12 November 2013


If you have never ever beaten a rival that you've been playing against for about 23 years, and then you get a chance to do so by going up 2:0, then again 5:0 in the fifth, and then you go matchball down as you have so many times in your life, and then you still manage to get the win, on top of all with a shot like the one below, then you are having a good day, aren't you, Mr. Selby ;)

03 October 2013


This is a round-up video of the two semi-final matches of the 2013 Netsuit Open in San Francisco. It's worth to watch every second of it but I would like to point out two shots that demonstrate a type of deception that all advanced/pro players use to a certain extent, but nobody more expressively as Gregory Gaultier (and in previous times, the other great French player, Thierry Lincou): 
it's the head-turning deception, when you, simultaneously to hitting the ball, turn your head in the opposite direction of where you in fact are going to hit the ball. In the below video, Gaultier does it on the volley at 0:14. There is also an almost totally identical version of this shot at 4:54 by Ramy (against James Willstrop). And if you prefer seeing how this deception looks like when played not on a volley, but on a drive, then go to 3:58 (even if James, this time, was not confused by it).
So which is the right time/situation to use this type of deception? 
I think you need two things coming together in front of the court. 1) your opponent's shot must be loose off the sidewall to make the deception of a straight shot really threatening. 2) you shouldn't be on an extreme stretch as you need some extra hold/delay on your shot to send your opponent towards the direction your are turning your head to. Oh, and finally, strong neck muscles are an advantage as well.

26 September 2013


As far as it seams Hisham Ashour retired from the PSA (he played only four matches this year, only won one of them - the one in the clip against Saurav Ghosal - and he's not in the draw of any upcoming event). 
A shame. What to say, he is a legend in his own way, one of the greatest, if not the greatest shotmaker of all times and older brother/coach of one of the greatest, if not greatest player of all times, Ramy Ashour.
Notwithstanding his incredible shotmaking capabilities, I could never refrain from feeling something strange, something funny about Hisham. He obviously resembles his brother Ramy, but in some way he is also the total opposite of him. Regarding shotmaking, understanding of the court and interception they are similarly amazing; however regarding speed, agility and mental toughness, there are worlds between them. 
Hisham is obviously someone who loves life, not only squash. Not that Ramy isn't a really nice guy outside the court, but Hisham would definitely not sacrifice any type of fine dinner that you would invite him to. No disrespect to this genius, but at times he turned up as chubby on the court that I couldn't believe my eyes and started to adjust my screen's width ratio. I really thought it must have been the uncle of one the players who helped out warming up the ball.
However, I remember very well when he made his last attempt to take squash slightly more seriously (from a physical point of view). It was at the end of 2010 after a visibly serious diet, he came back slim and agile (for his standards) in order to ultimately achieve the minimum carrier-goal, being a top10 player (he used to mention top5...) And indeed he amassed victories over such ultra-steady players as Thierry Lincou and David Palmer (who were both still top8 those times).
Unfortunately it wasn't to be, he peaked at #11, and in 2012 his results - notwithstanding cashing in a long awaited first carrier win over Amr Shabana - got weaker and his ranking got lower in straight proportion with his body weight getting again higher.
Anyway, #10 or #11, or #16 is just a number, and regardless of his rankings Hisham Ashour will always be remembered, if not as the best, but definitely the funniest player of all time in the history of squash.
A good friend of mine, who represented Kenya at a junior World Championships event reported to me that the then youngster Hisham told him that he should watch out, as himself and his brother will soon rule the squash world. He was definitely not far away from the truth, as one of them became indeed the best, and the other one the most entertaining player out there.
By the way, I wish I was wrong, and there will be soon another diet...

21 September 2013


Obviously when Ramy Ashour is involved in a rally where he has to chase the ball it's always hilarious: such is his agility, speed and most of all, his extraterrestrial interception. 
But even when it's that entertaining, there are also lessons to note: when you watch the rally for the second time, observe to what extent they use the very low (just above the tin) and the higher parts of the frontwall. 
Common players hit mostly the mid range of the wall, Ramy and Pilley play in average at least every second ball either just above the tin or over the service line. Good squash - or as I like to call it: beautiful squash - always requires not only to use all four corners of the court, but also the full range of the frontwall, and pretty often the extremities of it. 

