30 December 2010


It seems that there is a simple rule about the lob played from close to the front-wall: just look for the service line. If you stick to this you will only need to adjust the direction of the ball, looking to have the second bounce on the side-wall and ideally the third bounce into the back-wall nick. Another thing that eventually will help is - as always - the deception. If you manage to fake a drop then your opponent will follow up which disables him to volley/smash in case if your lob is not deep/high enough. In the below example Thierry Lincou hit two consecutive lobs, the first one at 0:35 with Wael El Hindi on the move forward guessing a drop as Lincou was bending and stretching, and the second at 0:40, El Hindi already more aware and waiting on the 'T' as Lincou's bust was almost totally upright. El Hindi escaped with both and on his turn, a couple of shots later, found an almost perfect backhand lob that got stuck on the back-wall. Few people play the lob on club level, which I find strange as it really enriches the game and, if efficient, might frustrate your opponent a lot.

23 December 2010


Here at 'No Let!' we tend to show one rally at one time. This is not a rule, we just stick to it as it allows us to concentrate properly on a specific shot or solution. But now it's Christmas time, so let's have a look at a compilation of the best conclusions picked from the most recent tournaments in Saudi and Delhi. Hisham Ashour can't be missing of course, next to the mizuki volley that we've already posted a couple of days ago another one can be seen at 0:41, this time against Chris Simpson. At 0:54 we get the demonstration of the perfect lob by Nick Matthew and at 1:17 there is an Amr Shabana special, a shot that hardly anybody else plays (I wonder why as it has got a pretty obvious winning geometry): the cross kill-drop into the nick. Thanks to the unknown uploader on Youtube and Happy Christmas to all.

22 December 2010


If there's a shot I've hardly if ever seen on club-level, it's this one, the cross-court to the body. Even on pro level, I don't really remember having seen it from players outside the top10. Nick Matthew and James Willstrop are the two who use it the most (and Lee Beachill pretends that it's his invention) so we might consider this as 'The English Tricky Shot' - not as fancy as for example Hisham Ashour's mizuki volley but maybe more efficient in terms of employability. So when do the top guys tend to employ it? Obviously after a good short ball, on the run, being late on the ball, which presumes that the only secure shot to escape is a wide cross-court; that makes the opponent anticipate to move towards the 'T' and to open his racket towards the open side of the court instead of keeping it in front of him; therefore he'll have no time to get it back to the other side to enable himself to ask for a 'stroke'. To dare to play this shot: quick thinking and intelligent risk-assessment needed!

19 December 2010


I've always thought Hisham would just be a funny caricature of Ramy: even though his shot-making ability is close to his illustrious younger brother's, movement-wise he used to be disaster. Due to his overweight he used to be constantly late on the ball, and as a consequence made silly choices and hit the tin more often than the front-wall. So it's pretty astonishing seeing him within just a couple of month loosing weight and moving so much better. With his current good results (he has beaten world #9 Laurens Jan Anjema twice in two weeks and got also the better off a slightly diminished Thierry Lincou) he will very probably break inside the top20 in the January rankings. Now it will be interesting to see if Hisham gets satisfied with this or if he considers it just as a first step to make it towards the top10. If it's the latter, there are fitness-wise still some brutal solitary training sessions ahead of him. Let's hope he'll make it, as it would be great for the global squash scene to see the percentage of the creative / exhibition-like players grow in the top10. Now that John White and Jonathon Power are not there anymore...

13 December 2010


 This rally is from 2007, David Palmer at the time was ranked still very high, at #3, whereas Daryl Selby only #36, just before starting to make his rise. Selby's touch is really nice, soft, like knife on butter and he didn't do anything wrong except of not finding perfectly the nick at his last drop which allowed Palmer, one of the greatest retrievers ever, to get passed him and win the point. And of course, what a dive! But let's turn back to Selby: if you watch him nowadays and compare it with this tape, the obvious difference between the "two Selbys" is in his posture: now he bends his bust more, even if still not as deep as Willstrop or Matthew, but enough to give his shots more power and also to allow him to hide the ball better giving him more deception, whereas in 2007 he stack to an almost upright bust position whilst hitting the ball which means less deception, less power and slightly more footwork as he had to substitute the extra stretch of a bended bust with slightly bigger steps.

10 December 2010


These 'kids' (Mohamed El Shorbagy is 19, Aamir Atlas Khan 20) play some good squash even though Khan tends to be slightly over-relaxed which prevents him from executing his shots with 100 % efficiency. Shorbagy on the other hand plays with much more dedication and attention to detail and you can see the difference in their results. I do have a couple of reserves towards Shorbagy's attitude on court but for such a young age he is very mature and in a couple of years he will very probably have his say in the top3. Just look at the execution of that ultimate forehand drop shot; to play it with such high racket-head speed and still control it so perfectly... not even Karim Darwish plays this shot this delicately.

08 December 2010


Okay, this, of course, is a beautiful crazy rally that does not require much comment. However, I would like to point out a maybe even insignificant detail, David Palmer's drop shot at 0:33 (even if it didn't make him win the rally this time); many players would have gone for the inch-perfect drop just above the tin, but Palmer chooses to play it about 50 cm higher looking rather to make it fade into the side-wall. He does that often, as the drop-shot played as such a high-percentage-shot and not as a clear winner will make the opponent run desperately to retrieve the ball which then generally ends in a stroke or an easy loose ball to put away. (Click here to see another nice example this time on the volley and dropping it at 0:11 even at the heights of the service line (!) against Willstrop in an earlier post). I do agree that it's a bit of a conservative thinking with the likes of Ramy and Shabana on the tour, but it's still intelligent and efficient not only in the short term (in order of winning the point) but also in mid-terms (making your opponent spend a lots of energy and showing him that you don't necessarily have to go for winners to beat him).

04 December 2010


I know lots of people can do the four corner butterfly, not only professionals, but I am an admirer of Thierry Lincou's view, his eyes, his focus - it's deep and sharp, tense and calm at the same time. The only other guy who can compete with the intensity of his concentration is Ramy Ashour, but he looks slightly more agitated, more bohemian (for example talking to himself like an old mad poet whilst preparing to receive serve), whereas Lincou maintains always his composure, like a tiger on hunt, or a Buddhist monk at meditation...

02 December 2010


We have discussed a couple of times 'racket-preparation' and we came to the point that the more compact the backswing the more control and the more deception there might be in your shot. Nevertheless, there are a couple of players who have higher and wider swings. One of them is surely Aamir Atlas Khan. In the below rally it makes a really nice contrast with Adrian Grant  who has a rather compact backswing. Stop the footage for example at 0:29 and at 0:32, the only other guy that comes to my mind now to exagerate the forehand back-swing so much is German Simon Rosner. But Khan raises his elbow exceptionally high even on the backhand side where generally it's a natural choice to keep the elbow tight to the body (see for example at 0:08 and more significantly at 0;15). Of course these observations have to be taken with some reserve as they mainly concern basic strokes (and rather the forehand side); on the stretch or at a high volley everybody will raise his arm (elbow); and of course even 'compact swingers' will adjust and raise their elbow when they don't need deception just pure pace, or vice versa, 'exaggerated swingers' will also tighten their swing when it comes to a stuck ball in the back corner or when they play a drop shot off a loosish ball. Anyway, in Khan's case, the swing just looks natural the way it is, therefore I don't think that a more compact backswing would necessarily improve his shots' quality (except maybe his deception).   

