26 December 2012


Last year we did our "back-and-forth" year-end resumé based on the 2011 December rankings. This year we do it based on the 2013 January rankings, as it is this one that reflects the whole of 2012 (the December rankings taking into consideration the results only until end of November, hence results of two major tournaments, the Hong Kong Open and the World Championships in Qatar are only included in the January Rankings which we have calculated for you in advance). 


After a year of injuries, he is back, stronger and healthier than ever. And he is back to number one as well. Apparently there is now also a new factor - not to his game, but to his mentality: consciousness. He is finally treating his training, his preparation, his body as a real professional, and it shows: no serious injuries and altogether only two losses in 2012, one against James Willstrop in the Final of the North American Open and the other one against Nick Matthew in the final of the British Open. Both time 0:3, both times he has been contained by the British forces. But it can be assumed that those two were bad days in the office, as every other time he met them, he beat them (Nick 5 times, James 3 times and let's add 5 more wins against Gaultier) in highly entertaining matches.
Predictions for 2013: world #1 


I think few of us have realized that Nick Mattew has only lost against two opponents this year: Ramy Ashour and Gregory Gaultier. Okay, against Ramy five times altogether. However, Matthew is still defying age and probability: whilst his notary contemporaries like Shabana and Darwish are clearly on decline, Matthew keeps improving technically and tactically and does not show any signs of slowing down or losing any of his legendary fitness. In last year's "Back and Forth" I asked the question: will he be able to defy age for another year? Well, this time am not asking anything, he has already proven his longevity.
Predictions for 2013: world #3 - #5


Infact, nothing dramatic has happened with James' level compared to last year, just both Ramy Ashour and Nick Matthew were healthy for the whole of the year and he lost to both of them three times (with only one win on the other hand against Ramy, however that match was a master-class of how to contain a shot-maker). James has had also losses against Gaultier (that's not a shame, and even less so if you consider that he also beat him twice this year), Shabana and most famously against Mohamed EL Shorbagy at the semis of the World Championships at the end of the year.
Predictions for 2013: world #2 - #4


I had the feeling throughout the year that Gaultier was playing incredibly well - he always has of course, but this year he seemed to improve further on, and finally also on the mental level (mostly since the arrival of his first child in June and not considering his headless loss against Peter Barker at the British Open). Hence the #4 ranking seems a real understatement compared to his global performance, but of course, the statistics, the ranking don't lie. Gregory has fad wins this year against everybody (also against Nick Matthew), the only player he hasn't beaten was Ramy Ashour (0:4). All in all I feel he would have deserved, just a fraction more than James, the #3 year-end ranking. It's always unpredictable what's going to be the next step of this moody but highly professional Frenchman. However I have the funny feeling it's going to be a strong one for him.
Prediction for 2013: world #2 - #3


Last year I said I was expecting big things from him for 2012. The big things didn't come until the very last tournament, the PSA World Championships at Qatar, where he beat in a thrilling five-gamer semi-final then world #1 James Willstrop and just - really, just - lost in another thrilling five-gamer to re-crowned world #1 Ramy Ashour. Anyway, he has matured into the top5, and next year he will be very eager to make sure to beat more than once the top4 above him. Age is on his side. Not that determination, talent, physical and mental strength wouldn't. Only domain where he has a slightly larger room for improvement is variation of pace and of usage of the full heights of the frontwall. But in Qatar there were already signs that he's been considering also these points.
Prediction for 2013: world #3 - #5


Well, with all the respect that we have towards this great former champion, there is nothing special to say about his 2012. Already last year it was clear that he is on decline but there at least he has had one big win against James Willstrop in the final of the World Team Championships. This year, no big wins, and his famous terminator-manners against the lower ranked players were not that redoubtable anymore; even if he still only occasionally loses to any of them. Joey Barrington form Squash TV has very well noticed that Karim has been using a lot less two of his major weapons: the forehand kill and the forehand drop. At the end of the year he seemed to realize this and started using those shots more again, and it showed for example against up-and-coming Simon Rosner in the last 16 of the World Championships, but there was not much he could have done then against his - presumable - successor, Mohamed El Shorbagy in the quarter-final, losing for the very first time 3:0 against his talented disciple.
Predictions for 2013: world #7 - #12


Next to Gregory Gaultier I think that it has been Peter Barker who progressed the most compared to his own 2011 edition. He has always been a role model for smooth moving and hitting, without having the perception/intuition of the top players how to go short. He has now progressed considerably in this domain even if his results and ranking don't show the progress. He's had only one big win this year (a rather ugly one) against Gregory Gaultier at the British Open, for the rest, he's been terribly reliable, even more than Karim Darwish, hardly losing (in fact, just once, against Borja Golan being diminished by an injury) to lower ranked players. Can we expect more from him next year, real top5 stuff?
Predictions for2013: world #5 - #7


Even though he has won at the very beginning of the year the World Series Finals - which unfortunately does not account for the world rankings - it hasn't been a great year for the Maestro's standards. In fact, it's been worse than last year (where he at least won one major PSA event, the US Open next to a few uninspired results). This year only one big scalp on his account: against James Willstrop in the quarter-final of the Netsuit Open. But the good news is that he went through a serious training regime during the summer. He looked really fit coming back to the major tournaments in September, but the results - apart from beating once Willstrop - were not really coming. When losing to Nick Matthew in the last tournament of the year he even looked gutted. I hope that was just a wrong impression as it would be great to see him doing a last major effort, even if obviously time is not on his side. But nor is it for Matthew, and look! But Shabana - being a God - is moodier than the British soldier, so it is really tough to predict the combination of how much his body will hold and how much he will be eager to give it a last big push in 2013.
Predictions for #2013: anything between world #5 and retirement (hoping to be wrong)


