30 January 2011


This one is just a great classy rally with the two players who have maybe the most impressive physical commitment towards the game next to Nick Matthew. Thierry Lincou has got maybe the most majestic body language on the PSA tour whereas James Willstrop has got probably the quickest racket-preparation on the backhand side coupled with one of the best reaches on the volley. This match was played early 2009, I was lucky enough to witness it live, and after just having seen these two again a few weeks ago at the Queens Club, it's pretty evident that Thierry Lincou has lost some speed compared to two years ago - nevertheless, his composure is still royal, and a part the top3 he still sticks more than decently with anybody on the tour.Concerning James, he is remarkably strong but struggles to beat Ramy and Nick and I think he will continue to do so as long as he doesn't integrate into his repertoire the volley kill into the nick - a shot that the top three Egyptians - and in the last 12 months also Nick Matthew - use at every loose serve or in other similar situations where the ball comes at shoulder heights around the service box; Willstrop hardly plays this shot, he did one against Ramy in the semis of the Tournament of Champions in New York a few days ago and he was so happy about it - so let's hope that will give him some confidence and he'll integrate this kind of a drill into his training regime, so that he can employ it more often and naturally in match situations.

27 January 2011


No Let! The Squash Video Blog is generally not about news and actualities, but this time there is no way not to mention this: yesterday's semi-finals at the Tournament of Champions in New York saw two contrasting matches that showed, each in its own way, the absolutely best of squash. In the first encounter, Ramy Ashour created an even for his standards rare and crazy masterpiece, executing the still very well playing world #4 James Willstrop in little more than 30 minutes. There must have been about 20 volley kills into the nick in the three games and, apparently inspired by Ramy, even James, who in general thinks twice before going for it, has found a hilarious one towards the end of the second game - receiving standing ovation both from the crowd and from Ramy. Compared to the outrageous fast pace and surrealistic shot-making of the first semi-final, the second match of the night between squash legend Amr Shabana and current world #1 Nick Matthew offered a steadier and more conventional rhythm, both players waiting patiently for the openings before going for the attack. After a tight first game, Matthew won the second easily and it looked all over after 2:0 to the younger and fitter player. But from there the drama has started, and after facing two match-balls, Shabana equalled it to 2:2. In the below example, look at the precision, the retrieving and the accuracy level that these two were capable of producing after 87 minutes and 11:10 in the fifth game on match-ball. Incredible. So folks, if you don't want to miss the very promising final between the back in form Ramy Ashour and the currently seemingly unbeatable world #1 Nick Matthew, you better stay awake late and get on psasquashtv or bet365 to watch the pinnacle of this beautiful tournament.

25 January 2011


In general, pro squash players seam not to have joints, ligaments and tendons, the brutal forces and weights they put on them is just out of the reasonably conceivable. Probably the most flexible and the quickest of all of them is rubber-man Gregory Gaultier. Have a look at that incredible get in the left back corner at 0:14, he was down in a split, lost in between his racket, then picked it up with the left hand, passed it onto the right hand whilst standing up quickly enough to get to the opposite corner in the front, just to being sent back again to the back corner. Absolutely hilarious. I'm not sure there is any other sport that requires that much dynamism and athleticism. Let's don't forget to mention how beautifully Adrian Grant was playing his last three shots. First one would already have been a winner against many players; he did so well not to panic for the drop and at last played another perfect length. Observe the early racket-preparation and the extended hold he employed for the last two drives.

20 January 2011


Last week I had the opportunity the watch Amr Shabana live at the World Series Finals at the Queens Club. I knew beforehand that he is often modifying his grip according to the type of shot he is facing, but I wasn't aware that he is doing it basically on every shot (when time allows it of course). It starts with the serve, he is holding the racket grip very high, then whilst waiting the return he swaps it into the conventional position just to readjust it at every single shot. Basically whilst he is waiting for his opponent's shot, his fingers are constantly 'playing' with the racket grip (- maybe also in order to have some 'air-conditioning' where sweat could appear quickly). This way, he adjusts both the heights of the grip and the angle of the racket-head. In general it's not one movement, but two or even three, as for a matter of precision his fingers have to look for the perfect position gradually. It's tough to see that on the screen, but in the below rally there is nice example as he is finishing the rally with a drop into the nick; at first sight it might look as if he was just shaking the racket to deceive an early shot, but in fact the racket was shaken because he was adjusting his fingers around the grip twice to enable him to hold the racket higher as he was in search for total control. Higher grip = more control; lower grip = more pace.