27 November 2010


Here we have a nice example of the faded kill into the side-wall: Jonathon Power's serve bounces off loosish both the side- and the backwall, the ball is also high enough to hit it in a straight line downwards just above the tin, but the distance is too far to hit the ball with full pace, as as a consequence it would risk to rebounce farer off the frontwall and also higher off the ground (and make it easier to return for the opponent), therefore Gregory Gaultier is opting for the reduced-paced sliced kill fading it towards the sidewall. Interesting to observe how many times Power and Gaultier look to fade the ball into the sidewall with different kinds of shots, not only the kill. These two know maybe better than any other player that hitting the ball tight on this level is not enough, it also has to fade with the right speed and at the right spot into the sidewall.

23 November 2010


I would have thought there's not much to say about the shot called 'kill'. A 'kill' is a 'kill', it's mainly hit off a loosish ball around the service box (or very near to the front-wall), it can be straight or cross-court. It's not a sophisticated shot, even club players are capable to employ it, in fact, at certain levels, some enthusiast beginners think it's the only shot to be used on a squash court ('bang bang'). Nevertheless, on higher levels, it's slightly more complex than this; there is a version that we might call the 'faded kill' which in general is not hit with maximum pace, rather with a more open, sliced racket head, and it is not necessarily intended as a winner but rather as a preparative shot to make the opponent scrap the ball off the side-wall. We are going to show a couple of examples for this preparative 'faded kill' in the near future, Jonathon Power used to initiate the majority of his attacks with this shot, but for now let's start with one that ended up being even an immediate winner. It was a quality rally finished by the 'faded kill' (and preceded by a great lob that forced the loose shot from David Palmer), but the first frames showing Power's mimics are at least as valuable. Being one of the all time greats of squash and next to it such an excellent actor (or naturally just such a nice crazy lad)  means the spectator buys one ticket and gets two type of hilarious shows!

21 November 2010


And the crazy man continues his running... not as hectic as the previous example, but still, more physical than anyone else. Anthony Ricketts was a strange beast of the squash courts, I guess his rage was his second best weapon (he has not been a 'nice guy', look at that little extra blocking with his posterior at 0:15), but let's don't undervalue the quality of his shots, even though it's not for his touch that he's been famous (look for example at that poor drop at 0:27 and replayed in slow motion at 0:45), but a bit like Olli Tuominen, having a not too fluid technique basically helped him to elaborate a strange kind of hard-to-read deception, which,coupled with that 'Mad Max' speed and that second-to-none fitness made of him a top3 player.

18 November 2010


Anthony Ricketts, still only 31, but retired already 3 years ago. Have a look at the kind of brutal running he is producing in this rally - I wouldn't suggest my son to take him as a role model for economy and smoothness of movement. Nevertheless, he pretty much was a phenomenon on the tour, very tough opponent to anybody, but I can't wonder that he had to stop his carrier early - nobody (no body) could have lasted longer with that much agression put onto the joints and muscles.

11 November 2010


This video is from 2006, Windy City Open, final. It's David Palmer against Jonathon Power. First time I watched this rally I thought to myself "my god, what a difference compared to current top pro squash, hardly any short balls, they are sending back deep even the loose balls..." Then at a second view I realised that this was a match point for Power (and not the first one). From this point of view Palmer's calm and coolness is absolutely incredible. Not even too surprising that he ended up winning the match and the title - and claimed as a consequence the #1 spot from JP in the following month's world rankings. A month later, JP claimed the #1 spot back and retired straight after with a golden aura around his head (the nastiest and funniest angel of squash ever to entertain the pro circuit). Another month went on, and started the 33 month rule of mighty Amr Shabana...

09 November 2010


Mostly drop shots are played with a reduced swing as it's a delicate shot that needs a delicate touch. But in this case, Karim Darwish was deceiving to prepare a hard-paced drive, raising the racket-head relatively high (nevertheless keeping the elbow near to the hip) and swinging quickly. And exactly these two factors explain why the shot didn't come perfect (quick / high swing = less control), but also why it was still a winner, as the deception of the drive made Gregory Gaultier stuck slightly on the 'T'. Why did Darwish play it this way  whereas in earlier samples (I.) that we have discussed here (II.) he played the drop with a compact, reduced swing? Because in opposition to the previous examples, the present one wasn't a 'reaction (volley)-drop', there was more time to execute the shot (and also for the opponent to observe the preparation of the shot), therefore it needed deception, to keep the opponent behind him stuck on the 'T', away from the front-wall. Whereas the quality of a reaction-drop with the reduced swing is rather depending on footwork (balance), the full-backswing deceiving drop is technically extremely difficult and even on pro level, only a few players are capable to use it successfully.

07 November 2010


What a nasty match this one must have been. So much drama, tension between these two greats, and at the end, what an incredible rally to finish it off 15:14 in the decider. It's not a fair compilation as it shows mostly the points scored by David Palmer and the arguing of Jonathon Power who was trying to go around the 'big block' Palmer to demonstrate his efforts and then still not getting eventual 'lets'... and then not getting the 'stroke' in his favour at 2:33 (12:13 down in the fifth game) is almost cruel from the part of the referee I would say. Anyway, welcome Jonathon Power to 'No Let! The Squash Video Blog', it was about time to introduce here the greatest 'lizard' squash has ever had in its circuits.

05 November 2010


If I am not wrong, it was Jonathon Power who introduced into the world of squash the COMPACT BACKSWING: a racket preparation that is always similar, if not the same, regardless the type of shot that will 'come out' of the racket. The main difference to the traditional backswing consists in the distance of the elbow to the hip: whereas with the conventional backswing the elbow is raised almost to the heights of the shoulders, with the 'JP' backswing the elbow remains very close to the hip (the difference is more evident on the forehand side and less on the backhand). The other main difference between 'old' and 'new' schools of hitting the ball is the way you use your body's momentum for the shot. The traditional backswing is generally accompanied by a wavy turn of the body - this, as a positive effect, gives pace to the shot, but will also make your shot selection more readable, as you will turn differently for a drive, a cross-court or a drop. This is why the 'new' backswing uses somewhat less the momentum of the body and more the flick of the wrist. There will be less pace in the ball, but a lot more hold and deception. Of course, on high standards, players are capable of mixing the two type of swings, but let's get back to this in a later post. In the below video, Karim Darwish - the player with the most compact racket preparation on the tour - shows how to prepare your shot when you receive a very loose ball in the front around the middle of the court. It's pretty straight forward: 1) you get a loose ball, so you have time to prepare your shot, but also your opponent to observe your preparation, therefore you need deception 2) reduce your backswing as much as you can. 3) hold your shot 4) show the straight drop, play the cross-court or show the cross-court (body turning in advance) and play the straight drop 5) play straight drives rarely in this situation, as your opponent will follow up for the straight drop and cover that side.