17 September 2013


One of the best surprises of the last 12 months was the progress that Steven Coppinger has been showing on the PSA World Tour. 
About two years ago he went down to Florida to start to train with retired legend David Palmer; by doing so, he joined another much progressed player Miguel Angel Rodriguez. By now you can clearly notice the influence that the iron man - or the marine, as some call him - has had on both of their playing styles and results (in the current September 2013 PSA Rankings they are #16 and 17# respectively).
Coppinger was a brave a top50 player before with a good complete all-round game and the typical slight lacks that distinguish the top20 from the players ranked below. In Coppinger's case it was clearly the physical aspect that needed an upgrade to achieve better results; he is very tall and that's clearly not an advantage in a sport where every two seconds you need to bend, lounge and brake at the end of a sprint. 
Steven told me about his brutal off-court training regimes with Palmer (you can make yourself an idea if you watch this clip by squashskills). In squash, balance is essential and Steven is now really steady on his foot even at heavy stretches and severe lounges. 
Note how quickly he recovered from a wrong-footed position at 0:34 to play a beautiful forehand drop shot, how well he hit and regrouped to the 'T' after a heavy stretch to the deep backhand corner, his quick reaction in the middle at 1:08 and the excellent reaction-volley at 1:21, and after all that hard work he still had the strength to get into a perfectly balanced position to execute a winning forehand drop shot to conclude this mega rally. 
Simon Rosner and Steven Coppinger, two tall men to watch next to the giant that James Willstrop is in both senses of the term.

10 July 2013


Peter Marshall Shattered
Peter Marshall is a well known name in squash history: a former world #2 (in 1995) and protagonist of a brand-mark double-handed hitting technique. However, his name is not only linked with his particular technique and great achievements, but also with a disease that ruined in big part his carrier and his ambitions of going one step further and becoming world #1. Peter Marshall's Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) generated quiet some question mark and debate in its time, but all the external controversy was insignificant compared to the inner fight that Marshall himself put into the understanding and handling of his disease. Writing (with the help of co-author Nick Kehoe) a book about it became, I presume, part of the healing process. The book was published in 2000 under the title Shattered: A Champion's Fight Against a Mystery Illness; it's a very well written book analysing with honesty Marshall's personal and professional issues and describing the surrounding world of squash in fine and entertaining detail. In the below video you can see the last few rallies of a match between Peter Marshall and Jansher Khan, and underneath you may read on our in-depth review of the book (apologies if it seems almost as long as the book itself, but I got carried away as I found it really intriguing, maybe a fraction even more than James Willstrop's recent Shot and a Ghost).

The first part of Marshall's squash carrier was pretty straight forward. Even though he had a very unorthodox two-handed racket-technique inherited form his early childhood when he simply couldn't bear the weight of the heavy wooden rackets, he has won basically all the main British junior titles and became relatively quickly a world top10 player in the early nineties. At that time, Jansher Khan has already substituted Jahangir Khan at the top of the squash world (no one else in squash history has ever established such a dominance compared to the rest of the field as those two). Marshall was one of those players who got to the finals of the main tournaments just to be stopped all the time by Jansher.

However, whilst other players might have become disgusted and gutted with the constant defeats, Marshall put himself into a mindset where every defeat became a lesson to take in order to achieve the long-term goal: beating and substituting Jansher Khan as the world #1. It was not to be. By the time Marshall became world #2, his disease obliged him to stop playing professionally and hang up the racket for two years, just to make a short comeback tentative in 1997 (in which he still managed to beat the then up-and-coming sensation Jonathon Power), and then being out for another two years to make his ultimate comeback in 1999 when he managed to climb back very quickly into the world top10. Soon after though, he was out again, then for good.

So what was this disease, how come it came out at a peak-stage of Marshall 's carrier so close to the top of the world (rankings)? Was it purely a psychological problem as many have presumed or does CFS also have physiological roots? If yes, what was the link between the psychological and the physiological aspects?

At the very beginning, Marshall had to struggle even with the fact that the doctors couldn't really diagnose his disease. He's done all the tests, but there was nothing wrong with them. In a later stage, when at least someone came up with the name of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), he still had to face either scepticism or lack of knowledge about the eventual forms of treatment by the doctors.