The big man, the most powerful hitter (yes, more powerful than Cameron Pilley, I think) of the tour has made the top10. He's been near to it for a couple of years now and in 2012, a single top10 scalp, the one of Karim Darwish, was enough to make this important carrier-defining step. Of course he's had a lots of other good wins against top20 players players as well, beating Tarek Momen, Alister Walker and Tom Richards for example. Mosaad's power/pace is really outrageous. And the thing that makes this pace even more of a problem for his opponents is that he's got even a fine touch, a good reading of the game and is also moving very well for being such a big fellow - I mean when he is indeed willing to move. Unfortunately he is not always, as he is also one if not the main blockers and fishers in the top100, and that makes this otherwise so intriguing package a bit faded. In this blog we are always concentrating on the positives of each player, or in the worst case the domains that one player might still improve. It's absolutely not our thing to insult anybody and I have even towards Mosaad a lots of respect. However, the above mentioned problems are not only making the life of his opponents tough but also harms the enjoyability of his matches and the general image of squash, and this is not a good thing. I really wish he will be looking to improve not only his rankings but also his reputation in 2013 and then he could become a really characteristic (and redoubtable) force of the top10, or even top5.
Predictions for 2013: world #7 - #9


Mad man, crazy man, emotional man Borja Golan is back in the top10! What a comeback! It took him years after his disastrous injury in 2009, but his devotion got him through all the pain (and the rankings). Interestingly I think his off-court attitude is more professional than his on-court attitude. Of course he is a very complete and strong player notwithstanding his unorthodox racket-preparation and movement-patterns, but I think he is capable of losing matches on the mental front. Whereas watching him warming up before matches or warming down after matches is absolute spot-on. For example at the British Open he has already been doing his warm-up routine for half an hour when his opponent of the day, Ramy Ashour, was just coming off the tube station. And what a lesson he gave to the Egyptian genius for two games and a half, just to collapse mentally 3 points away from victory. Bit like Gaultier, he is a strange mix of Mediterranean moods and highly professionalism and as such always a warmly welcomed colour spot in the top range of world squash.
Predictions for 2013: world #10 - #15

23 December 2012


To control a forehand drop shot, most players need to reduce their swing dramatically. The two guys who have developed an incredibly skill-full forehand drop technique are old master Karim Darwish and new master Mohamed El Shorbagy. We've had several examples already here on the blog as demonstration, but this is the first one where such a shot is filmed from the frontwall. 
Normally most of the players need to reduce both their natural backswing and the speed of their swing when they go for a drop shot. Try to pause the footage between 0:06-0:07 and you will see that basically Darwish's (back)swing is higher and quicker than he would do for a normal drive: he really fakes a big and hard shot; the only (huge) difference is that whilst with a hard paced shot you generally also have a big and round after-swing, by playing the drop-shot you have to brake your swing and stop your racket in order to hit the ball softly; pause the footage again a fraction later at 0:07 to see how Darwish used his body balance in order to help to stop his racket with as much control as possible.
Be assured that latest hot gun Mohamed El Shorbagy has been watching/observing this forehand technique ever since his childhood days every single time he got the opportunity to watch the 'big guys' (Shabana, Darwish, El Hindi, Abbas) training.

20 December 2012


Just for fun I have tried to film from the lowest position possible, under the tin, just behind that little ventilation whole. This is the point from where lucky mice, frogs and bugs can watch squash if they don't get caught by the maintenance team. 
And as it is always the case with James Willstrop and Amr Shabana, it's just a pleasure to see how much space one (two) can find on a squash court in order to avoid interference. It's easy, you just don't have to clear into your opponent's path (sorry for the very weak audio quality, I strapped my iPad with black tape in order to avoid to be visible for the main backwall camera, and I didn't notice that I also strapped the micro... clever boy). 

16 December 2012


Last year in our end-of-year ranking analysis I wrote that I would expect big things from Mohamed El Shorbagy for the year 2012. And before the PSA World Championships in Doha I was just thinking, well, El Shorbagy had a pretty mediocre year for his standards, top10 stuff for sure, but nothing new, no improvements, in fact, rather the opposite, as one of his main features, his mental strength - the ability of deciding for himself almost all the tight five gamers that he gets involved in - has suffered a contrary tendency with losing this year a big deal of them. 
Well, luckily, with his outstanding performance at Qatar, he has at the end of the day justified my predictions, even if he lost the final in five tight games against Ramy. All in all his whole week was just a crazy performance; that match against James Willstrop (highlights below), incredible blend of patience and attack, and he got really near to beating even King Ramy Ashour in the final, wow!
I am happy for Mohamed, but I am probably even happier for the world of squash. There are lots of guys improving (Rosner, Mueller, the younger Shorbagy: Marwan, Tom Richards, Tarek Momen, Saurav Ghosal, Karim Abdel Gawad, Abdullah Al Muzayen, etc., I'll get back to them in a separate post), but there are no new real stars, no real break-throughs in the last couple of years (in fact, it was Mohamed himself who was the last to come through in a stellar fashion about 3 years ago, when at the age of 18 he fired into the top10 with wins over Matthew, Willstrop and Lincou, but he got stuck around world #8 and without making big finals). 
Now he's definitely made his second break-through, and he definitely seems to be ready for more and we look forward to follow his ascension within the top5 of the world of squash. In fact, as I said it in that article last year, we needed someone who replaces Karim Darwish's role at the top scale of squash and Mohamed seems to be made definitely from a similar blend: power, speed, steadiness, interception, deception and an above-the-average sense for the nick. Not the very best of any of them, but best or close to it when considering the whole package.