02 November 2010


In London the big squash events are really well organized. Canary Wharf is great every year and the 2009 Super Series Finals at the Queens club was second to none. What I would like to point out with the below video is the quality of the sound techniques! The sound of the ball touching the wall is electric and we can even clearly hear resonating the creak of the shoes whilst running and stopping. As far as I am informed, current psasquashtv coverage is produced (partly or entirely?) by Jean de Lierre's squashlive.com, but apparently a lots of concessions had to be made compared to former events that squashlive.com was covering directly for their own DVD series. Compared to these, last week's Super Series Kuwait Open was a total disaster sound wise: the only noise you could hear from the court was the front-wall, nothing else. Back-wall, side-walls, player's introductions, interviews, referees or players comments: hardly anything or rather nothing could be heard at all. Can you imagine a tennis coverage without hearing the referee saying "30:15"? Beyond the sound effects I will not tire to mention the role of the slightly moving main camera as it can be seen in the below video (in opposition to any current psasquashtv transmission). And to talk finally about squash as well: the 2009 Super Series Finals in London was maybe Ramy Ashour's worst event ever. If I am not wrong, he lost all three of his matches pretty badly and the one against Lincou was maybe the poorest of all. Must have been just a bad week for him, as he has won the next tournament he entered beating Lincou, Darwish and Matthew on the way. A year later he finally achieved the #1 spot of the rankings. And for the records: he has just won in Kuwait, beating Anjema, Lincou, Willstrop and Shabana on the way. Nick Matthew might be fresh enough to give him some very tough time in Qatar next week?

28 October 2010


We had a great demonstration of trickle-boasts by James Willstrop recently (apologies to call trickle-boast also the boast that is played from around mid-court and not only the ones played from the front corners, but since the principle is the same - deception, wrong-footing, and making it a quick and short two-wall boast - I decided to use the same term). Here we have another one, this time by Thierry Lincou. Interesting to note that the ball wasn't that far off the side-wall. If you watch again the trickle-boasts played by Willstrop against Gregory Gaultier last time, we can notice something similar: the one that James has played in front of the service line (at 0:18) was only slightly off the side-wall, whereas the other two that he has played from behind the service line (at 0:54 and 4:13) were much looser off the side-wall. It seams that to go for this shot, the farer you are from the front-wall the more you need to have some distance from the side-wall, with the limit of not exceeding the edge of the service-box more or less. Add to this that you shouldn't be late on the ball, on a full stretch, as you need some time to deceive the preparation of a hard straight drive.

26 October 2010


I am not going to praise Karim Darwish again as after a certain point it's going to be contra-productive and you guys as a result will be tired of him ... But this time it's not me, it's the commentators (Nick Matthew, or Joey Barrington by saying for example this nice sentence: "you can hear the strings singing..." ) And yes, there are some astonishing gets and stretches for sure, the thousand times mentioned forehand drop at 0:17, and the final shot, that backhand that has hardly any swing or backswing and which, therefore, is so tough to read, that's all marks of an exceptionally strong player... But this time I would also like to point out the great qualities of David Palmer: I have already paid tribute to his dives in an older post, and I know there are coaches who discourage players from diving, saying that if you dive it means that you were late, therefore in a wrong position beforehand. But let's don't be too academic, in real life, I mean in real squash matches, with a similarly strong opponent, you happen to be in the wrong place an awful lots of times, and yes, one of the least convenient but ultimate solution must be, like or not, the dive. It's not lack of discipline - would you dare to say that to great divers such as John White, David Palmer or Amr Shabana, just to mention a few? It's rather demonstration of commitment. Of course, there might be one alternative: being extremely quick and having an amazing stretch. That was for example the case of Peter Nicol, or, for instance, of Karim Darwish, but taller players like John White, David Palmer or Ramy Ashour will just produce that dive time to time. The great thing about Palmer is that he also has a very strong and equilibrated stretch, otherwise he couldn't volley as well as he does or play as good defensive shots on the back-foot from behind his body as it can be seen at 0:09, 0:14, 0:16 and 0:37. A pretty complete package topped with that famous iron mentality, that so tough to beat will and concentration. Except maybe Shabana and Ashour, I don't think anybody has ever been happy to have Palmer in his draw.

25 October 2010


Caution! Do only read this post if you tend to have 'let-stroke-no let' issues during your games, if you are both aware of the rules and play a fair game, just watch the video, as it's still a good rally between Gregory Gaultier and Karim Darwish. So, the below video stands here as a demonstration of a common situation in which, on club level, players, who don't know the rules completely, often tend to ask for a 'let', even though it is a classic 'no let' situation - as we can also deduct it from the fact that Gregory Gaultier wasn't even trying to contest the decision afterwards. Let's make the point: at 0:35 Gaultier plays a loose shot near the middle of the court on the forehand side, then he chooses to go around Karim Darwish on his backhand side, who, on his turn, plays - instead of the drop that Gaultier probably tried to anticipate - a deep dying drive into the back of the court, where Gaultier was initially finding himself when Darwish was starting to prepare his shot. So it's a clear 'no let' situation because as long as you hit a loose ball around the middle of the court you have to pay the price and go around your opponent regardless if you, meanwhile, have chosen to anticipate a shot in a way or in another. Or in other words, as long as your opponent is playing his shot from around the 'T' (which generally is the straight consequence of a loose ball played by you), it's you who have to go around him and not him to clear from the 'T' (admitting that he is not hitting the ball straight back to himself in which case you will get a stroke in your favour of course). This is what the rules state, but this is also what the common logics dictate: as long as you make the mess, you will be responsible to resolve the situation. If you could ask for a 'let' in these cases, it would mean that after each loose shot it would be sufficient to run quickly close to your opponent and bump into him pretending that he was in your way whilst you were trying to go for the ball. Of course he was in your way, as he was standing on the 'T' (the main position on a squash court we all are seeking for) whilst you were stuck behind him, and where ever he hits the ball he naturally will be in your way (unless he plays it straight to the side that you were anticipating, but that of course doesn't happen too often). Also, your loose ball was either a simply bad shot or more probably preceded by an efficient attack by your opponent that forced the loose shot. So a 'let' in this case would mean to punish the player who did everything well and subsidise the player who created the mess and the eventual interference.