Unlucky for Marshall, the disease started to become more specifically diagnosed/known by the medical world only after the end of his carrier. By then, it was commonly assumed that there is a viral infection at the origins of this disease. It is a virus (in Marshall's case glandular fever in his youth) that weakens the immune system which then will become more sensitive to other infections. Of course, not everybody who had glandular fever will have CFS and Marshall himself went up to world #2 before CFS struck him in such degree that he was not able to play anymore. Marshall comes to the conclusion that CFS was probably the result of a self-defensive mechanism of his body that he had put under exaggerated training regimes in order to try to fight the supremacy of Jansher Khan.

Marshall's idea was that Jansher covers the court too well, so there is no way to win rallies with quick winners; he presumed that the only way to win against him would be to make the rallies last as long as possible in order to tire his opponent and squeeze the points out of him. Marshall thought age too would be on his side, Jansher - even though extremely fit himself - must start to fade at some point. In the book Marshall refers to himself as probably one of the fittest athletes in the world of his time, and to get to this stage he was not shy to afflict his body with horrendous amount of stamina and muscle exercises. Only five years later, at his second comeback did he realise that what he did is commonly called over-training, which in his case - in the complexity of having had a weakened immune system and having had to climb a mountain called Jansher Khan - turned out to be fatal.

It must have been an interesting situation: there was the mind and iron will of Peter Marshall on one side to fight and beat the beast (Jansher) and there was on the other side the body of Peter Marshall that could just not cope with the mind's and will's projects. Marshall thought of himself exclusively in terms of mind and will; he considered his body as an everlasting tool that would execute anything he dictates him. I think mentally and psychologically that was the greatest error that Marshall committed: founding his fight against Jansher mostly on a physical basis (the idea of making their rallies last). By doing so, he basically admitted that he could not beat him with the racquet (shots) or with the head (deception/anticipation) and this in itself might have produced unconsciously a complex of inferiority. Not to talk about the fact - that Marshall himself describes so well - that Jansher's general tactics was exactly based on "rallying", and nobody was better than him in doing so, because he was more economical than anyone else in the history of squash in terms of movement but still as quick and agile as a panther.

And this is another great part of the book, where Marshall describes Jansher Khan's playing style in comparison with Jahangir Khan's. 

Jahangir used to be an overwhelming warrior; from the very first moment he stepped on the court he was about to devour you. It was immediate and constant attacking; high pace, high position on the 'T', lot's of volleying. Add to this speed and fitness, and often he seamed to beat his opponents even before they put their feet on the court.

Jansher had a different approach. He was not a destroyer, he liked to play slow pace and didn't mind to let the rallies last long, allowing his opponents to settle and attack, to go for shots. He was using his opponents attacks to get them trapped; he was transforming their positive energies into negative, not with one shot, but with a sequence of shots and with a never before seen stubborn tenacity.

Personally I do think that from a psychological point of view Jansher must have been the tougher one to compete against. Jahangir was a terminator, what can you do? You are a professional so you try, but you are not surprised to lose quickly. With Jansher you might even fancy your chances, just to understand gradually that you have been trapped into a procedure called 'slow death'. The even more amazing thing about Jansher is that he has figured out and employed these almost philosophical tactics at a very young age; he beat Jahangir first at the age of 17 and became world #1 at 18. Jansher could afford these tactics for three reasons: 1) fitness 2) economy of movement 3) incredible anticipation.

Marshall was equal if not better in terms of fitness, but was way inferior in terms of economy of movement and anticipation. I know it's a constant debate in coaching whether one shall concentrate to improve his strength or work on his weaknesses. But I think when it comes to the highest standards, there is no way you will outplay your opponent by concentrating exclusively on your strong points and improving mostly only one aspect of the game. I think Peter Nicol demonstrated perfectly straight after Marshall's failure how to face and prepare against naturally more gifted players. Nowadays, Nick Matthew is a great example how to do it.

