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.