Feb 162011

You get three (3) thirty second timeouts per fifteen point game, and two (2) in an eleven point tie-breaker. Most racquetball players rarely use all of their timeouts. Why is that? There are a hundred good reasons to use all of your timeouts, but the most important one is that using your timeouts can help you win.

A 3-point rule for timeouts

If your opponent scores three points in a row, take a time out. It doesn’t matter if you are ahead or behind in scoring. If you are behind in the score, then you want to break their momentum and get the serve back. If you are ahead in the game, then you do not want them to quickly win a streak of points and catch up to you.

Do not wait for your opponent to reach 14 before taking a timeout

If your opponent reaches 14 first, you are in deep trouble. By this point in the game, you should have taken at least two of your timeouts to in order to prevent them from reaching 14.  If  you are behind in the last 5 points in the game, then slow the game down by hitting more ceiling balls.

Do not wait to be exhausted before taking a timeout

You need to be able to play with 100% energy on every point. So if you are feeling slightly tired, or distracted, or unfocused, take a timeout. If you play an extra long rally, take a timeout.

If you want to get the serve back, take a timeout

Often times,  a timeout will break the rhythm of the server. So use this tactic to your advantage and take a timeout in order to get the serve back.

Feb 122011

In general, most beginner racquetball players do not pay much attention to their court position after they hit the ball. Beginners tend to hang out in the back of the court and watch their opponents hit the ball, and then chase after the next shot.

Intermediate level players finally “discover” center court. So they hit the ball and then rush as fast as possible to center court. But they tend to run too far forwards and also forget to watch their opponent hitting the ball.

So here is some great court positioning advice from the post The Great Court Positioning Debate by Racquetball Tim.

Improving court positioning is something you can do the very next time you play.  And the difference it makes to your game is absolutely astounding.

The debate (about court positioning) is where to stand in terms of front and back.  Some instructors will tell you to stand directly on, or even in front of the dotted line so you can cover kill shots from your opponent.  The closer you stand to the front wall, they say, the more chance you have of retrieving kills.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it is more difficult for your opponent to kill the ball, and much easier for them to pass.  A kill shot is hit 6 inches and lower, and a pass shot is hit 1 to 2 feet high.  So why would you try to cover the shot that is more difficult for them to hit, and give up the shot that is easier for them to hit?  Basically, you’re saying “go ahead and beat me with a very high percentage shot that is easy for you to execute, and I’ll cover your low percentage shots that are more difficult for you to execute”.

Fran Davis teaches that you will be able to reach 70% of your opponent’s shots by standing 1 to 2 feet behind the dotted line in “center court”.   If I have to give up just 30% of their shots (kills, pinches, splats) to cover 70% of their shots (ceiling balls, passes and z’s) I will do just that.

So here’s the basic rule of thumb:  Get beat by the kill, not by the pass.

One side benefit from this court position is that it also tempts your opponent into hitting kill shots, which by definition, are low percentage shots. You will get free points when they skip their kill shots.

As a general rule, would you agree that you want your opponent to be as uncomfortable on the court as possible?  So when they have a shot, you want them to take the lowest percentage shot, right?  You don’t want them beating you with shots that have a 90% success rate.  You’re just making it easy for them.  By standing too close to the front wall, and allowing your opponent to hit easy passing shots, you’re doing just that.  Play further back in the court, cover the pass and give up the kill.  Not only will you be able to retrieve more shots from your opponent, but you will also start frustrating them with your ability to keep the rally going, and, force them to try to take an ill-advised kill shot when they aren’t set up.  Now you’re making them uncomfortable, and that’s what you want.

Try this:  go on to the court and try to hit 25 kill shots from somewhere in the back court (deeper than 30 feet).  A kill shot, remember, is a shot that is 6 inches and lower on the front wall.  Record your success rate.  Now hit 25 passes (1 to 2 feet high) and record your success rate.  I guarantee you that you’ll have much more success hitting passes than kills.  So if you can beat your opponent with a passing shot or a kill shot, why go for the lower percentage shot of the two?  And more importantly, pertaining to court position, why would you give up the easier shot to your opponent?

Play 1 to 2 feet behind the dotted line and watch how many more shots you can cover.

So to carry out the “get beat by the kill, not by the pass” tactic:

  • Make an effort to get to the correct center court position ASAP after you hit the ball
  • Don’t run (trot or walk fast)
  • Always watch the ball
Feb 082011

The best and least risky racquetball return of serve is to hit a ceiling ball. The ceiling ball will enable you to regain control over the center court position.

Practice returning all serves, whether lob, drive, or z, to the ceiling. Move quickly forwards to cut off lob serves just after they cross the 5-ft encroachment line. This causes the server to have less time to run back and retrieve your ceiling ball.