19 June 2010


Let's say, historically there are 7 great squash nations: Egypt, England, France, Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Canada. These nations have produced at least one world number ones each and they keep producing players regularly inside the world top 50. Outside of these countries, it is really tough to come through to the highest levels. First of all, there won't be many great coaches around, and secondly you will face the lack of serious training partners. Nevertheless, some guys have made it through and managed to become the lonely representatives of their nations in the top 50: Borja Golan from Spain, Laurens Jan Anjema of Holland, Olli Tuominen from Finland, Simon Rosner from Germany, Nicolas Mueller from Switzerland, Mark Krajcsak from Hungary, Rafael Alarcon from Brazil, Julian Illingworth from the USA (even though newly joined by Gilly Lane) and Davide Bianchetti from Italy.We are going to have a look at each of them in the near future. Let's start with Borja Golan, who has reached the highest ranking of them all. He got to world number 10 in September 2009, and basically at the same time suffered a serious injury. He now is back and starts to win again all the smaller tournaments that he has to go through because of his dropped rankings. Golan proves that you can make it through to a very high level even if technically - let's say body language wise - you are totally out of the conventional patterns. Look at his backswing, the way he waits for his opponent's shot, the way he lounges to the ball. Everything is strange, though still accurate and effective. I guess it's above all in the head, and only after comes the body(language).

17 June 2010


Apologies, we've already had this tube in an earlier post without though talking about the rally itself. It's not part of the 'best ever rallies' series, nevertheless, it's highly creative and entertaining, even if here and there some shots are badly executed (like the smash into the nick by El Hindi at 0:32) or even badly chosen (like El Hindi's cross drop at 1:05). On the other hand, there is some amazing retrieving, first by Darwish with a huge stretch at 0:30, then by El Hindi, a great straight lob off a very good Darwish drop at 0:55. But the most amazing shot - one that you have to rev back a couple of times - can be seen at 1:02. El Hindi plays a beautiful gentle reaction drop in a situation where he is out of balance on his back-foot. Extremely hard and risky shot to execute properly in such a situation. It's a shame that he played that irrelevant cross drop off Darwish's loose retrieving afterwards. But what can you do, the guy is apparently more into beauty than efficiency, and we won't blame him for that. Good to listen to Nick Matthew too in the commentary box.

16 June 2010


The reaction drop in general is played on the volley, and more on the backhand than on the forehand (Palmer is a master of this cut drop on the volley, and Lincou plays it great too). In the bellow rally Julien Illingworth's reaction drop is not played on a volley, it's a normal drop off a not too effective cross kill by Hisham Ashour. To drop off a kill in itself is already rare and special, but the most interesting is Illingworth's racket-preparation: it's a full backswing executed at full speed. You would expect a drive or a kill with this racket-preparation as it is very hard to control a drop with such racket-head speed. This makes it definitely one of the best cut slice drops to be found on the internet.

15 June 2010


Ramy Ashour's older brother, Hisham, great player himself with some lack of concentration and consistency, sits on the bed in his hotel room and talks about his fellow players. He praises Shabana's depth and simplicity, Ramy's natural random game, Darwish's general strength and determination ("nobody beats him in training, not even Shabana"), Gaultier's hold and backhand counter-drop and Willstrop's hold and big steps into the front. He also mentions Alister Walker and Daryl Selby at the end. Good to listen to, and nice guy this Hisham.

12 June 2010


In general, getting to the the front-wall after a back-wall boast fast and early is essential; you'll have more time to hear (and in some case even to see at some degree) how much your opponent follows up on the court, whilst you hold your shot, to decide if it is better to drop it or go for the drive/kill. Or - as David Palmer, and even more often, James Willstrop like to do it - you just take it immediately on the volley, either to drop it or drive it with second bounce into the side or back-wall nick. In the rally below, the two big men run the diagonal a couple of times in some furious fashion (mainly poor James). At the end Palmer wins the point by faking to take Willstrop's back-wall boast on the volley - and by dropping it then softly after the bounce. The fake volley made Willstrop stop on his track for a split of a second, which made the drop easier and more secure to play for Palmer. Note also how nicely the two tall men clear mutually to allow a direct path to the ball.