18 January 2011


One of the best spirited pairings on the pro tour is the one between James Willstrop and Ramy Ashour. So few lets, such free-flowing rallies. There would have been so many players other than Ramy (or even Ramy against some other less well-mannered players) stopping and asking for 'let/stroke' at 0:09 or at 0:16, and then it could have been Willstrop's turn at 0:19. But instead they keep playing the ball in the name of fun and fair-play. Another positive thing to mention again is the quality of the video; a main camera following the ball coupled with electrifying sound quality from both on and off-court (with some finely exaggerated echo-effects) make the non-live watching experience so much more enjoyable. Let's hope, psasquashtv transmissions will achieve this level too one day on a constant basis.

13 January 2011


The commentators (Nick Matthew amongst them) just pointed out how much work Gregory Gaultier was doing in the previous rally, and he is 0:4 down and again totally dominated by Karim Darwish. So I think this totally unbelievable deep drop shot was more due to lack of breath and desperation than anything else. This is why we might call it genius, he comes out with the most amazing shot at the least possible moment. Talking about Gaultier, I really feel for him concerning his last year. End of 2009 he finally became world number one which made him lay back and lose motivation in the last couple of tournaments of the year. But except his match against Cameron Pilley in February he came back strong in 2010, played great squash just to lose so many times in the decider. He played 13 tournaments, won one, retired in two of them towards the end of the year (both times against Shabana), in the other tournaments he has lost 3:2 seven times out of ten (only against Ramy four times)! The whole year, he won one sole match that went to five (against David Palmer at Canary Wharf). For sure these losses were not due to lack of fitness, they were rather the result of some tough to guess psychological-mental issues combined with bad luck. I really hope he can work on these aspects and jump back strong in 2011 - like him or not, he is just a great addition on the squash scene.

10 January 2011


It's a shame, but after more than seventy posts in this squash video blog, this is just the first time to feature Mohammed Abbas. What a beautiful player he is though, such a fluent striker, hits the ball like 'knife on butter', has a deception second to none and reads the game so well... and still, never made it beyond world #13. I shall have maybe entitled this post "The greatest ever non-great players I.", and have opened a series about players hardly known by the masses due to the lack of great results and high rankings on PSA level, but highly appreciated by the fellow pros. The prototype of this 'type' could be Marcus Berrett; few know who he is, but just ask the kinds of Nick Matthew, Lee Beachill, Alex Gough, Ong Beng Hee, Stewart Boswell or many other pros who used to play him in Yorkshire, they will all confirm the great respect they have and tell you that it was pretty tough to get a game off him on his home-court.Getting back to the rally: they both tried to keep the ball as much as possible on the backhand side, avoiding completely to go short on the forehand side. Therefore it became a 'rhythm' rally, and it was exactly the applied rhythm that was broken at the right time by Abbas with this funny cross flick. If I have seen it right, even Palmer was expressing his appreciation with a brief clap.

06 January 2011


Great rally which I am posting not only because of its high entertainment factor but because of that drop shot played from the back on the backfoot at 0:53, a shot for which in England your trainer would condemn  you immediately to do 50 push-ups, and even unorthodox genius Jonathon Power is shocked in the commentary box by saying "...oh can't believe he dropped  that, that was such a tactical mistake". Considered from a short-term-efficiency point of view of course it was way too tough and risky to execute it rightly and therefore not beneficial to win the rally, but from a longer-term-efficiency point of view I think it's just part of Ramy Ashour's tactics to play any kind of shot form anywhere. It's this tactic that makes his opponents unaware of what will follow, so they will never know on which foot to attend the next shot. It's part of the tactics to risk, or even sacrifice a couple of points - not this time though, as he was so quick to get to Karim Darwish's forehand drop.

04 January 2011


There are 7 drops within 16 seconds in this rally. I often point out how deep professional players bend with their bust to hit the ball (Nick Matthew and James Willstrop going down the deepest maybe). Bending allows you to make less/smaller steps, to hide the ball better and mainly, to put your eyesight onto a near level with the ball which enables you to control the ball better. And pretty certainly the drop is the shot that necessarily needs the most accurate control if you don't want to miss it or allow your opponent to counter-attack, therefore one needs to bend the most for this shot. The rally finally was won with a reaction drop, typically played as a volley off a loose ball. To be noted also that Lincou was not going for the inch perfect low drop, but rather for the perfect angle that made the ball fade into the side-wall.