15 December 2012


This is alien stuff. But if we even consider that this rally has been played at 9:9 in the 4th game of the World Championships final, after having played five matches each of them previously, both of them having had 90 minutes 5-gamer semi-finals the day before, and have put their heart and soul on the court for 60 minutes at this stage of the match, then we'll have to consider this even out of this world, out of the universe, beyond aliens, beyond the borders of imagination. My English is weak, but wouldn't be able to express my respect in any language anyway.
By the way, that deep drop shot between the legs at 1:04 by El Shorbagy, it's not the first time he is doing it. He has hit even a straight forward winner like this against James Willstrop at the 2012 British Open. If you haven't seen it yet, or don't remember, don't miss it, you can watch it here.

07 December 2012


The biggest tournament of the year, the Qatar World Championships will start today. To add to the excitement factor, 4 players have theoretical chances to become world #1 afterwards in the 2013 January rankings (which, as paradoxical as it sounds, is also the equivalent of the 2012 year-end rankings). We at No Let! have switched on our calculators to unveil the different scenarios. Read them through and let us know who your pick is below in the comment box.

Gregory Gaultier's chances are very low: if either Ramy Ashour or Nick Matthew achieve the quarter-finals, he will lose his chances even if he ends up winning the tournament. Even if Ramy and Nick fail to reach the quarter-finals, he must hope that James Willstrop will not make the final.

James Willstrop must get to the final or, even better, win to give himself a realistic chance to retain his world #1 title. But if any of Ramy Ashour or Nick Matthew make the semis he will surely concede his ranking regardless of winning the title.

If Ramy Ashour wants to become world #1, he has to make sure to make it to one more round than Nick Matthew.  He will for sure become world #1 if he makes the final (as that would mean that Matthew didn't get there as they are in the same half of the draw).

If Nick Matthew wants to become world #1, he has to make sure to make it to one more round than Ramy Ashour. He will for sure become world #1 if he makes the final (as that would mean that Ramy didn't get there as they are in the same half of the draw).  

James Willstrop is very likely to make the final (he's got Barker, Darwish or Mohamed El Shorbagy in his draw and according to their respective head-to-head history and current form he is unlikely to lose to any of them). Ashour and Matthew have a much tougher draw. Ashour will meet Gaultier and Matthew will play Shabana at quarter-final stage according to seedings. If Matthew and Ashour both win their quarter-final matches, then the world #1 ranking will be down to their semi-final match; the one who wins that will be world #1 in January irrespectively of further results. If on the other hand Gaultier and Shabana respectively beat Ashour and Matthew in the quarter-finals, then they open the draw for James Willstrop to retain his world #1 ranking. In this case, he would only need to get to the final and could even afford to lose eventually to Gaultier there.
                                                               quarter                  semi                final               win
    Nick Matthew                                      1171.0                1216.5            1291.0          1390.0
  Ramy Ashour                                       1163.0                1208.5            1283.0          1382.0 
    James Willstrop                                  1059.0                1103.5            1179.0          1278.0
    Gregory Gaultier             
                      908.0                  953.5            1028.0          1127.0

So basically it comes down to Ramy and Nick. If they both make the semis, one of them will be world #1; if they both fail to make the semis (with both Gaultier and Shabana producing a big win at quarter-final stage which they might be capable of) then Willstrop has a big chance to retain his #1 ranking. Gaultier can only become #1 if Ramy and Nick lose before the quarter-finals (very unlikely) and James doesn't make the final (unlikely as well, knowing his quarter of the draw). 

On the above pictures, Nick Matthew is smiling bright. But who will be really smiling at the end of the day? Who would you pick to be the world #1 in next month's ranking?

06 December 2012


We all love squash, and the best show is the one that Ramy Ashour and co. produce on the court. This time however we have a documentary movie, in production phase, that shows us the stars behind the scene. So far we could only see a few trailers, like the one below, but according to them, it's clear that the producer/director knows his stuff. 
It's a well known fact that in Egypt nine year old kids and world number ones mingle in the same clubs on a day in day out basis. Thanks to this movie we can now also see exactly how the good ambience helps to produce a context where current and former world champions are raised almost in a chain production.
Of course, the director is Egyptian himself, Omar S. Khodeir, a former promising junior squash player himself, this also explains why the set is predominantly in Cairo, which is anyway the world capital of squash right now.
But the aim of the movie is to become as international as the world of squash itself, there are already pieces under production with Nick Matthew for example, and the aim is to get to as many places as possible (main tournaments, main training centers). In order to get to most places outside Egypt the production needs the squash world's support. If you want to help the production with a few quids or more, you can do it by clicking on this crowd funding initiative site, where you can also read all the additional information you might want to know. If you know anyone who might be interested in properly sponsoring the production, you might contact Omar directly through the Wallbangers facebook or twitter page. He will be more than happy to listen to you and we will be even happier to see the movie as a finished product some time in the near future. By the way, the movie could also turn out to be another brick in the World Squash Federation's 2020 Olympic Bid due to its presumable high quality and its social involvements.

05 December 2012


Young and old generation of the steady school of Egyptian squash, Mohamed El Shorbagy and Karim Darwish. There are less angles than with Shabana or Ramy, they don't go short as much as them; also the higher part of the frontwall is used less (since they use less variation of pace, less lobs as Shabana and Ramy) but still, they can play all the shots, they have the deception, read the game as a book and are quick (Darwish a bit less compared to the old himself). 
This camera angle also allows us to see that these two players do not use that much the momentum of their upper bodies to hit the ball; this is one of the reasons why they are hard to read; a club player or even a lower ranked pro often unveils his intentions through his body preparation: more rotation of the upper body for drives, and even more for cross court drives, less or no rotation when preparing for a drop. El Shorbagy, and Karim Darwish even more evidently, hardly rotate their upper bodies, or in other words, their body language is not unveiling their intentions; a drop or drive is looking similar as far as body preparation is concerned.
Of course there is also another school which uses exaggerated upper-body rotation for deception; I remember Lee Beachill having often exaggeratedly opened up his upper body to show a cross-court whilst he went instead for a straight drive. But this type of deception you can only use it once in a while (in the current field Tarek Momen does this to fake a drive and then go for a boast from the back of the court). 
Anyway, keep in mind that deception is a result of mastering the full body-language, not just the wrist. 