Today probably Matthew is the hardest trainer out there (just as Marshall used to be in his time) but he does not rely exclusively on his superior stamina and mental toughness; you can definitely see how with time he has constantly adjusted his game by learning from the naturally more talented players (Jonathon Power, Amr Shabana, Gregory Gaultier, Karim Darwish, James Willstrop, Ramy Ashour - to mention the most evident ones of his contemporaries).

But Matthew has already a whole institution behind him with an army of psychologists, physiotherapists and trainers. Marshall observes in his book bitterly that in his time coaching was not as scientific as it is nowadays and he did not have the same facilities that the current British players have at their disposition. He had to look for doctors himself and quiet a few of them were not very sympathetic with him; they had very little to advise and some of them were even sceptic about the reality factor of his illness. This, from a professional and ethic point of view is outrageous I think: whether the problem is psychologically or physically based, it is there, it creates real obstacles, therefore it has to be treated. It is in another question if you as a doctor are incapable of treating it; but then assume it and do not insult instead your patient.

In 1999 Marshall, after having tried all the official and alternative treatments proposed by that time, came to the conclusion that he had to change his mindset in order to be able to live a normal life and maybe even compete again on a professional level. He found that one of the antidepressants that he has been prescribed allowed him to feel a lot better when dosed carefully. In a first time the dose was too high and created panic and other disturbances, so he stopped taking it. Later, due to another doctor, he started to take it again, but only a quarter of the dose he used to take. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it helped a lot.

And this is exactly what Marshall had to understand and accept: there is probably no solution, but only ways to handle and keep under control the disease. The physical way to keep it under control was the antidepressant, the psychological way to handle the situation was to accept that there will be days when things go worse, and as soon as he feels tired he will have to stop training and rest as long as he does not feel better. He has to cope with this handicap, and if he does so, he will be more relaxed mentally, which on its turn will also help the body to relax and recover quicker. In 1995, when the disease started to turn up, he couldn't have adopted this mental approach; he was a young professional full of ambition and keen on giving it his all or even more if possible. As a professional sportsman he was taught to accept only the maximum end anything less would have worried him. By 1999, he became a lot less demanding and with four years of desperate searching for a normal life he has gained a different perspective of the importance of things. He realized that the main thing is to be capable playing squash and competing with the best. Everything beyond this will be considered a bonus.

Marshall might have committed an error by over-training at a certain point of his carrier. However, he has always accepted and assumed with nobility and a high level of intellectual honesty whatever destiny threw at him. And he still went up being world #2 which in itself is an amazing achievement that only a handful of players have achieved. He is also one of the five players ever to beat Jahangir Khan in an official match. En bref, there might be one or two things that Peter Marshall might regret, but there is much more he can be proud of. He is also a historical example of demonstrating in a coaching-wise somewhat orthodox country that technique is a totally personnel thing to be developed specifically by each player. Add to this that he has always been a really nice and humble person in the flesh. A pretty complete package to deserve squash fan's true appreciation and admiration.

If you want to read the book yourself, you shall be able to find used copies on amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or on ebay.co.uk.

13 May 2013


This is a great compilation showing the executional skills of one of the purest and classiest players, at least racket technique-wise speaking. Back in the days when he was world #1 Darwish used to exercise these shots on his top-player rivals, these days we can rather admire them against the slightly lower ranked players, like Ryan Cuskelly and Saurav Ghosal in the below examples. Throughout the 3 year existence of this blog we have been talking a few times about the Karim Darwish drops and his exemplary racket preparation, but let's see again, based on the below rallies, the main features of his amazing technique.

1) the forehand drop at 0:12
I love to talk about this shot and I think everybody should aim to hit it like that. The amazing thing about this shot is that he mixes up racket-head speed and touch. How does he achieve that? It's simpler to show than to explain but I will give it a try: first of all Darwish menaces for his compact standards with a relative high backswing, then he approaches the ball with his racket in a 'caressing' way; I mean he is not cutting the ball straight up-down but simultaneously also from inwards to outwards. It is also key to observe that, whilst executing this 'caressing' movement, he advances a lot more his wrist than the head of the racket. In a normal drive it is the opposite, the head of the racket is making more distance in the air than your wrist. In the case of the drop shot, in order to achieve that extra cut, Darwish does the opposite: the wrist is almost in front of the head of the racket at the moment of impact.