Here is the applying official statement from the appendix of the rulebook:
At all times an opponent must allow the player unobstructed direct access to play the ball. However, sometimes the situation arises in which the opponent has caused no interference (i.e. the opponent has clearly provided the required direct access) but the player takes an indirect route to the ball which takes the player towards, or very close to, the opponent's position. The player then appeals for a let because of being "obstructed" in access to the ball. If there is no genuine reason for this indirect route, the player has created the interference where none otherwise existed and, if the player appeals, the Referee shall not allow a let. Whether the player could make a good return is not a consideration - in order to remain in the rally the player must get to and play the ball.

23 October 2010


Some of you might remember, a couple of month back in time, another spectacle showed here in 'No Let!' and performed by this same squash player, obviously my wife's favourite squash player. Here's a new version, this time with some extra choreographic elements: Ramy Ashour as virtual-guitar-player. He definitely enjoys himself as a singer as well, and we too enjoy watching Ramy, mainly on court, and, time to time, we do not mind either having a look at his other occupations. Anyway, I think Ramy is a great example to all of us, not only as one of the most interesting squash players ever, but also as a person: a person who enjoys life on earth, on and off court, and is able to express this enjoyment in some scintillate fashion.

21 October 2010


In general we try to avoid to show too long videos here, but this time an exception had to be made. It's a summery of a recent entertaining match played between James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier at the 2010 Rowe British Grand Prix at Manchester. The main reason we are featuring it is the quality of the trickle-boast that  Willstrop was playing at least three times in fantastic fashion, wrong-footing each time Gregory Gaultier completely (and that's already a big word in itself). So let's see how and in which circumstances Willstrop plays this shot: at all three occasions - first at 0:18, then at 0:54 and finally at 4:13 - Gaultier's ball is loose (landing short around the edge of the service box), Willstrop then shows the drive - by staying away from the ball, bending deeply and at the same time moving backwards with his body - as if he wanted to make space to clear in advance his own backhand drive. Great deception. As a clear opposition, let's have also a look on another trickle-boast, that for once has been read and counter-dropped successfully by Gaultier at 4:24. Compared to the three previous ones, this one was not accompanied by the backward movement of Willstrop's body (as there was less time and the ball needed a quicker stretch to be reached), and that allowed Gaultier to guess rightly that it wouldn't be a drive (as too risky for Willstrop to stay stuck there and be penalized with a stroke). So the lesson seems to be the following: don't play this shot in lack of time, on the stretch, play it after receiving a loose (but not too loose) ball, and don't forget to move backwards with the body whilst you swing and bend to deceive a hard-paced drive. And finally, don't tempt it as many times as Willstrop did it in this match; unless you are a top5 player too, or unless you play someone a lot weaker, it won't work that often. Even though, I do agree, it's fun any time to try...

18 October 2010


A couple of days ago we were paying tribute to Karim Darwish's sliced forehand drop shot. Here we have just another beautiful example of the same shot filmed from the same angle, this time against Nick Matthew. The rally starts with a missed tentative by Matthew to send Darwish's serve into the nick, everything else was of a very high standard, except maybe Matthew's last cross-court that happened to be loose enough to enable Darwish to go for his trademark drop-shot. Given that Matthew was somewhat stuck in the back, this conclusive shot would have been a positive one for Darwish even if it hadn't found the nick. Nice to observe the appreciation on Matthew's face after the end of the rally. Also interesting to observe the differences in the movement of the two players as they represent maybe the two extremities in the top5. Matthew moves in a lot more hectic way, bends a lot deeper and uses more the momentum of his bust for his shots, whereas Darwish's gestures are a lot more compact and economic. And to end for today: let's mention that this is post nr.50 in 'No Let! The Squash Video Blog'. So please have a beer for us tonight, or in case you don't have the opportunity, just promise to play at least one cross-court drop in your next game! Cheers!

16 October 2010


Some wise words from Nick Matthew, paying tribute to both the tradition he was growing with (Peter Nicol) and the revolution inaugurated, as Matthew is mentioning it, by Amr Shabana and fulfilled nowadays by Ramy Ashour. Being able to analyse with a cool head both your professional context and yourself will definitely help to understand what you have to do to become a stronger player. Matthew understands clearly that he can't play the way Shabana and Ashour do, simply because to play so you need to be 'dressed' that way from the very beginning of your junior carrier. Nevertheless, he keeps his mind and eyes open to what he can and has to integrate from the new (Egyptian) school into his game (something that for example Peter Barker hasn't done yet). Let's also mention that the interview was made by Squashzag, check out his website to discover for example another interesting interview with Matthew there.

13 October 2010


For a long time I thought Karim Darwish - nevertheless being a great player - is somewhat boring, lacking special - or let's say so: spectacular - qualities. Then I happened to witness him in the flesh at the Super Series Finals in London in 2009, and I was immediately converted. In my eyes, he's got the combination of Jonathon Power (deception, racket-speed and compactness of the backswing) and of Peter Nicol (leg-speed, hilarious stretch and discipline). Is it possible that the combination of the two is less spectacular to watch in one player than separately? Anyway myself I even like the fact that - beside having a very deceptive game - he is executing it in a dry way, not showing off cheaply with his skills. He is also pretty dry in his way of running over weaker ranked opponents. Next to Gregory Gaultier he is the most consistent player to spend no time on court against players ranked outside the top15. And even inside the top10, it can happen that he beats the likes of David Palmer, Gregory Gaultier and Ramy Ashour all within 35 minutes, round by round in the same tournament (Sky Open 2010). And to pick something more specific, let's have a look at this beautiful, extremely cut-sliced forehand drop-shot. Amazing touch, as deadly, if not more, as David Palmer's or Thierry Lincou's on the backhand side...

11 October 2010


The below rally is a great example of playful, exhibition-like pro squash, which in general is only possible when a top5 player faces someone outside the top30, with other words: when the gap between the two players is crystal clear and the stronger player is not looking to humiliate the weaker player. Still, all credit to Jan Koukal who won the rally with a spectacular top-spin drop (might probably have learned it from Jonathon Power) prepared by two great lobs, but beforehand, he had little clue where the ball was going. Have a second look at the rally, Amr Shabana basically wasn't wrong-footed a single time, whereas Koukal had to change mind and path quiet a few occasions, especially at 0:30 and 0:34. But again, despite all the extra work that comes from the late reacting, Koukal still ended up winning the point in a cool and spectacular fashion. For those who have never heard about him, Jan Koukal is from the Czech Republic, and as such, one of the very very few pro squash players ever to make it from the eastern part of Europe.

