Racquetball Backwall Saves
Saving The Ball To The Back Wall Tactically
There’s an art to staying in a rally AFTER the ball has clearly gotten behind you.
Wait to Decide Which Stroke is Best
In what appears to be a routine situation, when covering a pass or less often returning a certain serve, getting ready too early when you haven’t had a chance to first read what side of the body you should play the ball, then early racquet preparation (ERP) may really be tactically getting a little ahead of yourself.
As you zip quickly to a sidewall covering a cross-court or DTL pass, getting ready for that “side’s” stroke before you’re sure you catch up to it, the ball, may be a little presumptuous or being too robotic with your early racquet preparation. That’s especially the case when you lock in that side’s stroke and there’s no Plan B to use the other side’s stroke. For example, in a situation when say a lefty is dashing to their lefty forehand back corner with their racquet way up high and back for a forehand and then, as the very last second, they realize the ball is getting by them and a backhand save back into the back wall is really THE play for this pattern. Then too early ERP has gotten the best of them. The aside lesson here is to make sure which stroke before you auto-prep. A way to know is to prep when you could almost reach out and pluck the ball right out of midair; then ERP all you want. Another method is to go for timing your backswing when you’re first setting your back foot for that stance.
Use The Back Wall Save Expeditiously
When the ball is behind you or when you sense a reach back behind you and a flick would be less effective than a power save into the back wall, then it’s time to muster up your best power pass-type prep and crush a save into the back wall to direct the ball at a spot that will make the ball rebound off and angle the ball toward the back corner you sense will…(a) work best for this ball; and (b) when, possible, select that back corner you feel gives your opponent the biggest challenge, with often their backhand a good tactical shot spot to place your ball.
How High Do You Aim on The Back Wall
Safety first would have it that you don’t want to hit yourself with your back wall save. So you usually should reset your normal mechanics to lift the ball up high on the back wall so you can ensure you miss yourself and you make the ball hit high on the front wall so the ball lifts up high, bangs hard off the back wall, rebounds high off the front wall and reacts like a lob serve causing the opponent to have to retreat to defend and to attempt a high to low tougher shot. Make it a big, deep backswing vs. a particularly high one. Note that often the height or the ball itself and the minimal amount of time you have to get the racquet back will train you to have a low take-back. Just compete to keep the ball in play and know it’s doable to save the ball effectively from very dire, challenging situations, with your effort and a nice, high back wall save target spot.
Opponent Aggression Avoidance
As you save, for example, a drive Z serve that almost wallpapers the back wall, you are very vulnerable to the opponent’s crashing the front wall and flying killing your back wall save, with a swing volley stroke, while taking the ball out of the air as it drops off the front wall before it bounces while usually making contact about waist high employing a compact stroke. Defensively that’s why you want to lift the ball way up high, like you’re trying to hit a cutout poster of Shaquille O’Neil in the nose. A save that high will catch the ceiling on its way to the front wall, and it would then drop off the front wall at a steeper angle hitting lower, bouncing deeper in the court and creating much more difficulty for the aggressor opponent.
Make It A Weapon, Like Paola
Paola Longoria is a master at back wall saves. She recognizes when saving the ball is the best plan of action to push the opponent deep in the court, while she uses the opportunity to center up and get ready to either go on the offensive or to defend positionally and tactically.
Purposeful Back Wall Save Drilling
Stand more in the middle just off the back wall and select a backhand or forehand and hit out AWAY from yourself up into the back wall at an angle so the ball either goes DTL or cross-court. As the ball flies toward the front wall off the back wall, glide forward and play the ball aggressively after it pops off the front wall and bounces. This beats a drop-n-hit drill by a mile. It’s a moving ball requiring feetwork, timing, shot selection and often patience letting the ball drop low. It’s a way to practice your back wall saves and place the ball deep in either back corner. It’s also a good drill for your brief 5 minute warmup before the match. Watch Kane. He uses it often.
The Finer Points of Back Wall Saves
Realize there’ll be times when you’ll need to hit balls back into the back wall, even when you’re a good distance from the back wall. That’s doesn’t mean you have to panic. It’s still a doable situation that you can manage competitively. For all back wall saves, get ready huge because you have carry the ball to the back wall and get the ball to contact high and hard enough so it’ll carry to the front wall and pop off to go deep in the back court where you want the opponent to field your save. So that requires the number 1 requirement for a back wall save, a big backswing because you’re planning to hit a almost an 80′ foot shot. On the other side of the ball, when you see the opponent saving to the back wall, do 2 things: (1) be aggressive and be ready to move forward versus retreating immediately and not being as assertive as this situation calls for.
Drill Your Skill With Force of Will And Discipline
Drill your skill so you can take the ball dropping off the front wall with your swing volley technique off either wing (wing = stroke); and (2) if you see you’re putting the opponent in a tough situation and you recognize they could be looking to pirouette and whack a back wall save, don’t be there by using your alertness and hustle. Instead move away from being directly behind the opponent, especially when they’ve shown you they save to the back wall from a good ways off the back wall. Note that reaching back behind you and flicking the ball to the front wall very softly and giving the opponent a bunny to crush could better be done by instead going for a harder hit back wall save to move the opponent vs giving them a setup without their having to move their feet as much, with moving your feet the skill that often goes first in pressurized competitive play.
Back wall saves do it better. Get to be an artist at hitting them with energy and placing them in the back corners coming up just short of the back wall. They’re practicable, but it’s hard to replicate the urgent situations that cause you have to save to the back wall when you’re on the run or stretched or just caught out of position. Do them in games expeditiously or when you should. In my grandma’s vernacular…balls that are gonna bounce you reckon and they’re gonna come pop off the back wall do hit them back thataway (to the front wall) whenever you can vs. whack it back yonder (to the back wall); meaning have a hankerin for takin balls that bounce and pop off the back wall as setups and let the ball drop low and shoot to your front or sidewall spot whenever you can. That’s somewhat beginning racquetball, but it’s also a tip on looking at all back wall setups as prime opportunities to go low board.
Look at all must do back wall saves as opportunities to live to play another rally. One last tip is twofold to give you a deeper appreciation for the finer points of back wall play. One, learn to angle the ball off the back wall so it goes right to the front wall, with zero sidewall contact on the way there or planned for the way back out. That narrows your focus and targeting on the back wall. Two, it is possible to hit a low ball out away from you to hit a little lower on the back wall to get the ball to carry to the front wall and come off as a lower pass or best case a kinda lucky kill-shot. However, although it could be one of those practice shots you add to repertoire of “if I can do this impossible shot, routine ones will all be a walk in the park”, whenever you can put a priority on your effort to retreat behind the ball and hit the surer shot directly to the front wall when you’re gonna go low anyway.
A back wall save kill-shot is a circus shot best allowed to go the way of the elephants; so they’re just not in the circus
shots like should be your 3-wall kill-shots, sidewall cracks, splats, and high Z’s where you have a better controllable situation to impress the peanut gallery and, more importantly. you.