2) the return into the nick at 0:25
Many players can return the ball into the nick when they receive a poor service. But only a few can do that when the service hits first the sidewall. Darwish used to be a master of this solution even if dares to use it a lot less frequently than in the old times. Not sure how to teach this one, but I guess the compact racket-preparation helps for sure.

3) the forehand cross-drop flick at 0:38
again a Darwish special, probably learned from the great Jonathon Power (I think in general it is way underestimated how much Darwish must have learned by observing Power's technique back in the days). Basically it's a similar set-up as in the case of the first straight forehand drop: relatively high (but still compact) racket-preparation (menacing to hit a deep hard drive) but in this case he adds the 'hold' which makes his opponent guess for a straight drop, and as soon as the opponent commits for this straight drop he flicks his wrist for a cross-drop. 

4) the backhand drop at 0:57
as on the forehand, quick and high, menacing racket-preparation and then the soft touch. Observe that, in opposition to some coaching canons, he is not taking the ball early on the top of the bounce but in between the top of the bounce and the descending of the ball. When the ball is over its top bounce, it decelerates and allows you to control your shot a lot more. If you observe the best drop shot players (Darwish, Ramy Ashour, Willstrop, Shabana...), you will see that 95% of the times the drop shot is played after the top of the bounce.

5) the backhand cross-drop flick at 1:17
hard to teach this one. You need to be a top athlete I suppose to have the core strength the execute this shot on the run with such balance and control. There was no time for a hold, but still observe that instead of rushing his shot he was again waiting that the ball exceeds the top of its bounce.

6) the backhand trickle-boast at 1:34
again a Darwish classic, he used to employ this shot more frequently in the past. The trickle-boast is probably the shot that supposes the most that you are also a severe and solid drive-hitter from any position of the court (also when you are late on the ball or on the backfoot). Darwish is very steady length hitter, hehence his opponents have to expect all the time the severe straight drive; and when they do so, he employs the trickle-boast. Observe that even here he takes the ball late, after the top-bounce. 
By the way, let's also mention that Darwish's exceptional executional skills are founded by a very solid basic technique. Darwish is not Ramy, he will not go for shots 'out of nothing' (well, even Ramy doesn't do that too often if you watch carefully); watch the video again and you will see that almost always there is a very solid basic drive that gives him the opening to show then with his next shot his executional skills.

17 April 2013


It's been now some time that David Palmer started to coach the funniest and quickest guy on the tour, Miguel Angel Rodiriguez. Just a few days ago we had a very similar David Palmer dive here on the blog and here we have the Colombian cannonball doing even two of them in a row in opposite corners. 
Rodriguez has visibly benefited a lot from the training with his legendary supervisor, but it has to be said that in the decisive moments when the loose shots arise his choice of shots are not yet as good and as sharp as his tutor's used to be. Still it's high quality squash and extremely entertaining. 
Oh, and concerning his opponent, Mr.Willstrop, it's just each time a pleasure to observe his timing of shots: there is a delay on each shot, even on the most basic drives.

13 April 2013


Some people don't know squash. Some people know squash but think it is not fun to watch on TV. Have a look at the below 15 videos, a selection of the hardest and most fun rallies of the past few years, and you might change idea.

Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) vs. Gregory GAULTIER (Fra) / 2013 Tournament of Champions, New York

to read the full No-Let post about this video: ROCK AND ROLL SQUASH: RAMY ASHOUR vs. GREGORY GAULTIER IN THE 2013 TOC FINAL

Amr SHABANA (Egy) vs. James WILLSTROP (Eng) / 2013 World Series Finals, London

to read the full No-Let post about this video: THE BEST DOUBLE FAKE EVER: AMR SHABANA vs. JAMES WILLSTROP

David PALMER (Aus) vs. Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) / 2011 Tournament of Champions, New York

to read the full No-Let post about this video: THE SHOT OF THE CENTURY: by DAVID PALMER

Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) vs. Nick MATTHEW (Eng) / 2012 El Gouna International, Egypt

to read the full No-Let post about this video: IT WON'T GET CRAZIER THAN THAT - 2012 EL GOUNA - RAMY ASHOUR vs. NICK MATTHEW

