31 May 2010


It's interesting, basically it helps you to play the cross-drop if you are late on the ball, like it can be seen in this rally too between Gregory Gaultier and Karim Darwish.

30 May 2010


It appears to me that the top 3 Egyptians, Ashour, Darwish and Shabana read (guess, intercept) their opponents shots better and faster than any other player on the tour. Is this maybe the result of the way the Egyptian juniors are trained from the earliest age-groups onward? Instead of doing exclusively the endless (academic, abstract) rhythm based  drills they are pushed to train relentless attacking (drops and nick kills from all around the court), and obviously those attacks often end up being not perfect, so that they are obliged to deal with a counter-attack from the front of the court. I personally think that vision (speed of perception of the ball) is the main key to squash; the greatest advantage you can have on your opponent is to see early where he/she sends the ball.


There's not much one can add to this rally I guess. Just briefly, I've counted it: there were 15 quality attacking attempts to go short (drops, counter-drops, volley drops, attacking boasts) and they were all retrieved, end at the end it was a good long straight volley that allowed Nicol to win the point, a shot that Gaultier normally would retrieve even in his sleep, but after 95 seconds of furious attacking and retrieving, having run back and forth the diagonal of the court a handful of times with all the speed and braking required, it was just one shot too much. Gregory Gaultier at the time of this match was ranked only world number 11! and Peter Nicol was just about to retire a few month later. It's also interesting listening to Amr Shabana as a co-commentator: it's rare that a genius at the same time is a really normal and nice guy too.

28 May 2010


A few days left and the June PSA rankings will start with Nick Matthew's name, the greatest retriever of the modern era of squash - and that's a big word in 2010, as today's squash, with the PAR scoring system, the light rackets and above all the lowered tin allows a much more attacking squash than ever before and people like Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana, in terms of drops and nicks give harder lessons of attacking squash than anybody else in the past. The below rally represents perfectly Nick Matthew's qualities of retrieving and recovering (even if Darwish ends up winning the point). In fact, that one retrieving at 0:43 in the rally for itself is almost surreal. In general Matthew uses maybe more than anybody the momentum of his whole upper body whilst hitting the ball. His movement is not naturally as fluid as for example Gaultier's, but it is still extremely efficient due to the hilarious mix of speed, fitness, and 'culture' of  moving. He of course is not only a great retriever, as he has an extremely advanced position on the 'T' which allows him to chase the volley, and he also has one of the best lobs on the tour - a lob that not only gets him out of trouble, but often creates the opening to win the rally. The main progress he has done since coming back from his last injury break about 18 month ago is the drop-shot. It's still not the best in the world (maybe the only domain where he slips out of the top 3 technically speaking), but he reads and reacts so fast that he doesn't have to panic if his drop-shot is slightly long or high, he'll just go and retrieve the next shot, accepting to play the rally for another  three minutes if required. In the end, I think, it's that great humbleness towards the fact that one has to work extremely hard - on and off court - that makes Matthew that so hard-to-beat player. Like Rafael Nadal in Tennis.

26 May 2010


Sorry people, another cross-court drop, this time by Karim Darwish. At the beginning of the rally there is a first attempt by Ramy Ashour from the right service box, it would have had to find the nick to make it a winner from that position, but it was still good enough to oblige his opponent to make a tough stretch to get to the ball. Darwish's cross drop, on the other hand, was tempted from much closer to the front-wall, therefore the ball arrived to the side-wall a lot quicker, so it doesn't even had to end perfectly in the nick to become a winner. Great shot.

22 May 2010


 The current two best squash players in the world (Nick Matthew will overtake the #1 spot in June from Ramy Ashour, congrats to Nick) have by far also the most efficient lobs and drops on the tour. The drop, you can basically play it from anywhere and almost anytime (admitted that you are well balanced and the ball is not behind you). Of course your drops quality will hugely depend on your overall skill- and physical strength-level. Nick Matthew, for example, doesn't have naturally the most extraordinary touch, but he still plays the drop so well, because his exceptionally strong legs and hips give him a perfect balance even on the run. The two most typical situations to play the drop are: 1) after a loose shot, you are on the 'T', your opponent is stuck behind you, you fake the drive and you hit the drop, 2) as a reaction shot to a high paced shot as a volley drop. On the other hand, the lob is generally played when you're in trouble in the front (after a good drop or boast). When you have more time to get to the short ball, which though is tight on the wall (let's say after a good two-wall boast from your opponent), you might want to deceive a counter-drop, and then still play the lob. If I've counted well there are 6 drops and 4 lobs (not counting the high tight lob-kind drives from the back) in the one minute rally below. On top level it appears you have almost as much lobs and drops as drives. Whereas on club-level they are rather secondary to the bang-bang shots from the back.


