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Center-court position critical to racquetball success

This is an excerpt from Championship Racquetball by Fran Davis & Jason Mannino.

What you should know about the racquetball court:

  • The court is 40 feet (12.2 m) long.
  • The short line cuts the court in half at 20 feet (6.1 m).
  • At all levels, 80 to 90 percent of balls that are hit end up in the back half of the court.
  • Center court is in the middle of the back half of the court, just behind the dotted line, and is a box that is approximately 6 feet by 6 feet (1.8 m by 1.8 m) (see figure 5.1).

Once you have a sound foundation, you will begin to improve. Improvement is measured by levels, and as a result of that improvement, a player's shots become more skillful and more precise, and therefore the center-court box will shrink ever so slightly.

Common Mistakes: Court Position

ERROR: You are playing too far forward between the short line and the dotted line.

CORRECTION: No matter whether it is during a rally, after the serve, or after the return of serve, you want to get back to good center-court position, inside that 6 by 6 feet box, and float up and back (based on your opponent's court position and the ball) using the eight positions we discuss later in this chapter.

SOLUTION: By being in the proper position in the center-court box you give yourself the best opportunity to get to a majority of the balls. If you are too far forward, in front of the dotted line, you will have much less time to react to the ball, you will be vulnerable to the pass shot, and you will get jammed often. Also if a ceiling ball is hit, you have to run back to get to it. Because the ball is behind you, you may not have enough time to get back far enough, making your return inconsistent and weak, which would probably result in a scoring opportunity for your opponent.

How to Be Down and Ready and Use Proper Footwork

It is not okay to just be in good center-court position—you need to be down and ready. Having your knees bent between 130 and 150 degrees and your legs spread about 1 to 2 feet (.3 to
.6 m) wider than shoulder-width apart (the more advanced, the wider the stance) lowers your center of gravity, which will help in returning shots hit by your opponent. Unfortunately, most players are not in center court, having a tendency to shade to the side the ball is on, and are not down and ready. If you are not down and ready, you cannot move to the ball quickly, which will result in a weak return and setups for your opponent. We cannot stress enough the importance of wanting to win, but you cannot win if you have not acquired the habit of being down, ready, and able to get to the next shot.

The following statistics will help you see why you need to be down and ready:

1. Approximately 70 percent of all balls hit by your opponent will pass through the center-court box. If you are down and ready, you can retrieve most of these balls with one step and a reach.

2. The 30/40/30 principle says that

  • 30 percent of all balls hit by your opponents are winners, which of course goes in their favor;
  • 40 percent of all balls hit by your opponents are left up, called an unforced error, and you can hit them—this goes in your favor; and
  • 30 percent of all balls hit by your opponents skip—this is a gift that goes in your favor.

When you add up all those percentages, you will see that whenever your opponent hits the ball, it goes in your favor 70 percent of the time. Being in the right position and down and ready enables you to return a majority of those shots. Having the proper footwork in center court involves exactly the same movements you make when you are returning serve.

Let's review:

1. Down and ready (figure 5.2):

  • Legs are spread 1 to 2 feet (.3 to .6 m) wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Knees are bent to between 130 and 150 degrees.
  • Waist is bent to between 140 and 160 degrees.
  • Racquet is up about waist high to go forehand or backhand.
  • Grip should be a relaxed backhand because 90 percent of shots go to the backhand side.
  • Your eyes are on the ball.
  • Weight should be forward on the front part of your foot, ready to push off and pivot.

Read more about Championship Racquetball.

More Excerpts From Championship Racquetball