29 November 2012


I am very impressed by the progress that Simon Rosner has been showing in the last two years. Okay, he might still lack that big win - not counting when he beat a disinterested Shabana last year in Kuwait - but he is giving a really hard time to the top guys, extending the likes of Gaultier and Matthew to tie-brakes or even picking games off them. One of his best weapons is definitely the cross-court forehand kill, his is very severe with it form around mid-court but he is capable hitting such winners even from the back-foot from deeper positions as you can see it in the below rally. 
I am happy to have also Peter Barker in this rally, as in my eyes he is the other player who progressed the most this year. Maybe not yet ranking-wise, but his game has acquired so much more variety, so much more accuracy in the middle and in the front of the court. It's still not at the heights of James or Nick, not to mention Shabana, Gaultier or Ramy, but it's getting definitely closer and closer. 
By the way, most people look at me strange when I say this, but I am a really big fan of Barker's movement. It seems to me extremely soft and smooth, economic and balanced. He's got visibly heavy big leg muscles (not like James or Shabana) and still he seems to pop from one foot to the other in a cat-like manner. I would love to learn from him but I am afraid to acquire these qualities you need to invest an awful lot into training, a lot more than any club player could afford. I am also a fan of his racket preparation which is nearly as harmonic as his movement and nearly as compact as Darwish's.  
Rosner has already proved that he is an assiduous student of Egyptian squash; if I were his coach, I would make him sit down and watch and analyse a few Peter Barker matches, to understand how can you become smooth and economical, qualities that will have both mid- and a long-term effects on your carrier, to mention one: reducing the chances of injury, which is always a greater risk for the bigger lads (you might have read a thing or two about this subject in James Willstrop's book).

27 November 2012


The below video is not from Hong Kong, but it shows two contenders, Amr Shabana - who has already won the Hong Kong title four times - and Gregory Gaultier - who has lost to Shabana a couple of times in those finals. Nevertheless, Gaultier is in devastating form recently and must be considered as one of the favourites of the tournament. Shabana started the season extremely motivated, and playing even very well, but he could do but little against Gaultier and Matthew so far. But he is in good physical shape and he definitely wants one more big title. Of course there is Ramy as well, having beaten Greg and Nick Matthew recently at the US Open, and there is also James Willstrop who will have the extra pressure of having to defend his points from last year (will he fail to do so there is a good chance that he will concede the #1 ranking in January). 
Anyway, the draw is open - as is the below rally with a cut ending - and squash TV is transmitting all the matches. Some hard core stuff to be expected as soon as from the first round: for example Nick Matthew vs. Simon Rosner and Ramy Ashour vs. Tarek Momen. Action starts Tuesday the 27th of November and the final will be played on Sunday 2nd of December. Don't miss out.

20 November 2012


The best possible serve is the one that finds the sidewall high with a mid pace so that your opponent has to scrape his return off the wall as otherwise the next bounce on the floor would die around the backwall nick. If you can do this with a high reliability percentage, your opponent will take a position more and more towards the sidewall whist waiting for your serve; this is when you can start to serve occasionally to his body as well. 
Serving to the body requires a slightly higher pace, first bounce should be just a few inches above the service line and you should aim to find your opponent's body around hip heights. It is very difficult to aim for a dying ball in the backwall nick as for that the ball would be slow enough to allow your opponent to get out of the way and play a reverse angle shot (forehand from the backhand side and vice-versa) - unless he is tired/lazy (for example after a long rally that you have won) to do so. 
Anyway, you have to make sure one thing with the 'to-the-body-serve': don't hit it above your opponent's head, as Daryl Selby is doing it in the below rally. Guys with quick hands will punish you straight away as Ramy Ashour demonstrates it here, whereas slower-handed guys will get an opportunity to step away and wait for the rebounce off the backwall. 
If you have a subscription with squashtv, then go for some Nick Matthew match replays and observe how and when he is employing this type of serve; he is by far the most efficient with it (James coming second in my opinion, whereas in former times John White was a frequent and efficient user of it).

14 November 2012


Squash TV is recently publishing a lots of hot shots and mega rallies on their youtube channel. I am picking the below one because I think it demonstrates two things I would like to mention: 
1) the great potential that Simon Rosner has got; notwithstanding his big size, it is very impressive how well he moves, and especially how quickly he can get back from big lounges (generally a tough thing for tall players). He is also an excellent reader of the game, he is by now really very close to the top8 in this regard. 
2) But to get there I really think he has to modify one thing: his huge backswing. 
Watch this rally and observe how many times he lacks precision and accuracy exactly because his backswing requires too much time to prepare which makes him hit the ball a fraction too late. As long as he's got time and space, there is no problem with this kind of racket preparation, but as soon as you lack one or the other factor, you will struggle to hit precisely. This is mostly evident in situations when the opponent hits a slightly loose but quick straight ball as we can see it in this rally at 0:16 and especially at 0:23; in both cases Rosner hits late and this is why the ball finds the sidewall.
Of course, in certain situations this big swing favours Rosner, like when he is going for his trademark low cross-court kills in the front, but in situations around the 'T' he will need to study the top guys' swing, to start with the most compact one probably: Karim Darwish.
Will Rosner be able to adjust in this technical regard, then I feel there will be very little to separate him from the top10, or even the top6.
Oh, and just to mention also the obvious before we finish: what a beautiful carousel rally this was! Unlucky for the records that it had to end with a 'Stroke'.