It is known that Ramy Ashour, after the ordinary training sessions, remains on court alone and feeds himself with all kinds of balls to train volley drops and smashes into the nick. It is important to underline that the feeds are of all kind (different heights), in all regions of the court (near the 'T', near the sidewalls, etc.); this way the player experiments which are the convenient points of the court to go for the nick, and where it is better to send the ball back deep. Of course, off-court training is essential too for Ashour, as it can be seen below. YES LET!

19 May 2010


My apologies, it must become boring slowly, I promise this is the last 'cross-court drop' post for a while. Here we have Daryl Selby against Laurens Jan Anjema at the semi-finals of the Dutch Open in 2009, first game. You don't have to watch the whole video, it wasn't an outstanding game (mainly Anjema looked like half asleep), just wind forward to 7:20 where Selby serves for the game at the score of 10:2 and watch a couple of times how Selby fakes the straight drop to then hit a mid-court cross drop. Nice one, but bear in mind: you should tempt this shot :1) only once, maximum twice in a match, 2) rather towards the end of the games (with your opponents legs already shakier) 3) rather at the end of a long rally that has had a couple of drives from your side (so that your opponent keeps expecting the straight shot). NO LET!


Peter Barker would be one of the last players to fool around with a 'stupid shot' like the cross-court drop. Funnily when there's no other option, even he can do it, straight into the nick! I can understand Gregory Gaultier did not want to believe it. Come on folks, next time you find yourself on court, everybody has to hit at least one like this in a match. NO LET!

16 May 2010


You must have a certain sense of superiority towards your opponent to play a cross-court drop into the nick. Ramy Ashour in general is a shot-maker, or better: almost a 'shot-painter', so beautiful (and sometimes surreal) are the lines that he is 'drawing' with the ball. And when he gets to play slightly lower ranked players like for instance Alister Walker, his level of relaxation and confidence gets to its natural peak, and then he creates those lines almost with insolence. NO LET!


Very few people play this shot, I wonder why, as it is pretty efficient once you deceive the straight drop and then flick the wrist at the last split of the second. Works also from the back, when the ball bounces far off the backwall. NO LET!


This match was played at the TOC in New York in 2008, John White's last year on the tour, at the age of 34! He is trailing 1:2 in sets and the fourth matchballs against him, the opponent is Gregory Gaultier, 26 years old and PSA #03 at that time. White is very tired, he is not lounging but throwing himself towards the ball, with the upper body almost falling over each time. The crowd, just as the commentators, were celebrating the man, who before the era of Ramy Ashour, was the only player to get to the top of the rankings playing basically always in 'exhibition mode'. A big cheers to the big man.

15 May 2010


Maestro Marcus Berrett (current captain of the Italian national squash team) says that the Matthew-Willstrop semifinal at the 2010 Canary Wharf was the greatest squash match he has ever seen. In my eyes it was for sure a dramatic, extremely tight match played at an outrageous rhythm coupled with outstanding precision, very accurate shot selection and above all, incredible retrieving and recovering; with constant changes of domination within one rally; the third set itself (20:18) could be used in schoolbooks to demonstrate how to remain focused and how to turn defence into offence through perfect movement patterns and timing. But: I was missing some creativity, some artistry (which maybe is asking too much at such rhythm and speed though). There was, for example, not a single cross-court drop shot from the back (one of Ramy's trademark shots); there was not a single low cross-court kill into the nick from the back (the way Shabana or Gaultier do it frequently); if I was counting right, there were altogether 2 service returns into the nick (Shabana, Ramy and Darwish play 2-3 per game in average, basically at any loose service); the volley drops (the ones where you look to take off the pace of the shot with an extreme soft touch) in general were maybe a fraction less gentle compared to David Palmer's. I am talking obviously about things that make the game spectacular, enjoyable even for the outsiders. Don't take me wrong, of course Matthew and Willstrop are both a world class act and it was definitely a match with a lots of initiatives to go short (no other way to be a top5 player today), but still, all in all, I missed the above mentioned variations a bit - even if the rally below in the video contradicts me (one of the very few cross drops from the front in the match). So this is why I do not agree totally to call it the greatest ever squash match; I would though agree to call it the greatest ever squash battle, because it was so incredibly fast and physical, and still so precise and accurate. YES LET!


NO LET! is a new squash video blog with a selection of great squash rallies featuring the world's best squash players.

Let's start this blog with a classic: the greatest dive ever on a squash court. It might not be the best ever rally (a couple of too many loose shots here and there), but the dive is out of this world, and then the fact that John White managed to hit a relatively tight straight lob in these circumstances and then clear and escape with a 'let' is just the cream on the strawberry. I don't think Peter Nicol stopped in search for a 'stroke', he seems just to be amazed himself or just wanted to stop to immortalise his mate's effort and let the crowd celebrate straight away. YES LET!