31 May 2012
29 May 2012
I keep getting more and more surprised how Olli Tuominen keeps progressing his squash. He has certainly passed his peak years in terms of physicality - for sure he has always been one of the main animals of the circuit - but he has never played with so much variety. Also his racket-technique was a bit square, not natural, not fluid, however, by now, he is almost text-book even in this respect.
Let's have a more close look to the below rally. For example, at 0:10, observe how Tuominen holds the shot to hit a pounded low pace deep drive. Very nice. And even if it didn't create an opening, next time in a similar situation his opponent will be a lot more uncertain whether to expect a drop or a drive (or a boast or a cross kill or even a cross lob...).
At 0:18 however he hits a very loose cross-court and Amr Shabana does not ask twice to go for it: indeed, he goes for three volley-nicks in a row, The first two made Tuominen dig deep, however at the third one, Tuominen, due to his impressive fitness and body strength, manages to get there early enough to answer with a counter-drop; due to the tightness of his ball, Shabana had no other option than to counter-drop again, which not surprisingly ended up being loose enough to enable Tuominen for another time to hold his shot and menace with a kill; that made Shabana stuck on the 'T' and the last counter-drop ended up being a clear winner. Classic stuff.
22 May 2012
Nick Matthew might well have been only second best in the previous five meetings versus Ramy Ashour, this time, at the final of the 2012 British Open he has been clearly the better player. It is one thing - however extremely tough - to suffocate and extinguish Ramy's skills on court. It is another to give him even a lesson in finishing the shots.
Matthew was down in each game (6:8 in the first, 2:4 in the second and 7:8 in the third) and managed to conclude in the crucial parts of the games in Ramyesque style.
I mean, watch the backhand volley-drop on the stretch at 8 all (at 1:15), or the forehand volley-drop to close the first game at 1:52; or the rally at 7-8 in the third, where he prepares with a forehand cross-court volley-nick to conclude with a deaf forehand volley drop at (4:11), not to mention the final mid-court drop shot to win the match at 4:30.
These were all high quality drop shots in crucial moments, and on top of that, they were all different kind of drop shots, requiring different techniques. Matthew mastered them all.
Beyond being the toughest animal on the tour, I've always said that he is also one of the most intellectual guys out there and definitely the best learner. Matthew analysis constantly his own relative deficits and studies and learns from his greatest opponents without allowing them to catch up with him in his primary qualities (fitness, tactics).
21 May 2012
18 May 2012
But let's get back to what Ramy was doing in this rally. Being three points away from defeat he avoided high risk shots (they were anyway not working very well during the match) but managed to apply more and more pressure with each shot. At 0:10 and 0:16 he played two near perfect - very deep but not overhit - backhand drives in situations where in normal circumstances he would have gone for drops. Then the two drops that he played at 0:13 and 0:21 were both low-risk (not too low, not too short) but highly accurate shots (tight and fading into the sidewall). Ramy, in this rally, pulled out the traditional squash-player of himself. He did not know when he was going to win the rally, but he knew he had to make sure to keep on the pressure.
17 May 2012
(2o12 British Open, 2nd round, Shabana-Tuominen 3:0)
Haven't seen Olli Tuominen playing for a long time and it appears to me that technically he became a lot smoother than in the past. He can be considered by now one of the veteran players, but he still very much looks the business. A part from the body letting you down somewhat with time, everybody keeps improving in squash it seems to me.
And Shabana looks in a good mood. First round he was a bit up and down against one of the upcoming rising stars of the game, Tarek Momen, but yesterday against Tuominen he was lethal all way long. Should be a great match against Ramy Ashour Friday 12.45 (UK time) in the quarter final. Don't miss this one, leave your office early and join us live or switch on to squashtv.
16 May 2012
Some coaches would make their junior players stop playing and force them to do fifty push-ups if they see them going for a drop in a situation where the ball is behind the body of the hitting player.
But by now we all know that Tarek Momen does not obey to the general rules of squash, or simply, of physics. Take into consideration that he went for this out-of-nowhere shot against one of the best readers of the game ever in the person of Amr Shabana.
Do you remember Wael El Hindi? This shot, the drop from behind the body on the backfoot, has been his speciality. Check out all the four examples that we have had here on the blog with him, one more crazy than the other: vs. Shabana (at 0:24), vs. Alister Walker (at 0:33), vs. Darwish (at 0:37) and again vs. Darwish (at 1:02).
15 May 2012
(British Open 2012, first round, Amr Shabana vs. Tarek Momen 3:2)
In Egypt one of the standard drills at training is to feed each other with weak serves (serves that either don't tend high towards the sidewall or are not hit straight to the body of the receiver). You have to put the ball each time into the nick at this drill. Yesterday we had Ramy Ashour showing an example from the forehand side, now it's Tarek Momen showing a soft version from the backhand.
This drill has two purposes. 1) you train hitting the nick from different heights 2) you learn and memorize which are those bad serves that really allow to go for this shot.
The serve is the only moment in a rally where you can allow yourself to stand almost still. Hence you can go for your shots with a near-perfect static balance. Going for the nick requires the highest level of precision, and standing still favors your chances to be precise.