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Pentathlon of Racquet Sports

I hate team sports (it's difficult to take on one opponent, with or without assistance, anyways): I prefer the one-on-one sorts.

I spend a fair amount of time in the racquet sports (in alphabetic order): Badminton , Racquetball , Squash , Table tennis and Lawn tennis . If there is some (serious) racquet sport that I am missing out on, please let me know . It helps to dabble in various sports: when I suck at badminton, I tell with much elan that racquetball is my forte; at racquetball I say, you guessed it, squash, and so on. This works out well, just make sure you play with a non-intersecting set of opponents.

I was informed about yet another racquet sport, Ricochet . I have never played this nor witnessed a game, on screen or otherwise. What intrigues me is that Ricochet is a registered trademark. So, is it a product or a sport? What lies in store

Unanswered Questions
Gyan (Wisdom)
Learning Rates
Golden Rules
Apeseque Index


I am certain most of my home-page visitors are aware of all these sports. But, for the sake of completeness, let me give a one-sentence (or at most two, promise!) introduction to each.

Do you believe, like my former roommate did, that badminton is the backyard sport that you were hectored into playing with your arthritic grandmother before you matured into an independent teenager? Yes? Then you must visit the badminton home page to discover the hidden facets of this fascinating sport. For the people who love trivia, this is the only racquet sport that does not use a ball: it uses something called a shuttle-cock, a term my former roommate fell in love with.

Racquetball and squash are the ball-n-racquet sports that you play inside a transparent cube. Some exceptions are permitted - some or all of the sides of the cube can be opaque. These are the only two racquet sports where you hit the ball against a blind wall, and, both (all) the players move in the same space! Like my friend advises, choose an opponent that you love running into :)

Table tennis, due to strange unexplained reasons, is known to a large section of the populace by the registered trademark of the ball manufacturers - Ping Pong. Can you imagine calling a sport Yonex or Nike!

Lawn tennis, though now mostly played on surfaces that cannot be called lawns, is the most popular/familiar racquet sport. It is that sport whose rewards you with a three-minute soda-break for every four-minute endurance in the court! Also, you are spared the zits on your opponent's neck, since from your baseline he/she is a mere dot on the horizon.

Most of my questions about ricochet have been answered by Chuck Smith, Denver: (

Unanswered Questions

Different issues puzzle me at different times - I hope my learned home page visitors will help me with the current questions that give me sleepless nights.

  1. Why is a player given two chances to serve?
    Racquetball and Lawn tennis allow you to serve a second time, without any penalty for the faulty first serve. For all you care, you can aim your first serve at a particularly annoying spectator or, of course, your opponent's torso! Is it a tacit acceptance of power over skill? Has it something to do with the country(ies) where these sports are most popular?

    Note that in table tennis, a ``net'' is called if the faultless service touches the net, and, the server is allowed to re-serve.

  2. Why are the racquets getting bigger?
    The sizes of the racquets have been increasing with time, again with the exception of badminton (?) and table tennis. I can understand the surfaces on the table tennis racquets or the gutting of the racquets getting more sophisticated with technology, but why the size?
I look forward to your views/comments on this.

Gyan (Wisdom)

After the preliminary introductions, if you are still with me, I would like to subject you to my opinions/observations on these sports. I believe I am qualified to have a say for three reasons: 1) I have invested student-stipend dollars in racquets and balls (shuttlecocks too!) of these sports, 2) I am often seen with books on these sports (check the library's past records), and, 3) I religiously visit NYU's Recreation Centre in the quest for first-hand knowledge. [I have to visit the ``pool club'' on 8th Street to satiate my table tennis desires at the expense of $5/hour! By the way, why is table tennis not recognized as a main-stream sport and relegated to dingy corners in billiard or card rooms?]

In the following I will try to answer the following question: What aspect of ones (physical) ability does each of this sport challenge?