13 November 2012


We had a top spin backhand drop shot last week, the first of the 'Shots that don't exist' series. Here is now another one from the same match, Ramy Ashour vs. Daryl Selby, first round of the 2012 British Open.
In fact, it's not true that these shots don't exist, they are just not very common. Whilst the top spin drop shot from last week is rather just a flashy thing, I deeply believe that the cross-court kill-nick that Ramy is displaying in the below video is really efficient - notwithstanding being way too underrated, under-considered and under-trained.
To go for this cross-court kill-nick, you will have to wait for a semi-loose ball from your opponent around the back of the service box (similarly as for the attacking boast). If the ball is too tight, you can't swing freely to go for it, whereas if the ball is too loose towards the middle of the court the angle is reducing and it is tougher to find the nick (and there are also other better shot-options in this case). However, if you play it from the right angle, then it doesn't even have to find the nick perfectly; it might not become a winner, but it will make your opponent stretch and scrap it off the floor just before the second bounce. Another important factor is the heights of the ball: you can only go for this shot if it bounces at least around hip-heights. And you have to make sure to find the side-wall first and not the floor (in case you miss the perfect nick); if the ball bounces first on the floor and then on the sidewall, it will decelerate it and make it bounce high whereas if you find the sidewall first it will result in a quick and short double bounce on the floor (unless you fail it completely by hitting it way too high). Anyway, you will have to practise this shot before employing it reliably in matches, and I suggest you start on the forehand side (most of the non-professionals - the writer of these lines included - will never be capable to play it on the backhand side),
By the way, I think Ramy has learned this shot from Amr Shabana, the only other player to use it on a regular basis over the years. And this is a story for itself: the more you are a 'genius' the less you are shy to learn from the others. Both Ramy and Shabana are assiduous watchers/learners (as you can also hear it in this lovely video).

06 November 2012


A very entertaining rally. Fantastic gets, a few shots from behind the back, you can't ask for more. 
Crazy rallies like this, we generally get them from Ramy Ashour vs. Nick Matthew or vs. James Willstrop.
These rallies are always a combination of higher and lower quality shots - but the one who hits a low quality shot is capable to recover with the next shot and then turn the momentum, and so on. 
But the difference between the two players in the below rally - Alister Walker, current world #12 and Chris Simpson #37 - consists I think in the movement. The court seems just a fraction bigger for these two guys compared to the very top players.
It seems to me that the top guys move in a more ergonomic way; they come out of the lounge like a "wave", their movement is not sectioned into "lounge, brake, stop, back", it's rather a constant flux. Don't get me wrong, Walker and Simpson are two great athletes, both heavy trainers, both quick and strong, but they do not posses that fluidity that you can observe with Ramy, Greg, James or even Peter Barker. 
I don't know if this is purely a technical question? Probably it is also linked with the speed of perception (how quick one reads his opponents intentions). When you are less in a rush, you can allow more harmony to your movement. And probably more harmony even to the execution of your shots, or even to your shot-selection. We are talking about nuances, but these nuances make the difference between the top8 and the top20 and so on.

01 November 2012


I feel Ramy Ashour's racket technique is sometimes slightly mystified. I think it's not as unorthodox as that, he just reads his opponents so much quicker than anybody else that he gets his racket back into position without any rush and that makes some commentators think that he's got no backswing. It is this extremely early racket preparation that allows him then to go for shots that others (even other professionals) can only dream about. 
The below video is, however, contradicting my thesis. This crazy back-foot top-spin drop is indeed a shot that doesn't exist (unfortunately the rally has been recorded a bit far from the court. You can push the 'fullscreen' button on the bottom right of the video player to see it better).
Playing a drop-shot on the back-foot is anyway forbidden according to conventional coaching textbooks. Sure enough, as in so many aspects, the Egyptians have slightly modified this thesis.
Wael El Hindi was the first one to go for drop shots on the back-foot on a constant basis (you probably remember the most outrageous one), and currently, besides Ramy Ashour, Tarek Momen is confident and talented enough to employ it with succes. And it might make sense on this (pro) level as it is a position where the ball is hidden from your opponent's eye-sight; add to this that he can also only see your back, so at the end of the day he can't really read/anticipate your intentions.
But it's not something for everybody as it requires extreme strength all around: leg, hip and wrist. Club-players just better lift the ball in similar situations, or assume an approx. one-to-ten success-ratio by going for it; the choice is yours.

25 October 2012


As a follow-up to yesterday's full match replay of the final of the 2012 Netsuit Open in San Francisco, here is another great performance by Gregory Gaultier and mighty Amr Shabana at semi-final stage (you surely remember their PSA Masters final last January at the Queen's Club in London, one the greatest matches ever). It's atypical for our blog to stage full matches, but since Squash TV was unfortunately absent from the event, we thought this might be useful for the hard core squash fans.

first game: Gaultier 11:7 Shabana

second game: Gaultier 12:10 Shabana 

third game: Gaultier 11:8 Shabana 

So a 3:0 win to Gaultier against an in-form Shabana (just coming off a 3:0 win against world #1 James Willstrop in the quarters). Did you notice Gaultier's new, more relaxed attitude since the birth of his first child? He now won within two weeks against four fellow top8 players -  3:0 against world #1 Willstrop, world #2 Matthew and world #7 Shabana, and only dropping a game to world #4 Darwish. Ramy Ashour remains the only scalp missing.

24 October 2012


Exceptionally we offer a bit longer stuff. As Squash TV was unfortunately absent from the $70k Netsuit Open 2012 squash tournament, I thought it makes sense to publish under one post the full replay of the final between Gregory Gaultier and Nick Matthew. It's about an hour, so you probably will want to swap your favorite DVD for this tonight? Quality stuff all around and good video quality.

first game Gaultier 11:7 Matthew

second game Gaultier 13:11 Matthew

third game Gaultier 11:9 Matthew

So at the end it's 3:0 to Gaultier. Great tournament both from the organizers and for the Frenchman. Let's hope next year Squash TV will cover it!

