In this article we’ll examine how to lob in squash, when to use the lob, how you can pair it with other shots and discuss some misconceptions about the lob and why it should be a weapon in your arsenal.
Other aspects such as honing your technique and footwork will be addressed too.
When executed well, the lob is a classic shot and one of the most beautiful shots seen on the court. And yet most players don’t use it often enough. Some players, especially younger ones, who are looking to often attack, consider the lob to be a defensive shot.
We hope to turn that idea around as well as show you the different types of lobs and how and when to play them.
So how do you lob in squash? To play a lob, stay low and try to use your normal backswing, to add an element of disguise. Hit the ball upwards so that it arcs over your opponent. Aim to hit the sidewall quite high up on the opposite side of the court. The perfect lob will die near the back wall.
“When the ball is tight, give it height.”
These words of wisdom from famed coach David Pearson will serve you well as a means to vastly improve your game. But words alone won’t do it, as with everything, practice makes perfect. To understand the lob, its uses and variations, we first have to define it.
What Is a Lob?
The Lob or Toss is a shot that is played soft and high at the front wall and meant to go over the opposing player’s head, deep into the back court. When executed a lob gives a player time to gain position and recover.
A great lob will arc and then die deep in the corner ending a rally. When in trouble think of the lob as your “get out of jail free” card. On the attack it’s the ultimate change of pace shot and can help you get into the head of your opponent. Let’s look at the different types of lobs one can use in a match:
Cross Court Lob
Given the confines of squash most often lobs are played cross court in the midst of a rally and from the front corners. You’ll want the trajectory of the ball to be wide enough to make it difficult for your opponent to play, contacting the side wall beneath the service line, dropping dead in the opposite back corner. Your target should be the same spot as you aim your serve.
When you’re faced with a tight straight drive or a straight drop shot a terrific recovery shot is the Straight Lob. Here you’ll find your opponent’s ball sticking to the side wall with your options limited. This is a tough spot to hit a perfect shot, but you’re not looking for perfection here. You are playing to regain position.
Flip the ball upward as with a normal lob. Your racket may slightly scrape the side wall with the ball grazing off the side wall towards mid court.
But since you’ve put an arc in your shot and attained some height it will give you time to reposition yourself as the ball will most likely reach the back court. With luck, it may even die and end the rally if you’ve caught your opponent watching his shot.
The Corksrew Lob is the most difficult of lob shots and can often be intercepted with a good volley. This is a shot that should only be attempted when the ball lands in the front-middle of the court, bouncing at roughly waist level.
To pull this shot off you need to hit the ball upward with a full power stroke, contact the front wall at the junction of the side wall nick. The ball then spins upwards into the side wall which causes it to arc over your opponent into the opposite back corner. Easier written than done as this is a hard shot to pull off in practice, let alone in a match. It has its place though, so it doesn’t hurt to practice.
Back Court Lob
As the name implies, the Back Court Lob is played from the back or mid court. If you want to slow the pace during an intense rally, vary the pace to put your opponent off his game or exploit a perceived weakness in overhead volleys, back court lobs are a great weapon.
They can be used as defensive measures but can also turn the tables on your opponent, winning a rally as an offensive shot.
We’ve seen that the lob can be used defensively, offensively, as a change of pace during rallies or to exploit an opponent that has a weak overhead volley, as well as the four main types of lobs. Yet, your position on the court and footwork more often determines the lob you’re going to play and whether you hit it forehand or backhand.
Hitting the Backhand Lob: Perfecting Your Technique
With the lob on the backhand side it’s obviously different from the forehand. With the backhand lob you don’t have the ability to flick your wrist to lift the ball upwards as you do on the forehand.
The backhand lob requires a longer swing with a more open racket face. If you’re right-handed your reach will be extended if you lead with your right leg. The same goes for you left-handers out there.
You’ll want to get your right shoulder over your right knee and swing through the ball. Of course, you won’t always be in an ideal position so at times you’ll have to swing with the opposite leg forward, reducing your reach. Ideally you’ll want to defend the ball with your racket shoulder over the same side knee, bent at 90 degrees, open the racket face with a slightly extend back swing and take the ball up, over and cross-court.
In squash, you can’t dictate where the ball is going to be so it’s up to you to be able to practice the backhand lob shot and figure a way to get the ball up and over your opponent and allow you to get back to the T.
The Forehand Lob: Key Components
We can break the Forehand Lob shot into 4 key components.
- First, you’ll want to get the racket out in front of you. You’re going to be under pressure and extending out to reach the ball so you’ll need to shorten your swing to control the ball and lift it.
- Second, open up the racket face so that you’re hitting underneath the ball and lifting it over your opponent and into the back corner.
- Third, lead with the correct leg going into the shot. Again, if you’re right-handed you’ll want to slide your right leg forward, bend at 90 degrees and your right shoulder will naturally drop over your right knee. Ideally, this position will give you greater reach.
- Fourth, follow through. We’re taught to have a short back swing and a long follow through but in squash we often find ourselves in less than ideal position. But if you’ve led with the correct leg and stay low enough to get under the ball often all that is needed is a flick of the wrist to send the ball up and over your opponent and into the back corner.
Flick of the Wrist
When playing lobs from the front corner you’re going to have to adjust your shot based on the position of the ball. If you’re under pressure you’ll have less time to plan your shot so getting under the ball and flicking your wrist to lift the ball is a good technique in this situation; you buy yourself time and can survive the point to fight again.
