Improving Your Racquetball Strategy
Racquetball is a great workout, an incredible sport, and a fun game. But when you’re just getting started or you’ve started to hit a plateau in your game, looking into some strategic advice to help you pick up a few more wins is a good idea.
After all, winning isn’t everything, but it sure does feel good! With that in mind, here are some racquetball tips to help you bring your game to the next level.
Basic Racquetball Strategy
When you’re first starting, the best racquetball strategy is to simply hit the ball where your opponent isn’t standing. It’s the classic “hit it where they ain’t” plan.
That plan will work for a while. Unfortunately, as you improve and start playing against more skilled opponents, it just won’t be enough to consistently put you in the win column. So, consider this a “how do you play racquetball for beginners” crash course. Also, make sure that you read through our previous article by coach Jim Winterton about the best racquetball tips.
Player: Know Thyself
The first thing to do when you wonder how to get better at racquetball is to examine your strengths and weaknesses. Are you more comfortable with your forehand or your backhand swing? Do you move around the court with ease, or do you play better when you can settle into one part of the court? How comfortable are you with your serve?
Taking stock of your game like this will guide you toward the first few elements of improving your game. Start with the mechanics and then move into a strategy.
To improve your racquetball techniques, you’ll need to take some time to practice. One great drill to run is to throw or hit a ball against the front wall of the court and see how long you can go before you miss a shot.
Depending on how challenging you make the first ball to hit, this drill can help you work on several aspects of your game. You can force yourself to move to improve your footwork, or you can hit the ball so that it comes right back to you to work on your swing mechanics.
As you improve and get more comfortable, you can work on both at the same time. Something to remember is that the most powerful and effective swings start with the lower body and carry through the arm — not unlike the way a boxer punches. So as you move, work on getting your feet into a position that gives you a strong base to hit the ball. The more you work on it, the faster and more effectively you’ll be able to do it.
Another great racquetball tip for your footwork is to keep your weight back. This gives you a better base to bring your power around into the ball. Relying too much on your upper body for power will wear out your arm quickly and won’t compare to the power you can generate with your whole body anyway.
When it comes to your swing, you want a smooth, flat swing. Twisting your wrist in the middle of a swing will take away power and accuracy. Whether you’re using your forehand or backhand, keeping your wrist under control is a key to more consistent shots.
Translating Mechanics to Strategy
As you improve your technique to mitigate your weaknesses and bolster your strengths with drills such as the one above, you can bring that into your racquetball strategy.
With improved footwork and a more controlled swing, you’ll be better equipped to control your racquetball shots. Knowing your own game will also help you suss out your opponent’s weaknesses.
Do they rely on their forehand? Target your shots to their backhand. Do they like to sit deep in the center of the court and hit power shots? Do what you can to make them move around by giving them different approaches. Mix in-ceiling shots with balls coming in along the walls and pinch a few shots so that they drop in the frontcourt. Use your strengths to play to their weaknesses.
You can also use your opponent’s knowledge of the game against them. In the early game, use some racquetball strategy shots. Focus on using aspects of your game that aren’t your strongest. Once you win a few points with, say, your backhand, your opponent will start aiming for your forehand. And that’s when you’ve got them.
Serving Up Competitive Strategy
Holding serve is a huge advantage in any racquet sport. You get to establish the tone for the point based on how you kick off the rally. Racquetball serving is no different. Understanding different types of serves and how to use them will greatly benefit your game.
There are three main types of racquetball serves — the drive serve, the lob serve, and the Z serve. Having each of these serves in your repertoire will help keep your opponent guessing every time you step up to the service line
The best racquetball serves make your opponent respond with a weaker shot than they would prefer to use. That may mean you serve to their weak side (either forehand or backhand) or with more or less power than they expect or from a different angle than they see coming.
The Drive Serve
A racquetball drive serve is about power. This serve is going to come at your opponent quickly. As you practice this, work on finding the sweet spot of power and accuracy. After all, if your serve hits the back wall before bouncing, it’s a fault.