Nick MATTHEW (Eng) vs. Amr SHABANA (Egy) / 2011 Tournament of Champions, New York

to read the full No-Let post about this video: SQUASH GOING CRAZY: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS 2011 NEW YORK

Mohamed EL SHORBAGY (Egy) vs. Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) / 2012 PSA World Championship, Qatar


Miguel Angel RODRIGUEZ (Col) vs. Thierry LINCOU (Fra) / 2011 US Open, Philadelphia

to read the full No-Let post about this video: PROBABLY THE MOST STUNNING SHOT OF ALL TIMES: by MIGUEL ANGEL RODRIGUEZ

Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) vs. Nick MATTHEW (Eng) / 2011 Australian Open, Canberra

to read the full No-Let post about this video: NICK AND RAMY KEEP IT ROLLING - AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2011 

John WHITE (Sco) vs. Gregory GAULTIER (Fra) / 2008 Tournament of Champions, New York
to read the full No-Let post about this video: THANKS, JOHN!

Karim DARWISH vs. Mohamed EL SHORBAGY (Egy) / 2012 El Gouna International, Egypt
to read the full No-Let post about this video: MONSTER RALLY: KARIM DARWISH vs. MOHAMED EL SHORBAGY, 2012 EL GOUNA INTERNATIONAL

Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) vs. Nick MATTHEW (Eng) / 2012 El Gouna International, Egypt

to read the full No-Let post about this video: GREAT SQUASH IS ALWAYS FAIR SQUASH TOO: RAMY ASHOUR vs. NICK MATTHEW

Amr SHABANA (Egy) vs. Miguel Angel RODRIGUEZ (Col) / 2011 Tournament of Champions, New York

to read the full No-Let post about this video:  SQUASH GOING CRAZY AGAIN - TOC 2012: AMR SHABANA vs. MIGUEL ANGEL RODRIGUEZ

James WILLSTROP (Eng) vs. Nick MATTHEW (Eng) / 2010 Canary Wharf Classic, London

to read the full No-Let post about this video: CANARY WHARF 2010 - MATTHEW vs. WILLSTROP: BEST EVER SQUASH MATCH?

Amr SHABANA (Egy) vs. Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) / 2012 British Open, London, UK


James WILLSTROP (Eng) vs. Ramy ASHOUR (Egy) / 2013 North American Open, Richmond

to read the full No-Let post about this video: THE EXTRAORDINARY TRIPLE FAKE by JAMES WILLSTROP

Squash has finally become a serious contender to be included in the Olympics. It has been shortlisted and it has received several prestigious public backings, like for example from Roger Federer. If you too would like to see such entertaining actions within the Olympics then please feel free to spread these images.

09 April 2013


Some vintage stuff in vintage quality (unfortunately), but it makes me miss David Palmer and his crazy dives (which were in such interesting opposition with the general discipline and steadiness of his game). The rally is also telling stories about the Dark Prince, Karim Darwish, who after winning the rally, shows signs of being p... off instead of enjoying the crowd's celebration, having just won a spectacular rally that got him to matchpoint. But okay, it's part of Darwish's character, he has never aimed to be a crowd-pleaser, however, in his prime times, he was both sharp as a knife and entertaining due to his deadly touch and exceptional reading of the game. He's not the old himself anymore, but he's still there as he has just recently proven by beating new ace Mohamed El Shorbagy 3:0 in the final of the CIMB KL Open.

20 March 2013


We can be really grateful that Miguel Angel Rodriguez has chosen to play squash. Just imagine what football player he could have become for example (and how much money and fame he could earn with that). Not only is he incredibly quick, he's got also an interesting deception and a special sense of humour that he can express with his movement and shots whilst playing the world #2. Look how cool he waits on the 'T' whilst Nick Matthew is in front of him at 0:26 or the surprise factor of his deep lob at 0:44, or the way he walks after another lob at 0:53, like on a promenade on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or the way he reacts to Matthew's bump after he sent him the wrong way with a great straight deep forehand volley at 0:56 - it's all quality and funny at the same time. Mr. Rodriguez, you are hilarious and we are enjoying very much your presence on the PSA World Tour. Keep walking! Keep running like crazy!