You’ve placed a good shot and set yourself with more time and here you can hit an attacking lob by using an extended follow through to place the ball deep in the back corner. In squash the ball is rarely going to be perfectly placed.
You have to adapt on the fly with the ability to adjust your body and manipulate the racket head, change your swing, making the ball do what you want.
Backhand or forehand, height, when hit against the front wall, translates to depth with the ball coming down over your opponents head and into the back corner.
Escape Lobs and Deliberate Lobs
An Escape Lob, as you may have guessed, is a lob you’re forced to hit out of necessity. These shots can also give you time to catch your breath during a rally that may have gotten out of control. A Deliberate Lob (an example would be a lob serve) is where you have time to plan your angle, and placement.
Attack: The Lob As Tactical Weapon
The tactical use of a lob as an attacking shot while under extreme pressure can put you in control of the rally even when your opponent thinks they have you up against the corners. With either the backhand or forehand, depending on your position we have seen that you have the ability to change the dynamic of a rally or a match with a well-timed lob.
Stay low, lead with the correct leg, keep the racket face open and either flick the wrist on the forehand or if you have room use a longer follow through on the backhand to lift the ball up and over your opponent.
The Lob: Correct Technique
One of the common flaws in an effective lob is taking a long back swing. In fact, this is one of the biggest mistakes when people are trying hit the lob. You don’t need to take a back swing at all. Think about your position. Ninety percent of the time you need to lob because you’re under pressure. Sliding into the corner you’ll want to keep your racket close to the floor, and it’s your follow through that will take the ball high and over your opponent.
Your momentum is what will help drive the ball and that movement forward, the inertia, is going to prevent a big back swing. You won’t be able to locate the ball and hit it accurately while moving at game speed. Much better to keep the racket low with the face open, flick the wrist and follow through.
Lob Placement: How High Can You Go?
Lobs are typically played off the front wall but many players don’t take advantage of all the real estate that’s available, meaning that they typically place shots at the tin or slightly above the service line.
Most players never place shots above that area and as a result are ignoring playable space. Your lobs need to be placed high in order for them to be effective and that means using the full amount of space on the front wall above the service line to the top of the ceiling.
Playing From The Back
One of the most difficult lobs is playing the lob from the back of the court. You’ve got to be in the right position and let the ball bounce at the right time but if executed well it can be a kill shot. You allow the ball to come to the back, let it bounce and then feign a straight drive. Your opponent, anticipating a volley, will be drawn cross court. It’s then that you show the straight and then sweep it up and across, lobbing it into the opposite back corner.
Playing From The Front
Keeping with the theme of turning defense into attack most players see the lob as a way of relieving pressure. You might not always be at full stretch at the front court so how can you use the lob to your advantage if you’re at mid-court? You could draw your opponent forward then sweep the ball back up, lobbing it over your opponent’s head and into the back corner.
One thing you should never do on a lob is hit the ball out-of-bounds by trying to aim it. Yes, a well-placed lob can win points but keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve with a lob when under pressure; you’re buying time and position so that you can keep the point alive.
The Lob Serve: Setting The Pace
The Lob Serve allows you time to get back to the T and prepare yourself for your opponent’s return and is popular because it can be annoyingly hard to handle.
If played well, the Lob Serve will stick in the back corner and many players will try to attack it with a volley, which forces your opponent’s shot choice. And since lobs lack ball speed, the receiving player will have to generate pace with their return shot. This isn’t easy to pull off with a ball that is bouncing dead in the corner after glancing off the side wall.
A Perfect Lob Serve: 5 Easy Steps
- Before you strike the ball, step forward, so that you can transfer your weight through the ball.
- Toss the ball up to strike, making sure you place it at around arm’s length to give yourself the required space to play the ball. Throw it low, and slow, so it’s easy to control.
- Lift the ball. Since you are aiming for height, you need to make sure you get your racket underneath the ball and that you lift it upwards, aiming for the top third of the front wall at least. Remember all that unused real estate we talked about earlier? Use it!
- Hit the side wall when using a Lob Serve. Clip the side wall towards the back of the court so that the ball bounces close to the back wall.
- Make sure your ball bounces before the back wall. A ball bouncing on the back wall first or coming off the back wall hot, it will make for an easy return for your opponent, and you could find yourself out of position and in trouble.
Rating Your Lob
- Is your lob going over your opponents head or is it being intercepted?
- Are your shots dying in the back corner or bouncing and being driven by your opponent?
- Is your lob breaking the pace of the game?
- Does your lob allow you to regain position?
- Are you taking advantage of all the space the front wall affords?
- Do you lead with the correct leg as it relates to your racket hand? Remember to maximize your reach.
The Lob can also be combined with other shots, most notably the Counter Drop. How? Because you’re in the same position for both shots. Under pressure and fully extended you can either flick the ball high off the wall for a lob or simply push it forward above the tin for a counter drop. This is just one example of how you can pair the lob with other shots to add versatility to your game.
Do you feel more confident about The Lob and how you might practice it and use it to improve your game? Along with regular ghosting its easy to incorporate some lobs into your training routine. Not only will it improve your ability with this versatile shot but it’s also a great warm-up for the legs, wrists and shoulders.