A Kill Shot
There’s nothing that feels quite as good as finishing off a tough rally with a perfect kill shot. Winning a point or forcing a side out always feels good, but an unforced error from your opponent just isn’t as satisfying as drilling the ball fast and low to the front wall.
But how do you set up a racquetball kill shot? And how do you recognize the perfect moment to put the point away?
A successful kill shot is more than just hitting the ball as hard as you can. It takes technique, strategy, and court awareness. Not only that but there are a few different varieties of kill shots you can use to keep your opponent guessing and punish them for giving you a perfect ball to hit.
What is a Kill Shot in Racquetball?
Sometimes new players can get overwhelmed by the terminology and slang that experienced players throw around. It’s easy to hear the term “kill shot” and simply nod along because it seems pretty self-explanatory.
But a racquetball kill shot is a little different than a kill in volleyball or a net-based racquet sport like badminton or tennis. In racquetball, a kill shot is a shot that comes off the front wall and bounces twice before it crosses into the service area.
Typically, this means that kills are racquetball shots that hit low on the front wall and stay low as they come back into play. A high bounce off the wall allows your opponent time to position themselves for a strong return.
That defeats the purpose of the kill shot. The goal is to make your opponent chase a ball that will be extremely difficult to return, allowing you to take control of the center court and dictate the play just in case your opponent manages to get to the ball before the second bounce.
How to Hit a Kill Shot
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at how to hit a racquetball kill shot. There’s your position on the court, your opponent’s position, and the speed and angle of the ball.
A common misconception about the racquetball kill shot technique is that you need to hit the ball harder than a normal passing shot. That’s not true! Kill shots use the same mechanics as any other forehand or backhand shot.
You still want to hit the ball with your racquet perpendicular to the floor. You still want to step into the shot to generate your power—lunging with your racquet-side leg on a backhand and your opposite side leg on a forehand.
The difference comes in where the ball is in relationship to the ground when you hit it. Since you want the ball to hit low on the front wall and you are keeping your racquet square at the point of contact, you want the ball to be at about mid-shin height when you hit it.
By striking the ball when it is low to the ground with a straight up and down racquet, you reduce the chance for a high bounce off the wall. Because the ball hits low on the wall at a mostly straight angle, it will stay low as it rebounds. This means that even if it doesn’t get its second bounce before crossing into the service area, it will still be a difficult shot to return.
A kill shot doesn’t always have to be a direct, straight shot at the front wall, though. There are different types of kills for different in-game situations.
The Splat and the Pinch
The most common variants of the kill shot are the racquetball splat and pinch. These shots utilize the side walls to force your opponent to deal with disadvantageous angles as well as forcing them to rush forward.
Something to remember about kill shots in general and these types of kills specifically is that you don’t want to use them unless your opponent is at least on an even plane with you in the backcourt. In fact, they are most effective when your opponent is behind you.
You want to force your opponent to move as far as possible, and if they are ahead of you, they have a better chance to respond in time to keep the rally alive. With that out of the way, let’s look at the splat and the pinch.
Find the right angle
A splat shot is a kill that you can really only spring on your opponent if they’ve played you into a position near a sidewall. Instead of hitting the ball straight at the front wall, hit it against the side wall you are nearest to at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees or so.
That angle gives the ball spin that will carry it against the front wall and across the frontcourt. When lining up your shot, angle your lunge into the ball to match the angle at which you want the ball to hit the sidewall. It will help you make a strong shot without having to change your form and shot mechanics.
If you aren’t near one of the walls, you won’t be able to get the right spin and angle necessary for a splat. At that point, you’ll want to use a pinch. A pinch is a cross-court kill shot where the ball hits low against the side wall before coming off the front wall and returning to play.
This can give your opponent a difficult angle to pursue a return. A pinch doesn’t have the same spin as a splat, but you can play with your angles more depending on where the ball hits the sidewall.
Practicing Your Kill Shots
The key to racquetball kill shot practice is consistency and repetition. In the same way that you can run drills to get your shot mechanics into your muscle memory, you can run drills to adapt those mechanics for kill shots.
To start your kill shot practice, take a position behind the receiving line and first take a few balls and give them a bounce before stepping in to hit them when they are roughly at mid-shin height. Keep working in this setup until you are consistently hitting your shots so that they stay low off the wall on the rebound. Keep track of the number of times the ball bounces before the serving area.
When you’ve developed consistency at taking stationary shots, start drilling yourself with different approaches. Hit some lob shots off the front wall and get used to timing your swing on an approaching target.
Then work on setting up your kills off balls coming off the back wall. It’s a little more challenging to set up a shot off the back because it’s almost as if you are following the ball into position instead of meeting the ball as it comes to you.
As you ramp up the difficulty, you can incorporate splat drills and pinch drills using the same basic techniques. The differences come with the angles of your shots and where you are on the court in relation to the side walls. You can run these drills with your forehand, your backhand, or alternating between the two.
Control the Court and Win the Point
Whether you hit a splat, a pinch or a roller where the ball hits the front wall just right and rolls back onto the court instead of bouncing, incorporating racquetball kill shots into your game is a great way to keep your opponents guessing.
These shots keep your opponents on the move and allow you to control center court—meaning you will be in the best position to take advantage of any return your opponent manages to make.
You can set up your kill shots with cross-court passing shots, lobs, or even clever z-serves. Anything you can do that results in a return that gives you the time you need to recognize where your opponent is on the court and what type of kill shot can best take them out of the point.
Remember: the best racquetball kill shot is the one that wins you the point. Take what your opponent gives you, and use it to win the day!