09 October 2010


Tough to see the ball on such an uneven and light surface, so let's concentrate one more time on movement; Nick Matthew and Thierry Lincou are two of the best movers around, even if there are a couple of other players who look more fluid and gentle, as referred  to in our previous post. Lincou has definitely something of a 'rugby player', but this is only valid to define the way his body looks like, in terms of culture of footwork I see him rather similar to a fencer (and not only because of his long knee-socks). I especially recommend to observe his lateral steps, or when he moves diagonally backwards, as in the below rally at 0:30, his path to the ball is composed first by a couple of tiny half-steps-half-leaps, and at the end by a lunge, just as in fencing you would approach your opponent: your feet don't cross, one remains in front of the other all along the path. Of course, Nick Matthew and the other pro players do this similarly, but I somehow feel that Lincou's movement has slightly more discipline, balance and control and he is also slightly more economical and composed than Matthew; or, compared to David Palmer - another example of a great steady mover -  he is slightly more gentle, smoother. I am talking about nuances, but I think they count a lot, as movement is the second most important basic value in squash after the 'reading' of the game. You might object: "And what about the shots themselves?" Of course, the quality of your shot and the shot selection are essential - but you won't have a chance to make an optimal choice of shot and hit a good ball if you firstly don't read the game well (don't notice in time where to go), and secondly don't get to the ball both quickly and economically.

23 September 2010


If you're a club player and keen on improving your movement, then you can start with just watching and observing the below rally a couple of times frame by frame; there are very few players on the PSA tour having a more classy style than Stewart Boswell and James Willstrop. Watch the way their bodies stream; legs, hip and arms flow in harmony, everything they do is 'liquid', no abrupt interruptions at all. Add to this that these two are also known as the fairest players on the tour, therefore the clearing between the two bodies looks almost like a well-composed and trained choreography - just like capoeira, and not wresting, thank you. It was a long rally, and apparently Boswell was the one to tire sooner, hitting a loose counter-drop allowing Willstrop all the time to retard his shot with a great hold/deception. In general terms there might be a couple of better, more efficient movers than these two (in particular Gaultier having maybe the best combination of explosiveness, reach, balance and economy of energy) but hardly anybody makes squash look more gentle than Stewart Boswell.

20 September 2010


Here we have another example of the 'stress' of the weaker ranked player when it comes to conclude against the higher ranked player (you remember the first example between Shabana and El Hindi a couple of weeks ago?). In the below rally Graham Ryding (a former top20 player for almost a decade between 1998 and 2007, peaking at #10 in 1999 and regular training partner of great Jonathon Power) is mainly dictating, David Palmer is rather reacting (as accurately and simply as ever). Each single preparative backhand that Ryding is hitting in this rally to open up the court is hilariously tight - except the last one that wanted to be conclusive. Psychologically it must be tough when you hit a variety of perfect shots one after the other, and your opponent retrieves them all - you can easily end up cracking in the wrong time.

16 September 2010


Here we have a pretty amazing solution by Ramy Ashour that you won't find in the 'books'. An entertaining rally, with lots of drops and loose shots, some fantastic recovery, and then this totally unorthodox half-volley drop block played without any backswing, form behind his feet! Please also observe the quality of transmission - what a difference to current PSA and psasquashtv standards. 1) You can see the little white ball well, as the dominant tonality of the court is dark enough 2) The position of the main camera is very high which gives us a great overview and understanding of the depth of the court 3) Main camera is moving, following slightly the current position of the ball, which makes us feel involved as viewers 4) And finally, the sound quality, so live, so true, you feel almost like being present. This is absolutely world class quality, not being an insider I have no clue why the PSA is not setting similar standards for his own live streamings. A pity, as the above mentioned points need little investment, just attention to details!

14 September 2010


A rare winning shot on this level performed by - who else - Wael El Hindi (against Karim Darwish, always a good pairing). It was not a drop, neither a 'kill', it was a half-drop-half kill, played out of balance, on the back-foot. Martin Heath, the commentator, calls this one a 'cheap shot' (within a 'fantastic rally' though), nevertheless, I am rather appreciative towards this kind of improvisation. Apparently this is a Wael El Hindi speciality: you for sure remember a similar solution by him at 1:02 in another rally on the volley that I have already both discussed and referred to a couple of times here.

12 September 2010


It's rare to see that many loose shots from such great players as David Palmer and Ramy Ashour. But then, out of nowhere, comes the magic: an amazingly tight backhand drop-shot from the very back of the court by Ramy after a seemingly good tight and deep drive by Palmer that was hardly bouncing off the backwall. You are not supposed to hit a drop after such a slow, tight and deep ball as your opponent has all the time to observe your racket-preparation and body-language. The key for this shot is - as we already pointed it out by watching Nick Matthew and James Willstrop in a former post - to go down deep with the knees and bend extremely with your upper body, so that you have your eye sight as close as possible to the ball, a bit like ping-pong players. And to keep the deception factor, you will have to bend this way each time, even when you play a normal drive that could be hit with an almost straight bust - this way your opponent will have little clue to guess what type of shot to await. I know, it's hard work to bend this way each time, but you don't become world number one by simply being a 'genius'.

09 September 2010


Here we have some great steady squash in a highly entertaining rally between the two top French players, Thierry Lincou and Gregory Gaultier, both former world number ones. Training together a couple of times a week for a decade means that when it comes to a real match, there's no way to be cheaply deceptive; these two have learned to know each other inside-out, you definitely have to keep it steady, try to make 'sleep' the other's awareness, and only then you can come out with an effective deception that can turn the momentum of the rally into your favour. In the below rally Gaultier was trying a couple of times to involve some deception, but at the end it was a simply good, wide and deep cross-court shot (and the fatigue in Lincou's legs) that won him the point. In general, I think the professional relation between the two is really exemplary. They happen to come from neighbour cities, Thierry from Marseille, Greg from Aix-en-Provence. Thierry was already a confirmed top pro (the first French to do so) when Greg was a highly promising up and coming player. There could have been some conflict, as a lot was on steak and the differences of their characters could have easily generated dissent, to say the least. Nevertheless - except a very contained number of insignificant cases - mutual respect was always the key note. I happened to witness a really nice example of it at the 2010 ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic; it was quarter-finals day, Lincou lost to Nick Matthew 3:0, pretty clinically, there was not much he could have done. Gaultier's quarter-final was a total different story: he played David Palmer, won the first game in some demolishing fashion (11:3), then, as it happens to him so often, lost the wire and as a consequence the next two games. Gaultier still ended up winning in five. Half an hour later, I saw Gaultier stepping (running) towards Lincou - who was watching the following match in the first row of the side-wall  - and  exchanging an emotional hug. It looked warm, sincere and whole-souled, really.

08 September 2010


Another fine example for a dying long backhand volley. The volleying player is standing on the 'T', the ball was hit early, well in front of the shoulders with moderated pace, just over the service line, then first bounce not too near to the side-wall just in front of the service-box, second bounce on the side-wall, near enough to the back-wall, third bounce dying in the back-wall nick. Watch El Hindi's expression afterwards, how much a shot like this can hurt. It is interesting to observe that in general Ramy Ashour goes for this shot rather when the loose ball is coming towards him right in the middle of the court - whereas if the ball comes a bit more away from the 'T', he generally goes for his more established trademark shot: the volley into the nick.