How critical is "movement" or "foot work" on the court? Of course, very important in all. In badminton this is vital, there is no other skill that can compensate for this! In tennis you can run around like a sprinter for all you care (I know that half-step hop but...) so in squash and racquetball. If you did that in table tennis you'd run into your neighbor's table or the wall or the billiards table.

How critical is "anticipation" on the court? Of course, very important in all. Squash and racquetball is all about right anticipation - what with the ball deflecting off various walls - internalize the angle of incidence = angle of reflection law! Trade all other skills for this in squash and racquetball!

What part of the arm should you use in these sports? Table tennis and badminton uses a fair amount of wrist. The others - none at all. Use your wrists in the others and your wrist will spend the rest of its life in a restrainer band! Tennis, squash and racquetball use fair to substantial amount of full-arm power; badminton some and table tennis almost none.

Learning Rates

Lot of the racquet sports are either ridiculed or held in high esteem: Badminton and Table tennis get a raw deal; tennis is unduely glamourized, perhaps because of the sinful amount of money the players make. Let's dispel old myths or inculcate new ones in the following.

Below I show an average learning curve for each of the racquet sport. Please study the curves carefully, since I generated them with much care investing great time and energy :) Learning Curves

This should give you a fair indication of where you start off and where you are likely to be at the peak of your (sports) career. Caveat: This, of course, does not apply to those blessed ones who rise to the pinnacle of success, slaughtering every contender on their way up.

Of course, everyone is different - some are born with tennis-genes that can't make contact with a shuttlecock in a badminton court; some are born with squash-genes who are highly unsettled if they don't see a looming blank wall before them! And, I have this friend who refuses to play a sport that does not let him have a head-on collision with the other.

Golden Rules

Some golden rules are common across most of the racquet sports: never mind what the gurus say!

  1. Grip: The forehand and backhand grips are different. Lot of people don't agree on this, but it is convenient to change grips to have a strong backhand as well as forehand. Yes, you may be caught changing grips sometimes, but that's not too frequent: it is better than having a consistent weak back or fore hand!
  2. Backhand: For a right-handed person, the right leg should take the weight of the body, so step on your right foot.
  3. Forehand: For a right-handed person, the left leg should take the weight of the body, so step on your left foot.
  4. Serves & Returning serves: Serves must be strong, and, a service fault is a sin!
    Lightening bolts in tennis, deceptive in badminton, unpredictable spin in table tennis, low & close to the side walls in racquetball, high and grazing the walls in squash. Offer the serve on a platter to your opponent and you are as good as dead.
    It's also a worthwhile exercise to learn to return good serves, that is if you want your rally to be, on an average, larger than 1 hit! :)
  5. Fakes: It's very important to catch your opponent off-guard: faking is one easy way of achieving that (there are others, but you may have to be a world champ for that :).

The Apeseque Index

The following is highly controversial, and, the faint-at-heart are strongly advised to retreat while the going is good. Proceed at your own risk.

There is always the problem of comparing an orange with an apple: it happens all the time. Is theory better than systems? Is Physics better that Math? How I wish there was this calibrator that would take anything and give a reading on a 0-10 scale.

Now, let me introduce such an index, called the apeseque index (pronounced "apesk"), that evaluates all sports, racquet or team. What is this index? It is a value between 0 and 10, giving a measure of how good is the performance, if the players were substituted by apes, our closest ancestors. The better the ape performance, the higher the score. I hypothesize the following values: Badminton 3, Racquetball 5, Squash 4, Table tennis 1, Lawn tennis 6. Lacking funds, I cannot verify this experimentally. I must add that the learned opinion predicts that American football and Ice hockey are likely to score a full 10, with basketball being around 4. Gymnastics will have a high value close to 10.

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Next: Ikebana Up: Laxmi Parida's trivia Previous: Trans-Cultural Cooking

Laxmi Parida
Wed Jan 27 20:28:54 EST 1999