30 July 2012


We have recently published quiet a few videos analysing Tarek Momen's atypical technique and special skills. We came to the conclusion that he must be one of if not the best in three domains: 1) the backhand volley drop 2) the attacking boast 3) returning the serve into the nick. Now squashtv has come out with their own tribute to this rarely gifted player:

27 July 2012


First of all: don't you think that this a great camera angle? Psasquashtv has got cameras just behind the backwalls in the left and right corners, but they are set up lower and are static. This one is just about the eye-heights of the players and is also following slightly the ball throughout the rally - these two factors increase the feeling of being involved in the game, almost as if we were to play "Playstation Squash". I am sure a good bunch of the readers of this blog are also watchers and likers of psasquashtv. If you think a similar camera angle would make sense in the official live squashtv transmissions, we could make a petition on their facebook site for example.
Concerning the below rally: shots like the one behind the back from Mohamed El Shorbagy at 0:21, or the over-head top-spin backhand volley-drop at 0:23 are salt and pepper to squash, but let's also try to distinguish those shots that are less fancy but very efficient in order to set up an opportunity to finish the rally. 
In this rally the most important shot was played by El Shorbagy at 0:34; it was a backhand cross-court volley hit extremely early with perfect width, length and weight of shot. Albeit having been hit very early, it was also very deceptive. Stop the rally exactly at 0:34 and you will see how far right Willstrop's position was at the moment of impact. And funnily, El Shorbagy played the ball exactly back there where Willstrop was stuck and from where he urged back towards the 'T'. Because Willstrop was so far off the 'T' and because his opponent was preparing for the volley so early and dynamically, Willstrop thought that El Shorbagy would go for a straight kill and this is why he urged to turn left in order to cover the side left open. I find that this is a very clever version of wrongfooting.
Willstrop himself often wrongfoots his opponents by holding his racket-preparation exaggeratedly long - El Shorbagy does it this time by hitting the ball extremely early. Willstrop's tactics work generally when your opponent is on or near to the 'T'. Shorbagy's version works when the opponent is stuck in a corner. 
The finishing drop shot then was just the signature on a well written contract.

21 July 2012


We have had two amateur filmings so far on the blog of this intriguing match between Ramy Ashour and Borja Golan, second round at the 2012 British Open. Ramy has been asked by someone on Twitter what he thought when he was totally outplayed in the first two games. He replied simply that "Borja was on fire". That's totally true, but as you might know, I also think that Ramy was playing club-squash, and swapped to pro-squash only in the very last minute at 6:8 down in third, as it can be seen in this video. Nevertheless, let's enjoy now some of Borja's hot shots as registered by squashtv. It is an extra pleasure to see these delicate shots coming off someone who has got a very particular, slightly square racket preparation and movement. Just another proof that there are no dogmas in terms of technique in squash. You have to find your own ways how to combine precision and accuracy with economy of space and time.

19 July 2012


Yesterday we had an attacking boast played by Borja Golan off a hard paced, low but very loose drive by Cameron Pilley (at 1:28); today it's Tarek Momen - probably the greatest master of the attacking boast in the current PSA field - to show us when to employ the attacking boast. 
James Willstrop's straight drive seemed to be really tight, but unluckily for him the ball just caught the sidewall before bouncing on the ground; this in itself would have been alright if the ball is deep enough, but having been exactly at the service line, it was way too welcoming for Tarek to opt for his leathal attacking boast. Of course, as we have pointed it out earlier a few times, the extreme efficiency of Tarek Momen's attacking boasts are prepared with the reliability of his basic straight drives - he can hit them hard and tight basically from any position, also from the backfoot, or at a heavy stretch, out of balance (commom situations where even pros can struggle to hit straight with precision). 
The severity and reliability of his drives make his opponents naturally fear and prepare for a deep shot, in other words: whilst waiting on the 'T' and split-stepping, they naturally put their weight on their forefoot to prepare to lounge backwards towards the deep corners; this is why the already in itself high-quality low attacking boasts of Tarek Momen are doubly efficient. 