Your work with accuracy will help you learn how to place a drive serve near a wall, on your opponent’s backhand or forehand, or even to jam them. An effective drive serve will have your opponent rushing to respond.
The Lob Serve
Ostensibly the opposite of the drive serve, lob serves come in with less velocity. By dialing back the power of your serve, you can force your opponent into a frustrating error.
Lob serves are all about placement. They have a fairly high arc off the front wall, so if the placement is off, you could be facing a tough shot. But when you execute your placement well? You’ll force your opponent to rush forward to get at a serve that drops right behind the short line or you’ll have them struggling to get power on a ball that drops right before the back wall.
Either way, an effective lob serve forces your opponent to hit a shot that they weren’t able to make with power or intent. And their defensive play opens the court up for you to dictate the rally.
The Z Serve
The Z serve takes advantage of the rules of the game for some excellent racquetball serve strategy. Your serve can legally bounce off one wall before bouncing in the receiving area. By aiming your serve so that it hits the front wall, then the sidewall you create an angle of approach that your opponent may not be ready for.
When practicing a Z serve, experiment with power and placement. You can use the same techniques from your drive serves and lob serves to mess with your opponent and take them by surprise.
Doubling Up: Best doubles strategy
Of course, racquetball isn’t just a solo sport. Playing doubles is a great challenge and opens up the social aspect of the game even further than a singles match.
When you start looking at a racquetball doubles strategy, keep in mind that there is one major key to doubles success — communication. You and your partner need to be on the same page. So practice together. Work out your favorite strategies with each other so that you don’t need to go into detail about them during a game. Develop a shorthand with each other.
The worst thing that can happen is when you serve in a way your partner didn’t see coming and either the serve or the return hits them. It can cost you the serve and, more importantly, it can hurt. And if people aren’t wearing proper eye protection, it can be catastrophic.
Beyond that, choose who you want to serve to and use the previously discussed serves and serve strategies to throw them off their game. If you’ve been serving to one player over and over, a quick drive serve directly at the other opponent might just get you an ace.
Using cross-court shots will force your opponents to move in front of each other and potentially lose track of the ball. But be careful. They’re going to try to do the same thing to you. The more you can force them to play your game, the better.
There is Always More to Learn
These racquetball tips have largely revolved around basic strategy. As you advance in your game, you’ll want to develop a more advanced racquetball strategy. And if you’re a very competitive person, taking the time to learn some racquetball cutthroat strategy will be right up your alley.
One of the great things about racquetball is that there is always room for growth. Incorporating these racquetball strategy tips (and putting in practice time) can help you raise your game a level or two.
But as you improve, remember that no one wants to play a sore loser or a jerky winner. Sportsmanship is key to finding regular playing/practice partners. And as much fun as it is to win, just being able to engage in a great workout with friends is its own kind of victory.
How do I get better at racquetball?
The key is to work on the mechanics of your swing and serve, then apply those skills strategically. Using drills that focus on clean footwork, generating power for your swings from your legs, and placing serves accurately and consistently are the key.
How do you hit a racquetball harder?
Make sure you aren’t chasing the ball. Keep your weight on your back foot and generate power through your legs and into your arms. It’s also important that you don’t twist your wrist mid-swing and that you keep your racket in good shape by replacing the grip and strings at recommended intervals.
Is racquetball hard to learn?
Not at all! While the scoring rules are different from similar sports like squash, racquetball is a pretty simple game. At a basic level, make sure the serve travels past the service line before it bounces, and then don’t let the ball bounce twice on the ground before you hit it against the front wall.
What are the three basic serves in racquetball?
Drive serves are focused on power and velocity. Lob serves use slower pace and a high arc off the wall with a focus on placement to throw off the opponent. Z serves bounce off a side wall before crossing the short line to change up the angle of the serve’s approach.