17 October 2012


Basically this blog was born out of two things: 1) watching and observing pros playing 2) trying to adapt those points that are possible to adapt on a club player level. Well, throughout the two-year existence of the blog, we have pointed out a few things that we club players can aim to copy and to stick to whilst we train or play. But there are also things that we shall not try to copy, because it would require the amount of training and the physical strength level that only a pro might have. So we always have to understand what we can and what we can't copy from the greats. But in certain cases, we don't have to think at all. Things are simply too surrealistic, and we understand with grace and gratitude that the players and the game that we witness are from another planet. Like this one here between Ramy Ashour and James Willstrop at the semi final of the 2012 British Open:

16 October 2012


So who said squash has been boring back in the days? Maybe back in the days with the tiny-headed wooden rackets on cement courts, but already 20 years ago players like Brett Martin (in white in the below rally) were capable to make the game look very much entertaining. The author of this blog does not know much about the squash world from before the year 2005, but Brett Martin definitely seems to have something of Jansher Khan's calm and economy of movement (bit more square though) coupled with this incredible eye (and hand) to go short from anywhere. The concluding shot of the second rally is pure magic: body language deception and flick of the wrist at its pure best; Jonathon Power and Ramy Ashour would any time subscribe for it.
By the way, if you ask Peter Marshall (in red in the below video) - and you can bump into him in the UK for example at Bath Cup events - he will always be happy to confirm that back in those days the two most talented guys out there - at least in his eyes - were not the two famous Khans (Jahangir and Jansher) but the Martin brothers: Brett and Rodney.

10 October 2012


Amr Shabana won the 2011 US Open vs. Nick Matthew in an unconventionally short final (19,8,8 and 6 minutes the four games). At this year's US Open they already meet at quarter final stage, tonight.
How come? Well, Shabana is only ranked 7 in the world and does not have other great results (the World Series title at Queens not counting into the PSA rankings) in the last 12 months, whereas Matthew is steadily world #2. However, everybody (Squash TV commenators as well as the players on twitter) is talking about how lean and fit Shabana looks after the summer break. Let's look forward to an absolute blockbuster. Games start at 19.00 local time Philadelphia, 24.00 London, 01.00 Paris/Milan/Berlin)

24 September 2012


Due to other - less fun - commitments, the activity level of the No Let! blog might have been terribly low the ultimate few weeks, but luckily we still get to see the most important things that are going on on the tour. 
As you are surely aware, the season has started, Tarek Momen has won the $50k Malaysian Open and now - tonight - Nick Matthew and James Willstrop are going to battle it out in the final of the $70k Springfield Solutions British Open.
Nick has a terrifying head-to-head record against James (he has won their last 14 matches on the PSA) however James just won their last two meetings outside the PSA during the summer (Bundesliga and European Club Champions). As a consequence, one would think the mental hurdle has been overcome by James, but what might be left in the tank after his incredible semi-final against Gregory Gaultier yesterday? It's been one of the best matches of the year, a 120 minute brutal encounter of extremely high standard. Not by chance did Squash TV come out with a 7 minutes highlight of the match. Have a look at it and don't miss to join in live for the final at 19.00 UK time (20.00 Paris/Berlin/Rome, 14.00 New York) in a couple of hours.

12 September 2012


First of all it has to be noted that no shot is based on itself. For example take Tarek Momen and his famous attacking boasts - they wouldn't be as efficient as they are if his length game wouldn't be as solid and powerful as it is. Due to the latter, his opponents stand further back on the 'T', and this is why he can go more often than other players for the attacking boast option. Of course, another question is how Tarek executes his attacking boasts technically, but be assured that the fact that he knows that his opponents stand further back and in addition can't really read his intentions allow him to go for this shot in a mentally relaxed manner. And being relaxed - whilst being committed and concentrated of course - is a key factor in order to chose the right shot and execute it in the right way.
The same applies to Ramy Ashour's famous backhand volley nick. Of course, Ramy has spent hours and hours practising this shot in order to memorize the possible geometries of it, but observe how often he plays - instead of the volley nick - a powerful and deep cross-court (0:39) or straight (0:44) backhand volley. Again he goes for these options to create uncertainty in his opponent's mind. In the case of the straight deep volley at 0:44, Willstrop basically expects the redoubtable volley nick attempt and goes therefore the wrong way; but instead of the cross-court nick the ball was sent this time straight deep; okay, Ramy finds the nick even when he hits straight as this ball was just perfectly dying first in the sidewall then in the backwall nick, there was nothing James could have done, but even with a less perfect shot, James would have been late to react as he went the wrong way - not to mention that in the future he will be even more uncertain what to expect from Ramy in that position when the ball comes shoulder height around the service box: the nick attempt or the deep straight version.
Having said all that, I would also like to say that what Ramy is doing with the volley-nick is neither non-sense nor magic. It's a logical shot, deeply rooted in the nature, in the geometrics of the game, that I believe, in the near future, will be considered almost a basic shot, just like the straight drive. Ramy was the first in the history of squash to take this shot option seriously and to apply it systematically first into his training regime from early junior age and then as a next step into his game; as such he really deserves to be considered revolutionary. From now onwards, I think, no coach in the world can afford not to integrate diverse volley-nick routines into their juniors training program. As a minimum, five to ten minutes at the end of every training session, get your opponent to feed you and then return the favour. Believe me, you train this shot and it will come; maybe not as often and as well as for Ramy, because he has been busy with this for a decade and a half, but within a month or two you will see the difference.