06 September 2010


Karim Darwish is one of the most flexible players on the tour, lounging and stretching in almost surrealistic ways - one can only be amazed how the ankle is capable of holding all that. In the below rally however, beyond the stretches, Darwish is demonstrating also his diving skills, and he is doing it against the 'dive king', the great John White himself, who finishes off the rally with an elegantly cut reaction drop. Also interesting what the commentator (and former top 5 player) Martin Heath is pointing out: John White is not going down, not bending his knees when it comes to volley; he relies on his hand and this is why he used to have a relative high margin of error. Very much true, nevertheless he still managed to become world number one in his powerful and funny way. A couple of months ago we have started this blog with paying tribute to John White, and time to time we shall always get back to the big man.

04 September 2010


What a great hold and deception by Olli Tuominen to finish off this rally! Tuominen is a very special phenomenon on the PSA tour, a lonely guy from Finland who's been top 20 for about a decade, has beaten the majority of the top players (quiet a few of them more than once or twice). Tuominen's playing style is very physical - okay, I hear you guys saying that squash in general is very physical, but still there are players who move like a panther, and others like a terminator. Olli is rather from the latter type. Also his racket-preparation, his backswings are a fraction too hectic compared to the average of the pro players. All this sounds like a slight lack of squash culture (lack of education in junior times maybe). However, there are a couple of things that compensate for all this. First of all, Tuominen's fitness and athletic capabilities: you will not want to go for a little jogging with Olli in the snowy forests of Finland: it will take easily two to three hours and the speed will be more similar to a 1500 race - you'll end up left far behind, lost, starving and freezing in that forest. So you better stay on the squash court if you get to train with him. But there then you'll have to cope with his ultra fast pace and his surprisingly good deception. It's strange, as he looks less fluid compared to the average top player, but maybe this is exactly what gets him to disguise the deception; you would expect basic shots form a robot-like mover, and indeed he'll play straight twenty times in a row if he has to, but then still ends up hitting accurately chosen and unorthodoxly executed volley-drops and trickle-boasts at the right times. Welcome to 'No Let! The Squash Video Blog', Olli!

01 September 2010


After a couple of badly chosen cross-drops shown in this blog in the last couple of weeks, let's get back to a successful one, executed by Ramy Ashour. Nevertheless, I am above all referring to this rally for another special reason: Julian Illingworth managed to hit three nicks in a row with three different type of shots: the first at 0:12, a defensive slow-high boast from the right back corner - his only chance to stay alive was finding the nick; the second, at 0:14, an over-head volley smash into the front right-hand corner nick, and at last, at 0:17, a backhand drop into the nick - what a demonstration of exceptional skills, and still not enough to win the point against Ramy Ashour!

30 August 2010


Thierry Lincou's backhand volley drop is famous in squash circuits. The below one at the end of the rally didn't have to be very special as Ramy Ashour's cross-court shot was not wide enough and previously at 0:31 he played a wrong chosen cross-drop that shifted the momentum in Lincou's favour - similarly as Wael El Hindi did it at 1:05 in that great rally against Darwish that we've already discussed a couple of times. The cross-drop is typically an 'Egyptian shot', and Egyptian players might also play it almost "l'art-pour-l'art", for the beauty of the risk, for the fun of the game, even if it can have negative consequences. Nevertheless, Lincou's volley drop, to be controlled as it was in this case, still required those rugby-player legs to keep the balance of the upper body - and balance, in general, is the key to racket-control.

27 August 2010


We are not at the heights of a John White, but still, David Palmer has a firm place in the best ever divers section of our imaginary squash museum. Even if the below one did not save him from  losing the point on a 'stroke'. By the way, I happened to be present at this match, and I was approached by a couple of friends pointing out how much Palmer was blocking. I turned myself to Lee Beachill and Malcolm Willstrop to ask their opinion, and they did agree and pointed out themselves that in such occasions the referee should warn the blocking player. All credit to Darwish, he did not say a word, made all the work of those extra inches that one has to do when his opponent makes himself unfairly wide, and won clearly 3:0. But a part from the blocking all credit to Palmer too for the dive - it's good to see this type of spectacular commitment next to the disciplined steadiness - you need to have from both to be a great player.

26 August 2010


This is just a quick example to show the 'derangement' of the lower ranked player when he gets in front of the higher ranked (eventually the world's best) player: even though the weaker player is in a very dominant, central position, he ends up choosing a weak solution. I don't say that Amr Shabana had to read exceptionally well Wael El Hindi's shot, but I do say that Hindi - knowing Shabana's reading abilities - got sufficiently confused to choose the wrong shot - so at the end it's again the 'reading of the game' that made the difference. If you follow my blog, you know at which degree I do underline the role of the anticipation; the only problem is - from a coaching point of view - that this is the most intuitive part of the game, tough if not impossible to teach.

24 August 2010


One of the greatest squash events of the year, the Hong Kong Open approaches. If you wish to follow the actions live, there are two options; either you subscribe at psasquashtv for £50 (or $80) or you can open an account at the long established UK based sports betting page Bet365, deposit a couple of euros (or quids) and there you are, you can watch the same coverage with the same commentary as on psasquashtv.

Remember, you only have to deposit the minimum (I think 5 euros), as long as there is money on your account you're free to watch all the live streamed events at Bet365 - and not only squash, also tennis, soccer, etc. Of course, if you feel like betting, nobody forbids it, but you do not have to. When you are on the Bet365 page, click on 'Live Streaming' and select 'squash' in the 'events' field. The schedule for the Hong Kong Squash Open 2010 coverage on Bet365 is the following (times are 'Central European Time', for the UK deduct one hour):

1st round: Wednesday, 25.08.2010, from 06:30 am
2nd round: Thursday, 26.08.2010, from 09:00 am
Quarter finals: Friday, 27.08.2010, from 07:00 am
Semi finals: Saturday, 28.08.2010, from 09:00 am
Final: Sunday, 29.08.2010, from 11:00 am

The Hong Kong Open is a pretty special event on the PSA tour: first of all, it is quoted with a $147k prize money which for squash standards is high. Secondly, from the semi-finals onwards the matches take place in a shopping mall, so lots of people get to see the event and you can also watch it from the galleries of the mall. In addition it is also a women's event (covered online from the semi-finals), so there is a lot of squash going on. Finally, it has been won by all the squash greats, from Jansher Khan to Jonathon Power, with Amr Shabana winning the last five editions! So let's give the genius a quick tribute with this truly amazing rally, ending in a 'let', against the great Peter Nicol:

23 August 2010


As much as I have seen of it (2 sets), it's been another classic between James Willstrop and Nick Matthew (without the drama of their last match at Canary Wharf). These two guys invest so much work into their games: nobody bends more and deeper to strike the ball. Their short game is now absolutely outstanding, they both play drops from everywhere and anywhere of the court, and retrieve them (except the last one of course) with both rage and finesse. Even though it lacks extremities or extra 'show elements', I will include the below video in 'the greatest rallies ever' section; it has had not a single loose shot, it had so many rhythm/pace switches, every solution had a purpose, and the clearing was exemplary too. We know that these two chase the volley whenever possible, but hardly anything could be volleyed here due to the tightness of the drives, the heights and lengths of the lobs and the perfect width of the cross-court strokes. The only thing is that even though Willstrop would definitely deserve a win, there is apparently not much anybody can do against Matthew these days (weeks, months...) Next time to try to stop the man will be shortly in Hong Kong, but this time they could only meet in the final.