10 June 2010


This is more than 'reading', this is surreal intercepting what Ramy Ashour does in this rally. It's funny to listen to the amazement of the commentators too, El Hindi talking about 'Super Mario' and Joey Barrington about 'Star Trek'.Watch out also how soft Ramy is playing, not a single kill or drive, just lifted lobs and touchy drops, no drives at all. I will repeat it: the Egyptian attacking school makes these guys also learn simultaneously the defensive side of the game. Going short as soon as you can works only if then you see what your opponent will do with the ball if he/she gets there in front of you. Since these guys in Cairo are doing this from the age of 7, their eyes just get trained from the very beginning, and reading the other's body language is the main defensive skill that you may acquire. Reading the game is gaining time. And as we all know, time is money!


 There are debates whether squash can or can't be transmitted in TV in high quality. I've never understood the debate because Jean De Lierre's transmissions (squashlive.com) have shown how squash can be presented in an extremely enjoyable and highly professional manner. Does anybody remember the constantly fixed central camera of the psalive.tv transmissions? So sad! The camera, even the main central one, has to follow slightly the movement of the players in order to allow to the TV spectators to feel themselves involved, present at the event. This is how they do in tennis transmissions, and this what De Lierre's cameramen do on a very high standard (see below sample between Karim Darwish and Wael El Hindi where even though a fixed camera is present too, but mainly it is the moving one that we see). De Lierre is also a master of editing/switching between the different camera views. Psasquashtv.com picture-wise is a huge improvement compared to the obsolete psalive.tv, but the central camera is unfortunately still inert and there are many other serious issues too. First one: the site gives very little and inaccurate information about the starting times of the live matches. Second one: in general there are no written infos about the tournaments (previews, analysis, draws, etc.) Third: highlights and replays are uploaded with intolerable delays (tennistv.com produces them the same day of the match). And the main issue: the absence of any court colour codes which at times makes the game just unwatchable - as it was the case at the last Sky Open in Cairo a couple of weeks ago. This is something that PSA should implement immediately and with no exceptions towards the tournament organizers. The right example is already set: the homogeneous brown flour of the 2009 Super Series Finals in London has a perfect tone, as you can see it in the video below. Compared to this the dark red floor of the Canary Wharf tournament is slightly too intense (aggressive) for the eye, the non-homogeneous brown of the 2009 Saudi tournament is a non-sense (regardless of the eventual anti-slipping qualities of the floor). I don't say the colour code of the floor shall be set to one only colour, but it should be set to one only tone! This means that the saturation and contrast level (compared to the white ball) shall be determined severely in order to create a reliable basis for the transmissions. This is such a basic question, and not even really fund-depending. That it is not regulated yet, shows the low degree of professionalism within the PSA board. I don't feel good to edit such a 'negative note' on my blog, but it is for the love of the sport, with the hope that some responsible ears will get to hear about it and change the unlucky situation. 

05 June 2010


 It's not right to run a squash blog and not to mention Thierry Lincou. So here we are now: Lincou is an amazing example how to acquire a global squash language (even touch and smoothness) through dedication, physical strength, concentration and discipline. Lincou has had to learn everything by himself as before him there were no real top squash players in France. I have seen playing in the flesh almost all of the top players, but none of them achieves the concentration level of Lincou. I can totally understand when Ramy Ashour says that by playing Lincou he feels like a rabbit next to a tiger. The first thing that is apparent are Lincou's eyes which are a mix of the predator's and the Zen Buddhist monk's. The second is his body language, it's smooth and steady at the same time. Look at the way he keeps his left arm and hand whilst hitting backhand with the right arm; the non-hitting arm is not just hanging there in vain, but like many other top players do (not all of them, for example Karim Darwish a lot less), he counter-balances with the non-hitting arm, and on the top of it, he bends his wrist and spreads his fingers extremely. The only other player to spread the fingers so noticeably is James Willstrop. I know this might only seem to be a detail, but it can be these kind of details that make the difference between the top20 and the top5 players. In Lincou's case, the spread fingers are part of a fully concentrated and disciplined body, which behaves always in the same way, so that even if he has to improvise on the court, he knows that the body is set-up in the right position to allow him to execute the right shot in all situations, because we all know that in squash you are not hitting with your arm, but with your whole body. You transfer the momentum of your legs and hip to your hitting arm, but at the same time the body has to act as balancing/braking tool too, and this is the point where the non-hitting arm plays an important role.

01 June 2010


As we said earlier, the cross-drop is favoured in situations where you hardly get to the ball in the front and flip the wrist in the last second. On the other hand, when there is time to chose a shot (and also to your opponent to read/guess what you are going to do), then you will hold/retard your deceptive straight drop as long as possible, and again, flick the wrist in the last moment, as Amr Shabana does it here against James Willstrop below.