23 March 2011


One of squash's problem is that the beauty and the enjoyment factor of the game depends - beyond the physical and logical skills of the player - also on their fairness level. I am not only thinking of blocking, but also and mainly of 'fishing', when a player stops in search for a cheap stroke. I am not going to cite negative examples here, I rather prefer to have a look at a positive one, at one of the fairest pairings on the tour, Ramy Ashour against James Willstrop. The last winning mid-court trickle-boast was such a generous thing to play from Ramy - I don't mean generous to James, but generous to the sport itself and to the spectators.

17 March 2011


An excellent example to demonstrate that often it makes sense to keep going for the shot even if there's more than minimal contact (in other words: your opponent blocks or let's say so: clears in a doubtful way). Of course, strong and fast legs needed, as you might have to make one more quick step and lounge longer and deeper, and you still need to keep the balance to have an effective control of your shot. You also might need a strong wrist as you can not really get deception into your shot through a hold back-swing (there's no time for it), so to make your opponent guess the wrong way you might want to hit the ball with a late and quick flick of the wrist, which on club-level is tough I am afraid and even on pro level only the very best can handle it efficiently.

14 March 2011


A shame this rally had to finish with an error. But there is still a lesson for us to be noted: even if probably Gregory Gaultier's last shot was a miss-hit cross-court that ended up in the middle of the court, it makes sense to play the ball onto the body of the opponent from time to time, and maybe even a bit more often if your opponent is as tall as James Willstrop is in the current case.

10 March 2011


In this rally I would like to point out two shots. The first one at 0:06 concerns mostly beginners: David Palmer received the loose ball almost in the middle of the court and hit a straight kill off his forehand; to allow his opponent to get to the ball, he avoided to end his after-swing on the other side of his body and kept instead his arm and racket still above his head. It wasn't just generosity from Palmer's side, as his shot was really efficient, it was absolutely in his interest to keep this rally going and not to give his opponent the chance to appeal for a 'let' due to having been hit by a presumed 'exagerated' afterswing. The second shot to be mentioned, at 0:11, is a fine detail for more advanced players: watch the hold of the shot as Palmer prepares his volley. It's this subtle retarding that makes his opponent, Ramy Ashour change direction and stuck for a split of a second in the middle of the court awaiting a volley drop, therefore the long dying length could be played with more probability of success (not to mention if you play it as precise into the side-wall nick as Palmer does in this case).

07 March 2011


A lovely rally from 2007 with Thierry Lincou still near to his top form and speed. If in my previous post I said that often it's better not to aim to copy the top players, then he is the living contradiction of that thesis: anything he does you are welcome to try to copy, movement, shot-preparation, shot-selection, anything. Watch this rally, every single shot has a purpose and except maybe one or two they are all executed with a very high accuracy level. Let's have a look at them one by one.
0:04 off a very good serve from Ramy it was a tough-to-play and very good defensive high tracked response that caught the side-wall sufficiently deep to get out of trouble.
0:08 fantastic deep drop, totally unattended by Ramy
0:11 faking a cross-court kill with a big swing to hit a straight drop that Ramy just managed to scrap off the angle
0:14 a great 'invisible' cross-court off an uncomfortable situation as Ramy's save came right in the middle of the front-wall and Lincou had to change suddenly his racket-preparation from forehand to backhand - outstanding wrist work too (this one will be tough to copy though for us;)
0:16 great forehand kill faded into the side-wall, however Ramy replies excellently with a wide and deep ball that nearly stacks around the middle of the back-wall
0:19 Lincou manages to avoid to get under pressure by replying with - instead of a conservative high and deep straight drive - a risky but very well executed cross-court that made Ramy twist and turn (into defense again)
0:21 excellent volley played from very low and dying almost in the left back corner
0:23 very advanced 'T' position to hit a deep cross-court volley, not a prefect one but still sufficient to keep Ramy under pressure
0:25 exquisite reaction volley drop, observe his impeccable balance
0:27 very similar to the 0:14 shot, Lincou again had to swap from forehand to backhand near to the front-wall in the middle; he holds the shot and choses this time to play it straight - again a considerable wrist flick included
0:29 the first time Lincou misses a shot in this rally, he had time to prepare for the shot, but the straight drive ended up having a poor length. He was lucky that Ramy's counterattack was even poorer.
0:32 he won't hit two bad shots in a row, so there you are with an immaculate drive faded into the side-wall around service-box depth
0:34 perfect width and depth at this cross-court
0:37 and here comes the second slightly weaker shot that costs him the rally; the volley drop is not soft/short enough and also a bit loose off the side-wall to allow Ramy to counterattack.
0:39 even going down in a spectacular split was not sufficient to save Ramy's trademark cross-drop and the rally was lost. Still what a demonstration of accuracy from Thierry, and of retrieving and genius by Ramy who didn't ask more than twice to win a rally where in 90% of the time he was clearly dominated.

04 March 2011


Interestingly sometimes there is more to be learned from the secondary professionals as they are more conventionally composed movement and racket-technique wise as some of the top guys. One to be fully enjoyed, but not recommended to be copied is good old John White (whose legendary dive, by the way, initiated the existence of this blog). I am of course not talking about his game spirit (which was great: profoundly fair and funny at the same time) but mainly about his movement which could be described as slightly lazy (compared to the other top pros of course). He was pretty upright, he didn't bend the knee a lot as he didn't like to put a lot of weight on the forefoot, which resulted in that famous throwing of the upper body when he was on the stretch to get to a ball. But then again, who else can come up with an angle as the one on his final shot in the below rally. John was a great mixture of intensity and nonchalance and definitely one of the greatest entertainers of the previous generation next to Jonathon Power