23 August 2012


I was there live at this match, and the very first thing that struck me was the number of viewers, hardly any - okay it was first round, but it was the British Open, it was in London, in the O2 stadium, and the world #4 (for many the best player of all time) played against another top10 player - with a different draw that could have been a semi or a final.
The second thing that struck me was how lightly Ramy Ashour was taking this match. It wasn't disrespect, just the usual lightness that Ramy feels when he plays opponents outside the top6. He is playing cat and mouse stuff - and that's hilarious considered what a strong, solid and intelligent player Daryl Selby is. Nobody else could afford to go on court with such a mindset against him.
The only other top player who visibly takes lower ranked opponents easy is Gregory Gaultier. But whilst Ramy has no problems to switch to 'serious' mode, Gaultier at times struggles to make this mental transition from one round to another.

22 August 2012


Last time we were talking about Simon Rosner - probably the player with the biggest swing out there (even if he restricts it nowadays somewhat). Technically speaking, the true opposite of Rosner is another player from the up-and-coming generation: Tom Richards
In this blog we have seen and analysed dozens of times the benefits of the compact backswing and we've had many many examples with Karim Darwish demonstrating it on a constant basis. Of course, everyone in the top100 is reducing his swing to a certain extent, but only few can reduce it as dramatically as Darwish or Richards, as it generally also involves a considerable loss of pace.
In the younger generation there are quiet a few opposite examples as well; next to Rosner there is Aamir Atlas Khan and Tarek Momen with big swings, and it works for them. However, for club players, I personally think that the compact backswing is easier to adapt in order to gain precision and generate deception.
As much as I find it beneficial in general, I have the impression that Tom Richards renders his forehand swing compact in a slightly too extreme way. I totally agree with keeping the elbow close to the hip whilst preparing for a shot, but I think you have to relax and loosen your shoulder at the same time in order to allow yourself to launch your arm if you chose to hit long and hard.
Even if it is not visible in this compilation - with three backhand winners to only one on the forehand - it seems to me that by aiming to render his backswing compact, Richards even raises his shoulder instead of loosening it. Maybe his aim is to hide the ball with his body this way, but I think by relaxing the shoulder he could still hide the ball with his body and gain more pace for his drives and more control for his drops.
Within the top30 the differences are mostly in the head; technical details are rather secondary. Tom Richards has advanced a lot in the last few years ranking wise, and nobody anymore would take it for granted to beat him. This must be due to getting stronger as well in the head as in the body. However, having talked to a few top players I know that they are still constantly trying to improve also technically, and I wonder if loosening the shoulder on the forehand side could enable Tom to make another step towards the top10 where he is likely to land some time soon. 

20 August 2012


Happy to get finally some material about Simon Rosner, the skilful and very fair German player. We have mentioned him at the end of last year as one of the most promising up-and-coming players and indeed, it would be surprising not to see him within the top 10 within a year or two. 
To be honest, these nick-compilations do not really help to gather a player's real playing profile, but in Rosner's case they are eventually quiet representative as he indeed is a shot-maker, a true attacker.
The shot that gathers mostly my attention is the drop-shot played at 0:13. It's not the first example that shows that balls that land just behind the service box and somewhat off the side-wall are apt for attacking; you've got the drop option as Rosner shows it here, Tarek Momen in another, or Ramy Ashour in this example. You also have from the very same position the attacking boast option, as the deep straight corner opens up and your opponent is on his backfoot to cover that deep corner; you surely remember Tarek Momen demonstrating this in a recent example.
And if we mention Ramy and Tarek when talking about Simon we are not just talking in the air; Rosner might not dispose of the natural touch, fluidity and agility of those two magicians, but together with his Swiss mate Nicolas Mueller, they are assiduous watchers and learners of the Egyptian school!

30 July 2012


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

27 July 2012


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

21 July 2012


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

19 July 2012


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

18 July 2012


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

17 July 2012


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

10 July 2012


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

18 June 2012


We've had recently two monster rallies here on the blog and in both Mohamed El Shorbagy was involved. I even dared to note that El Shorbagy's pace is slightly too steady to trouble on a constant basis the top guys. 
It's though more than fair that squashtv came out with this compilation, showing Mohamed playing a few magic shots. Obviously the first one ( at 0:06) is the most spectacular, a deep kill-drop between the legs, but I also like a lot the third one, the Jonathon Power-like top spin reaction backhand-drop. 
El Shorbagy played this quarter-final match at the 2012 British Open whilst having had exams back at the Uni in Bristol. I was present at this match, and I had the feeling that after having lost the first game, El Shorbagy knew he would never win this match, so he started to relax a little bit. And apparently this is how it looks like when Mohamed El Shorbagy plays a little bit for the public, a bit in exhibition mode. 
By the way, never had the opportunity to mention it: Mohamed's Mum was standing next to me on the amazing gallery of the Canary Wharf Classic earlier this year. I had a good chat with her and she was also very knowledgeable about the game, applauding sincerely also Adrian Grant - her son's opponent of the day - when he was winning nice points. A classy lady she was, and I do not wonder that two world-class squash players come out of that family. 

16 June 2012


I am sure a lot else could be said - for example about movement - but I would like to point out only two shots in this rally. The first really perfect shot is played at 0:30 by Ramy, a basic backhand drive that is fading slowly towards the sidewall, bouncing deep, almost in the sidewall nick, with the ball hardly rebouncing off the backwall - this is what you are training for, to hit the backhand like this.
For the opponent, there was no space for backswing, hence a boast would have been tough - and probably also suicidal - to play. Playing straight would have been possible, but Ramy was anticipating it, and at the slightest looseness Shabana knew that Ramy would have gone for the cross-court backhand volley into the nick - and he rarely misses it when the opponent is stuck so far back behind him.
Given all these calculations, Shabana chose to shorten his grip - stop the video at 0:32 to see how high he holds the racket - and played a beautiful cross-court lob; it wasn't a winner, it didn't even create him an opening, but it gave him plenty of time to recuperate to the 'T', and under the circumstances you couldn't have asked for more. 