22 August 2010


It's great that Australia, after a long absence, has had the opportunity to organize a serious squash (Super Series) event. There have been some great matches and Nick Matthew confirmed with some style that he is rightly the world number one. The man hasn't lost for 6 months now, and that's more than something. The live coverage by psasquashtv.com was good too, Joey Barrington had an excellent co-commentator (my apologies, I couldn't find out his name as I was following the event in patches). Unfortunately, there was again an issue concerning the colours: the wall below the tin was white, and as a result the ball was not visible on the screen when a drop-shot was played - apparently this was not only an issue for those who followed the event online, but also for the referees as there were a lots of debates whether the ball was good or not. I have already talked about the court-colour issue in an older post, as an addition I would suggest that even the top stripe of the tin should be other than white - as long as the ball itself is white. To get back to the positives: one of the best pairings on the current PSA tour is composed of Ramy Ashour & Gregory Gaultier; and just like in New York last time, it turned out to be highly entertaining again (with the same result as well, 3:2 to Ramy, and the same scenario, 2:1 lead by Greg). The most interesting news was Ramy's discipline - I don't know if it's lack of confidence or an experiment to change slightly his own style, but he seamed to be rather in the search of the perfect length as of his famous nicks. A beautiful example of a perfect mid-low paced dying length can be seen in the below video at 1:02 - first bounce in the service box into the sidewall nick, second bounce dying in the backwall nick - exactly the shot you wish yourself when you are looking for length and depth.

11 August 2010


Wael El Hindi is often mentioned as being a blocker. I am not sure why, I have seen him playing in the flesh, and watched him on the net too, but except one slight sign against Darwish in that great really at 0:28 that we've already  had in this blog earlier, I couldn't observe any really nasty behaviour. I can believe that against David Palmer this might be different as Palmer tends to make himself pretty 'wide' as well, but in the bellow rally there is nothing wrong, I think. Anyway: Hindi is a character, a great addition to any tournament; a good guy who plays beautiful squash and emits a general coolness, 'saying' with his smile and body language that nothing shall be taken too seriously. Don't take me wrong, whatever kind of talent you are, to get as high as world #8, you must work a lot, but I think Wael just refuses deep in his soul that very last degree of seriousness - both in terms of concentration and work - that would have allowed him to get even higher. His strongest points? Anticipation; he takes advantage so often from situations where his opponent is in front of him. His weakest point? Maybe his backhand. It's not bad at all, it's even very good when it comes to play it deep and high, but he can not generate power from that side. In positions in which anybody else in the top 15 would play a simple low 'kill', he keeps lifting the ball back high and deep - except when he decides to play a trickle boast, which again is something he is pretty good at. Anyway, whatever the result, the efficiency might be, thanks for the show Wael.

20 July 2010


Well, John White just had that deep predilection for the dives (click on his name in the 'featured players' tab to see the most famous one against Peter Nicol if you haven't seen it yet). I am not sure there was anybody else in the history of squash spending more time on the floor than White.On the top of that, the man is really tall (6'3"), so to stand up each time is not the same physical effort as for example for an Aamir Atlas Khan who is 5'8". In the below rally the floor-choreography receives a new element, due to the contribution of a then very young up-and-coming actor, Ramy Ashour, who produces, at 1:16 that nice Ninja-jump above the head of great John White. And this is the point, this is what makes squash such a great sport (even if people don't realize it): it can be played on top levels in such spectacular fashion; it is of course above all a racket-sport, but it is dance, it is geometry, it is Capoeira too.

19 July 2010


There are by now around thirty posts in this squash video blog, and this is only the first to feature Mohd Azlan Iskandar. Shame on me, but it also shows in what an undeveloped stage video sharing still is, there is not that much to be found about him. Anyway, Iskandar is a great player with a very particular style, beautiful to watch. He is soft and strong, gentle and dynamic at the same time. He has an amazing wrist which allows him those out of the world flicks as the one which made him win the below rally, but at the same time he is also one of the most classy players on the current tour with that long, old-fashioned follow-through on the after-swing of his drives (reminiscent of the heavy, wooden racket-times) as it can be seen for example at 0:15. Another particular thing is his backhand from the back after the re-bounce from the back-wall: it's not the typical static 'two-legged' type, he is going very deep with the legs and lounges with the right leg extremely forward - more than anybody else on the tour. That he's stuck in the top20 is a real shame for him. There are not many players outside the top10 who have beaten Amr Shabana, Ramy Ashour, Nick Matthew, David Palmer, Thierry Lincou and Lee Beachill at least one time each. But then again, he can lose to anybody. Azlan, if you listen, could you please take a bit seriously the next 12 months? I am afraid it's your last chance considering the age factor. Congrats for having just won the Malaysian National title, but back it up please, it's just not worth to retire with the label "former world #11", and mainly not with your talent. May the force be with you.

15 July 2010


Apparently, Alister Walker just suits to perfection Ramy Ashour's creativity. As in the first sample we had between them a couple of weeks ago, Ramy just reads Walker as a billboard. The most astonishing is his reach on the volleys. I remember Peter Nicol commenting on a John White game and talking about his 'telescopic arm'. That arm in today's field is clearly inherited by Ramy Ashour. And only then comes Nick Matthew in this respect. Third place might go to James Willstrop. So long for today's arbitrary ranking game.

13 July 2010


Two great drops, the first one by Nick Matthew at 0:23, from the very back of the court. Look how deep he is going down to have his eye sight almost at the same level as the ball. One of the most difficult shots to execute properly technically speaking, and one that really distinguishes professionals - who use it all the time - from club players - who barely play it. In general, the other guy on the court, James Willstrop uses this shot more often than Matthew. To get a chance to play this shot well, you'll have to go down with the knees and hide the ball by bending the upper body as it can be seen from that great camera angle at 0:23. To make sure your're oppenent doesn't guess or read your intention (and to make sure that he stays behind the 'T' awaiting a drive), you'll need to make in general similar preparations even at your normal drives after the rebounce from the backwall. The second drop in this rally is a volley-drop winner form Willstrop at the end of the rally - a shot that even though looks subtle, is very physical as it needs very strong legs and hips to be controlled as it is in this case.

09 July 2010


 Last time we had this shot, it was David Palmer playing it with delay and deception. This time no deception, just a little delay to play the volley-drop from low, so that its bounce on the floor will remain low as well. The deception came one shot earlier, have a second look at that beautiful cross-court flick at 0:29.

