25 May 2011


It's nice to have an opportunity to point out that Ramy is not just all about attacking; he's got amazing defensive skills and he is one of the best if not the best in knowing how much 'weight' to give to the shot to make it die in the back corner. We've already had a similar sample from Ramy, that time on the volley and against El Hindi who got so frustrated after the rally. But let's start from the beginning. At 0:03, Ramy's service return volley-drop was very loose - but this is exactly what I have already pointed out so many times: the top Egyptian guys don't have to worry about the quality of their short balls as their perception/reading of the opponents' shots (when being behind them) has developed to immensely high standards due to incorporating relevant drills into their training regime from the very early junior ages. As weak as Ramy's first drop-attempt was, as incredible was how quickly he got to James Willstrop's excellent counter-drop at 0:05. And then at 0:07 - after James's excellent deep and low cross-court kill-attempt - he made sure to hit his defensive boast in a way that it rebounced around mid-court - (when you are stuck in the back you will always look for the boast that lands high in the middle of the court as this will give you time to get back to the 'T' and less options to your opponent to play a quick drop whist you are still in the back-corner of the court). Then at 0:14, after a few mutually loosish shots, comes the perfect dying backhand length from Ramy: good width (so that the opponent can not volley it) and fantastically controlled speed and height (in one word: weight) of the ball to make sure that second bounce stacks in the back corner. Interesting to note that this shot was played almost exactly from where James himself likes to play his very deceptive deep trickle-boasts'.


19 May 2011


This is a rally from that famous last match of 2009 in Saudi Arabia which decided who would replace Karim Darwish as the new world #1 in the 2010 January rankings. Beyond the entertainment factor I am referring to this rally for the following reason: according to the Nick Matthew that could have been seen in the last 12 months, I feel like the one shown in the below video is slightly less composed and slightly more hectic in his racquet preparation. I am referring to nuances, but we all know how much the tiniest detail can make the difference, probably in squash more than in any other sport. And especially if you gain general composure, that can allow you to stay calmer and more focused on the court, hence react and think better. However I don't know if the current, more composed Matthew is due to the fact that he has matured mentally or if he became mentally stronger because of the gained composure? Anyway, I find it very remarkable when someone can improve and adjust his game at a relative late stage of his carrier and on the very top of the scale. It's not that he became top20 after having been stuck in the top30, no: he boosted his game, at the age of thirty, to become from an established top5 player the world #1. And on top of that, according to his recent interviews, he is planning to stay there for a couple of years. And indeed, it seams that there is only one guy who could interfere into this project: the one who plays that delicate counter-drop at the end of the below rally.


10 May 2011


There's unfortunately too little to find about Jonathon Power in an acceptable resolution on YouTube. But even the mediocre image quality does not disable us to appreciate his genius in the below rally. I've pointed out in the past a few times how effective Karim Darwish's extremely compact racquet preparation is in terms of generating deception. Well, the inventor and godfather of the compact backswing was indeed Jonathon Power. Observe how close he keeps the elbow all the time to the hip, you never know if he is going for a drive, a boast or a drop, therefore the opponent is so often wrongfooted, just like Amr Shabana at 0:56. But there's more to observe here, for exemple the concluding backhand drop: even though Shabana was far in the diagonal back corner, knowing his speed, Power made sure to raise the racket head high enough to threaten with a drive or cross-court which made Shabana stuck at the 'T'; as this example shows it too, compact racket preparation does not mean that the racquet head is not up! And the third thing that is pretty apparent in this rally, is in fact the other famous weapon of Power: the faded kill into the sidewall, you can see it at 0:14, 0:16 and at 0:37 on the volley; it's not a real kill, as played only with half-pace and a lots of cut to make sure that the ball does not bounce off much the sidewall. In general terms it's interesting that Power often hits even the drives not too deep, bouncing around the top end of the service box; he wants to avoid the overhit drive that rebounces off the backwall and gives plenty of time to the opponent to hit the ball, he is rather obsessed with making the opponent scrapping off the ball from the sidewall. To put it in one sentence: the great stuff about Power's game is that it's a very intense mixture of shot-making and preparative shots - and on top of that, due to the uniform compact racquet preparation, you never know which one to await.


05 May 2011


The volley lob, in certain situations, is one of the best preparative shots to force the loose shot from your opponent. At 0:15 there was already an excellent traditional lob played in the right front corner by Nick Matthew that forced a desperate loose over-the-head cross-court volley from Ramy Ashour, but Matthew couldn't convert it as his volley drop was of poor quality. Four shots later at 0:23 comes that wonderful volley lob played from the left service box. Note that Ramy's previous volley was straight and hard as he found the ball pretty low at that moment. Whereas when he played the volley lob he found the ball at a similar spot of the court but way higher than the previous one. Why didn't Ramy go then for his trademark volley-nick? Because Matthew's shot was not loose and Ramy could hit the ball only from behind himself; and this can be set almost as a general rule: you want to lift the ball when you hit it on the backfoot.


03 May 2011


We've said a couple of times that there might be more to learn (to be copied) from the pros outside the top5 or top10 for the club player. Movement-wise, in terms of economy of movement, there are few guys out there more efficient than Shahier Razik. The below video, filmed from a great angle behind the front wall (I wish psasquashtv would use this angle a bit more often in its live coverages) demonstrates really well  Razik's impeccable smoothness and balance. Before the last step or lounge his steps are not only light-footed but also rather tiny, as this allows him to adjust easier in the search of the right path and distance when going towards the ball. The other thing to be noted beyond movement is his patience and intelligence: the shot-selection is almost always a percentage shot, avoiding the risk of unforced errors. Of course, this conservativeness might also be a complaint towards his game in terms of lack of spectacularity, but once again, I am rather an admirer of his deep backhand drops that is probably the only really attacking shot he employs to initiate. On the other hand, let's don't forget his opponent, Chris Ryder, a very good all-rounder himself, the only technical concern I would dare to observe is that his upper body position is way too upright. Based on the examples furnished by the likes of Matthew, Lincou or Willstrop, you are supposed to bend the knee and the upper body not only at the moment of hitting the ball, but even whilst waiting for it: this way, your first step will be more efficient, and I guess you will agree that in squash the gain of any split of a second might be decisive in search of hitting the most efficient possible next ball.