18 July 2012


Yesterday we had a similar example where Ramy Ashour went for the high pace forehand low kill in the wrong moment (at 0:13). Today it's Cameron Pilley's turn to commit a similar tactical error.
Yesterday, Ramy had little space for a decent backswing which resulted in finding the sidewall early, which made the ball bounce out towards the middle. In the current example Borja Golan (in white) hits an excellent near-dying length at 1:26, the ball bounces off the backwall just, hence again there is little room for a natural, free-flowing backswing; at this moment Cameron Pilley (in blue-black) opts for a hard paced low drive (not quiet a kill) which, just like yesterday Ramy's ball, ended up being very loose and enabled Golan to go pretty evidently for an attacking boast that Pilley could not retrieve yet. 
The only real difference to yesterday is that Ramy's ball hit the sidewall too early whereas in today's example Cameron's ball was simply too straight, not fading at all towards the sidewall - in both cases the result was a loose shot and being stuck in the back, far off the 'T' whilst the opponent goes for his next shot. 
The common error in both cases was the idea itself to go for a high pace low shot under those circumstances: if room is limited, if there is no space and time for a free-flowing backswing, you better avoid high paced shots as there is a good chance to miss-time your shot and also miss the sweet-spot of your racket, and as a consequence lack precision/accuracy; in these situations you better just lift the ball straight, or even cross-court, as Amr Shabana demonstrates it in a recent video at 0:17, and more importantly and beautifully at 0:32.

17 July 2012


I have published recently the rally that has swivelled this match between Ramy Ashour and Borja Golan at the 2012 British Open, the rally where Ramy has switched to 'Pro' mode, where every shot was a pressure shot without risking too much, without knowing in advance which will be the winning one, taking it step by step, but each time a more severe step. 
The below rally is to demonstrate the opposite: how you get in trouble if you attack in the wrong time. At 0:11 Borja Golan plays a tricky semi-lob from behind his body on the backhand side, which takes Ramy by surprise; the shot is deep and soft enough to force Ramy to play the ball before its bounces on the backwall. At this moment, at 0:13, Ramy decides to go for a kill, but the ball hits the sidewall straight after the frontwall, it hence comes off loose in the middle and Borja can chose form a few options, he goes for the trickle boast, Ramy dives, scraps it off, just, offering Borja to conclude easily with a drop. 
I think that Ramy's kill-attempt is an excellent example to demonstrate a wrongly chosen attacking shot. It was not only badly hit, but also in the wrong moment. From so far back, with so little space for a decent powerful backswing, going for a kill is really risky - unless it perfectly fades towards the sidewall, it will just take away time from yourself and allow your opponent to pick it up with plenty of options. 
Ramy is a master of the lifted shots from the back - just check out this beautiful and classic example - and this time it should have been just another occasion to play a basic shot, high and deep enough, possibly also tight, to allow himself to get back to the 'T' and see what kind of options he gets from his opponent's next shot.
I know on a certain level you have to be able to turn defence into offence, but it doesn't mean you can do it in any time, in any situation.  

10 July 2012


I have had so many debts along the existence of this blog. This was the case with Borja Golan, Ong Beng Hee, Stewart Boswell, Tarek Momen, and there are still quiet a few around who would deserve more representation on the blog. Often it's not really my fault, there is simply not enough quality stuff to be found on youtube about some players. Thanks to squashtv another debt can be paid now, showcasing finally the mighty skills of James Willstrop's training partner, Indian Saurav Ghosal
The most characteristic thing about Ghosal is his movement; he is definitely one of the five quickest players* around, but funnily his exceptional speed and explosiveness are coupled with a very square way of moving. Probably lucky us, spectators, as would he be even fluid, we probably wouldn't even see him on the court.
On the other hand I think in the past, even near past, he struggled somewhat with his racket technique: it was slightly too fortuitous, no real structure, no real composure to which he would have stuck. 
Don't take me wrong, am not saying there is one ideal way of racket-preparation. But I do believe that every player needs to find the type of backswing that suits his own body-language the best and then execute this backswing consequently whenever possible, in order to gain precision and deception. Just think for example of Karim Darwish, Ramy Ashour, Simon Rosner, Borja Golan or Tom Richards, all so different in their ways of preparing for a shot, but all so characteristic, specific to them as well. Making your backswing neutral - nearly the same for the different kinds of shots - is one of the key features to enable great deception. 
Well, Ghosal has shown great progress in this regard too, first at the 2012 Canary Wharf Classic, where he almost beat James Willstrop, and then at the 2012 British Open where he gave a very severe lesson to Marwan El Shorbagy (see a few examples in the below video) and made Peter Barker work very hard for his money.
In any case, we look forward to see the best Indian player move up the rankings and get the opportunity to showcase his unique style more and more on the blog.
* I would say the top five in this regard are: Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Tarek Momen, Gregory Gaultier, Amir Athlas Khan and Ghosal himsel