13 June 2012


I call 'Monster rallies' - rallies that last long, including both high pace and variation.
Mohamed El Shorabgy is involved in both the current and the previous monster rally that we have had here on the blog, that time against Karim Darwish, this time versus James Willstrop
Being involved in monster rallies is both a good and a bad sign. Good, because it means you can cope with anything what your opponent throws at you, and bad, because it also means your opponent can cope with anything that you throw at him. The deciding factor is whether you tend to win or lose these rallies - or maybe even more importantly - whether you or your opponent end up coming out with more shaky legs at the end of the rally.
Nick Matthew is famous for involving deliberately his opponents in such rallies; he generally wins these rallies, but even if not, he gets what he is looking for by tiring the opponent physically and mentally.
With El Shorbagy, I do not have the feeling that he tires yet enough his higher ranked opponents sufficiently with these type of rallies. Physically maybe, but mentally definitely not. The rhythm is slightly too steady (even if very high), you can disturb and make look silly lower ranked players this way, but not the top guys. They are very happy to handle any pace as long as the variation factor is low, as long as they are allowed to guess relatively easily where to expect the next shot. 
I have the feeling that El Shorbagy enjoys slightly too much executing lower ranked opponents simply with high pace, and forgets then in the next round that against the top guys this tactic will not work. He should take example from Gregory Gaultier, who is famous for shooting off lower ranked players with his speed and pace, but changes tactics as soon as he faces any of the top guys. Am not saying he is not hitting hard against the top players, I am just saying he makes sure he hits hard when it makes sense (in average every fifth shot, at least that's what I have counted at the British Open this year).
Concerning the opponent, James Willstrop, you have still some time left (till midnight UK time 13th June 2012) to leave a comment under this post to win his book, A Shot and a Ghost

06 June 2012


It's been a couple of months that James Willstrop's book - Shot and a Ghost - is out now, available as well as a hard copy as a digital file at amazon.co.uk. 
The book is about a year in the brutal world of professional squash, but there are also a lots of personal impressions and memories in the book, which seem all honestly written, and Willstrop is not even shy to paint himself in dubious colours at times. For example, talking about his manager, Mick Todd, he says at one place:"...He is confident and positive. I can be shy and negative. He likes pubs and blokes, I like poetry and music. He likes people, I like hotel rooms..." Willstrop also describes in detail how the loss of his mother has affected his life, or his ethical and philosophical reasons to being a vegetarian.
On the more specific squash front, it was intriguing to read about Willstrop's conciousness of having not an ideal body structure, being way too big, too tall for squash. He realized this early, still in junior times, and he has ever meticulously adapted his training regime to this fact. 
You will find chapters talking only about the divers number of physios Willstrop is surrounded with, how often he frequents them, how they 'torture' him and how he follows their advises on and off-court. 
You will also find the description of diverse brutal training regimes. I particularly remember the chapter depicting a training camp in some American mountains where hill climbing (running and cycling) is being employed to an extreme extent and a brutal on-court feeding session with his half-brother and coach David Campion. 
It is also very interesting for the squash fan to read Willstrop's relationship to fellow players. He writes very openly about his divergence with Nick Matthew ("we are two very different animals"), and his true admiration of Egyptian squash gods Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour. 
Regarding Egypt and Egyptian players, an intriguing chapter is the flashback of a junior world team championships event where Willstrop lost to Karim Darwish in the deciding rubber. 
It is also very interesting what he says about the outstanding Egyptian dominance in the junior field. At one of the tournaments held in Egypt Willstrop had the opportunity to observe junior training sessions; he was shocked to learn that the parents of the kids stand outside the court and literally scream with them if they miss a shot or don't try hard enough. 
The same applies to the intensity and the overload of training schemes that the Egyptian kids are forced to deal with at such young age. Before the age of 18, the body, the bones are still growing, and according to the current standings of physiology, you are not supposed to overload your body in this phase of life. Willstrop concludes that if this is how the Egyptians manage to dominate on Junior levels, they shall just keep winning all these trophies, sooner or later they and their bodies will have to pay the price anyway, by either getting gutted or injured on senior level. Willstrop's points sound very much plausible, one only wonders how come then that Karim Darwish and Amr Shabana both attest a pretty convincing longevity on the very top of the game.
There is a lot - really a lot - more to read about in the book, but am going to stop here. I would like to encourage everybody who follows to some degree the PSA tour to give it a go and read it. It's worth it.
I have a brand new, untouched hard copy of the book*, signed personally by James Willstrop for the No Let! readers. This copy is up for grab for anybody (who has read until this point ;) All you need to do is just to leave any message in the comment box below the video. It can be an empty message or anything related to James Willstrop. If you write something nice, I will forward it to James, of course. The winner will be drawn from all entries on the 13th of June and announced both in the comment box and on the main Facebook wall of the blog. You might participate from anywhere around the world, we will do our best to deliver the book to any country you reside in.
*Update 07.06.2012: we now have even a second signed copy which will go to the person whose comment under the video receives the highest number of likes by midnight  13th of June 2012 (UK time). 
And to finish, just a few words about the below video: even though the rally is way to short to symbolize the complexity level of James Willstrop's game, I still feel it is a relevant snapshot of the very high intelligence- and skill level that characterizes his play style: Willstrop - in opposition to the majority of the players - never plays a backhand serve; he prefers hiding his intentions with his body and mostly ends up hitting a lob-like forehand serve. As this pushes his opponent back and towards the sidewall whilst waiting, he occasionally comes up with this to-the-body-serve. Given the surprise factor, they often end up playing the wrong shot, like in this case Mohamed El Shorbagy choosing to go cross-court. The return wasn't though totally loose, Willstrop still had to bend deep and keep his balance in order to make sure he gets his winning volley-drop into the nick with a delicate touch.