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