26 September 2013


As far as it seams Hisham Ashour retired from the PSA (he played only four matches this year, only won one of them - the one in the clip against Saurav Ghosal - and he's not in the draw of any upcoming event). 
A shame. What to say, he is a legend in his own way, one of the greatest, if not the greatest shotmaker of all times and older brother/coach of one of the greatest, if not greatest player of all times, Ramy Ashour.
Notwithstanding his incredible shotmaking capabilities, I could never refrain from feeling something strange, something funny about Hisham. He obviously resembles his brother Ramy, but in some way he is also the total opposite of him. Regarding shotmaking, understanding of the court and interception they are similarly amazing; however regarding speed, agility and mental toughness, there are worlds between them. 
Hisham is obviously someone who loves life, not only squash. Not that Ramy isn't a really nice guy outside the court, but Hisham would definitely not sacrifice any type of fine dinner that you would invite him to. No disrespect to this genius, but at times he turned up as chubby on the court that I couldn't believe my eyes and started to adjust my screen's width ratio. I really thought it must have been the uncle of one the players who helped out warming up the ball.
However, I remember very well when he made his last attempt to take squash slightly more seriously (from a physical point of view). It was at the end of 2010 after a visibly serious diet, he came back slim and agile (for his standards) in order to ultimately achieve the minimum carrier-goal, being a top10 player (he used to mention top5...) And indeed he amassed victories over such ultra-steady players as Thierry Lincou and David Palmer (who were both still top8 those times).
Unfortunately it wasn't to be, he peaked at #11, and in 2012 his results - notwithstanding cashing in a long awaited first carrier win over Amr Shabana - got weaker and his ranking got lower in straight proportion with his body weight getting again higher.
Anyway, #10 or #11, or #16 is just a number, and regardless of his rankings Hisham Ashour will always be remembered, if not as the best, but definitely the funniest player of all time in the history of squash.
A good friend of mine, who represented Kenya at a junior World Championships event reported to me that the then youngster Hisham told him that he should watch out, as himself and his brother will soon rule the squash world. He was definitely not far away from the truth, as one of them became indeed the best, and the other one the most entertaining player out there.
By the way, I wish I was wrong, and there will be soon another diet...

21 September 2013


Obviously when Ramy Ashour is involved in a rally where he has to chase the ball it's always hilarious: such is his agility, speed and most of all, his extraterrestrial interception. 
But even when it's that entertaining, there are also lessons to note: when you watch the rally for the second time, observe to what extent they use the very low (just above the tin) and the higher parts of the frontwall. 
Common players hit mostly the mid range of the wall, Ramy and Pilley play in average at least every second ball either just above the tin or over the service line. Good squash - or as I like to call it: beautiful squash - always requires not only to use all four corners of the court, but also the full range of the frontwall, and pretty often the extremities of it. 

17 September 2013


One of the best surprises of the last 12 months was the progress that Steven Coppinger has been showing on the PSA World Tour. 
About two years ago he went down to Florida to start to train with retired legend David Palmer; by doing so, he joined another much progressed player Miguel Angel Rodriguez. By now you can clearly notice the influence that the iron man - or the marine, as some call him - has had on both of their playing styles and results (in the current September 2013 PSA Rankings they are #16 and 17# respectively).
Coppinger was a brave a top50 player before with a good complete all-round game and the typical slight lacks that distinguish the top20 from the players ranked below. In Coppinger's case it was clearly the physical aspect that needed an upgrade to achieve better results; he is very tall and that's clearly not an advantage in a sport where every two seconds you need to bend, lounge and brake at the end of a sprint. 
Steven told me about his brutal off-court training regimes with Palmer (you can make yourself an idea if you watch this clip by squashskills). In squash, balance is essential and Steven is now really steady on his foot even at heavy stretches and severe lounges. 
Note how quickly he recovered from a wrong-footed position at 0:34 to play a beautiful forehand drop shot, how well he hit and regrouped to the 'T' after a heavy stretch to the deep backhand corner, his quick reaction in the middle at 1:08 and the excellent reaction-volley at 1:21, and after all that hard work he still had the strength to get into a perfectly balanced position to execute a winning forehand drop shot to conclude this mega rally. 
Simon Rosner and Steven Coppinger, two tall men to watch next to the giant that James Willstrop is in both senses of the term.