19 June 2010


Let's say, historically there are 7 great squash nations: Egypt, England, France, Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Canada. These nations have produced at least one world number ones each and they keep producing players regularly inside the world top 50. Outside of these countries, it is really tough to come through to the highest levels. First of all, there won't be many great coaches around, and secondly you will face the lack of serious training partners. Nevertheless, some guys have made it through and managed to become the lonely representatives of their nations in the top 50: Borja Golan from Spain, Laurens Jan Anjema of Holland, Olli Tuominen from Finland, Simon Rosner from Germany, Nicolas Mueller from Switzerland, Mark Krajcsak from Hungary, Rafael Alarcon from Brazil, Julian Illingworth from the USA (even though newly joined by Gilly Lane) and Davide Bianchetti from Italy.We are going to have a look at each of them in the near future. Let's start with Borja Golan, who has reached the highest ranking of them all. He got to world number 10 in September 2009, and basically at the same time suffered a serious injury. He now is back and starts to win again all the smaller tournaments that he has to go through because of his dropped rankings. Golan proves that you can make it through to a very high level even if technically - let's say body language wise - you are totally out of the conventional patterns. Look at his backswing, the way he waits for his opponent's shot, the way he lounges to the ball. Everything is strange, though still accurate and effective. I guess it's above all in the head, and only after comes the body(language).

17 June 2010


Apologies, we've already had this tube in an earlier post without though talking about the rally itself. It's not part of the 'best ever rallies' series, nevertheless, it's highly creative and entertaining, even if here and there some shots are badly executed (like the smash into the nick by El Hindi at 0:32) or even badly chosen (like El Hindi's cross drop at 1:05). On the other hand, there is some amazing retrieving, first by Darwish with a huge stretch at 0:30, then by El Hindi, a great straight lob off a very good Darwish drop at 0:55. But the most amazing shot - one that you have to rev back a couple of times - can be seen at 1:02. El Hindi plays a beautiful gentle reaction drop in a situation where he is out of balance on his back-foot. Extremely hard and risky shot to execute properly in such a situation. It's a shame that he played that irrelevant cross drop off Darwish's loose retrieving afterwards. But what can you do, the guy is apparently more into beauty than efficiency, and we won't blame him for that. Good to listen to Nick Matthew too in the commentary box.

16 June 2010


The reaction drop in general is played on the volley, and more on the backhand than on the forehand (Palmer is a master of this cut drop on the volley, and Lincou plays it great too). In the bellow rally Julien Illingworth's reaction drop is not played on a volley, it's a normal drop off a not too effective cross kill by Hisham Ashour. To drop off a kill in itself is already rare and special, but the most interesting is Illingworth's racket-preparation: it's a full backswing executed at full speed. You would expect a drive or a kill with this racket-preparation as it is very hard to control a drop with such racket-head speed. This makes it definitely one of the best cut slice drops to be found on the internet.

15 June 2010


Ramy Ashour's older brother, Hisham, great player himself with some lack of concentration and consistency, sits on the bed in his hotel room and talks about his fellow players. He praises Shabana's depth and simplicity, Ramy's natural random game, Darwish's general strength and determination ("nobody beats him in training, not even Shabana"), Gaultier's hold and backhand counter-drop and Willstrop's hold and big steps into the front. He also mentions Alister Walker and Daryl Selby at the end. Good to listen to, and nice guy this Hisham.

12 June 2010


In general, getting to the the front-wall after a back-wall boast fast and early is essential; you'll have more time to hear (and in some case even to see at some degree) how much your opponent follows up on the court, whilst you hold your shot, to decide if it is better to drop it or go for the drive/kill. Or - as David Palmer, and even more often, James Willstrop like to do it - you just take it immediately on the volley, either to drop it or drive it with second bounce into the side or back-wall nick. In the rally below, the two big men run the diagonal a couple of times in some furious fashion (mainly poor James). At the end Palmer wins the point by faking to take Willstrop's back-wall boast on the volley - and by dropping it then softly after the bounce. The fake volley made Willstrop stop on his track for a split of a second, which made the drop easier and more secure to play for Palmer. Note also how nicely the two tall men clear mutually to allow a direct path to the ball.

10 June 2010


This is more than 'reading', this is surreal intercepting what Ramy Ashour does in this rally. It's funny to listen to the amazement of the commentators too, El Hindi talking about 'Super Mario' and Joey Barrington about 'Star Trek'.Watch out also how soft Ramy is playing, not a single kill or drive, just lifted lobs and touchy drops, no drives at all. I will repeat it: the Egyptian attacking school makes these guys also learn simultaneously the defensive side of the game. Going short as soon as you can works only if then you see what your opponent will do with the ball if he/she gets there in front of you. Since these guys in Cairo are doing this from the age of 7, their eyes just get trained from the very beginning, and reading the other's body language is the main defensive skill that you may acquire. Reading the game is gaining time. And as we all know, time is money!


 There are debates whether squash can or can't be transmitted in TV in high quality. I've never understood the debate because Jean De Lierre's transmissions (squashlive.com) have shown how squash can be presented in an extremely enjoyable and highly professional manner. Does anybody remember the constantly fixed central camera of the psalive.tv transmissions? So sad! The camera, even the main central one, has to follow slightly the movement of the players in order to allow to the TV spectators to feel themselves involved, present at the event. This is how they do in tennis transmissions, and this what De Lierre's cameramen do on a very high standard (see below sample between Karim Darwish and Wael El Hindi where even though a fixed camera is present too, but mainly it is the moving one that we see). De Lierre is also a master of editing/switching between the different camera views. Psasquashtv.com picture-wise is a huge improvement compared to the obsolete psalive.tv, but the central camera is unfortunately still inert and there are many other serious issues too. First one: the site gives very little and inaccurate information about the starting times of the live matches. Second one: in general there are no written infos about the tournaments (previews, analysis, draws, etc.) Third: highlights and replays are uploaded with intolerable delays (tennistv.com produces them the same day of the match). And the main issue: the absence of any court colour codes which at times makes the game just unwatchable - as it was the case at the last Sky Open in Cairo a couple of weeks ago. This is something that PSA should implement immediately and with no exceptions towards the tournament organizers. The right example is already set: the homogeneous brown flour of the 2009 Super Series Finals in London has a perfect tone, as you can see it in the video below. Compared to this the dark red floor of the Canary Wharf tournament is slightly too intense (aggressive) for the eye, the non-homogeneous brown of the 2009 Saudi tournament is a non-sense (regardless of the eventual anti-slipping qualities of the floor). I don't say the colour code of the floor shall be set to one only colour, but it should be set to one only tone! This means that the saturation and contrast level (compared to the white ball) shall be determined severely in order to create a reliable basis for the transmissions. This is such a basic question, and not even really fund-depending. That it is not regulated yet, shows the low degree of professionalism within the PSA board. I don't feel good to edit such a 'negative note' on my blog, but it is for the love of the sport, with the hope that some responsible ears will get to hear about it and change the unlucky situation.