3. Be Wary About Cross-Courting Your Forehands
One of the key shots for many left-handers is the forehand volley.
In general all players have a longer reach with their forehand than their backhand. You are able to reach balls further away from the T on this side.
Many left-handers capitalize on this. They wait for forehand cross-courts that are not wide enough, and play forehand volley kills or drops.
Be at least aware of this. If you are going to cross court from the right, play it with plenty of height to get it over them, or really wide so that it definitely will hit the sidewall and bounce towards the back.
Returns of serve using a forehand are best to be played down the line. Don’t risk hitting it back to them.
4. Play Lobs To The Back-Right Corner
This is traditionally a ‘bogey’ area for many left handers.
In particular, it is a good strategy that any short balls that you receive in the front left corner, to loft them over your opponent’s head into the back right-hand corner of the court.
The leftie may try to run backwards and attempt to hit a backhand overhead. This is a very difficult shot, and hard to play accurately.
Alternatively, they may try to run backwards and play the ball out of the back right hand corner. It is usually harder to dig balls out of the backhand corner than the forehand, because a longer backswing is required to generate power on the backhand. In general, in the back right corner is a good place for the left hander to be kept.
5. Play Tight On The Backhand Side
Many lefthand players (but not all) find their biggest strength comes on the forehand side. They are regularly trying to force the rallies to that side of the court, so that they can dominate with power and also with variety in their shots.
There are two ways of approaching this. The first is to try to get them back over the right-hand side of the court as quickly as possible.
The other way is just to play tight on your backhands. Power in your shots is not an issue here at all; placement is everything.
If you feel you don’t have the accuracy in your game, then get them over to the other side. If you feel that you do, then go for it. Kill them with accuracy. Many right-handers find their backhand, despite being less powerful, is much more acccurate. Let it work it’s magic!
6. Their Amazing Forehand Could Be A Myth
This brings us onto this point, that not all left-handers are the same. You may well play one that returns much better from the right, and loves backhand overheads.
You may well play one that does not have a great forehand, but their backhand is an absolute killer. There are plenty of these sorts of players around.
Assess what their game is like. If you are able to do this either before the match or in the warm-up then great.
Otherwise use the first game to really assess their game and work out which shots are their strengts. Are they a classic left-hander, or are you dealing with something a little bit different.
When you’ve worked that out, you can go forward from there.
7. Beware Their Disguise From The Left Front
This is not something to avoid, but more a thing to be aware of.
A left hander will have a slight advantage in the front left corner, because of the disguise they can put on their shots.
They will be using their forehand for these shots, and all forehands need a much more minimal backswing than a backhand. Therefore, with a very short backswing a left hander could play a drive kill, a cross court kill, a trickle boast or a drop shot, all with basically the same set up.
Be ready for this. Try to learn how to read them as they play these different shots. If their disguise is excellent, just keep the ball out of this left front corner. They will not be so great at disguise on their back-hand side.
8. Serve From Left Hand Side Box (Usually)
Of course this is the clasic advice – to serve to the left-handers backhand because this will usually be the slighter weaker shot.
However, as with all players, this may not be the case. Some players have unexpected strengths.
Other players have simply turned a weakness into a strength. Many players practise their backhand return of serve a lot over a period of years. Over this time frame they may well have developed a range of unexpected and high-quality shots.
Just see how it goes, and don’t just stick to the left if it’s not working.
9. Play Lob Serves To The Right
This is quite obvious but probably worth mentioning.
When playing left-hander the idea is to do lots of the things you normally do in reverse. One of the biggest things for this is reversing your serve.
Whatever you normally do for a right-hander to the left, do that for a left-hander to the right.
Many players always play a lob serve from the right of the court. This could well end in disaster against the left-handers forehand. They will often smash the ball down the line, or play a volley drop or kill.
However, on the other side of the court you will usually find a lot more success when playing a lob to the left-handers backhand.
10. Move Your Feet For The Return
The serves of left-handers on both sides will often feel unusual. It is not that they are harder to play, they are just different to what you are used to.
The angles are different, as are the types of power and where the ball is coming from and going to.
One of the secrets to playing returns effectively is move your feet quickly into good positions. You will then be much more able to hit a good response.
Also keep your racket back, and your shoulders facing the sidewall at the moment of impact.
11. Everything Looks A Bit Weird
Ths is the big advantage that lefties have. It is an element that it is hard to put your finger on.
Everything they do is just different to what you are conditioned to experience. The angles of their shots, their movement to the ball, their strengths in different areas of the court – all are different to right-handers and take a bit of getting used to.
It is one thing having a conscious plan, but it is quite another thing executing that in reality when everything is feeling new and unusual.
Experience is the best answer to this, which takes us onto our next tip…
12. Find A Leftie To Practice With
If at all possible, finding a leftie to practice with or play the odd game against is only going to be a postive thing, and negate the sense of ‘weirdness’ about their play.
Patterns of play will somehow seep into your muscle memory. Reading their their body positions and assessing their shot options will become a more automatic skill.
Club mix-ins can be great for this. These are nights held at squash clubs, often once a week, where you get to play one game against a range of opponents. These are good for sharpening your skills against young and old, left or right handed, hard hitting or soft.
13. Assess Their Backhand V Forehand
Check out both of these shots. If you can’t do it fullly in the warm-up, then complete the jobs in the first game. Different players have different strategies and types of shots on either side.
Assess what these are for this opponent and adapt accordingly.
14. Use Forehand Volleys To Attack Cross-Courts
Play them at their own game!
Lefties love attacking cross-courts with forehand volleys so why shouldn’t you do the same? You have extra reach on this forehand side, and so can attack balls well away from the T.
Bury them in the right front corner, or hit them straight down the wall, and you will have your opponent moving over to what is normally their less favored backhand side.
15. Beware Their Short Game
This may be a bit of a generalisation, but it always seems that all left-handed players have a good-quality short game.
I once heard a rumour that this was due to the different side of the brain that is dominant in left-handers, but I have no evidence that this theory has any scientific basis.
This may not always true, and you may come up against a leftie that likes spraying balls around all over the court and never goes for anything short. However, this player would be in a minority.
Just keep an eye on this lethal short game, and playing length and tight to the wall should negate it as much as possible.
How should you serve to left handers in squash?
The normal way to serve to left handers is from the left hand service box. You are then playing to their bakchand side which is normally weaker. Play lob serves to the right hand side, and drive serves to the left, at least to start with.
Who are the top left hand squash players?
In squash there have been many leading layers that were left handed. Left hander Amr Shabana is the four times World Open Champion. He is also known for his grace and elogence around the court. Scotland’s Peter Nicon two British Opens, and one World Open.
How do you improve quickly at squash?
To improve quickly at squash, play lots of different opponents, most of whcih are better than you. Listen to advice and ask others to analyse your game. Read blogs and watch videos about technique. Practise solo drills and also drills and games with a partner as regularly as your schedule will allow.