Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Decade Behind and The Decade Ahead

At the beginning of every decade, pundits both like to look back and analyze the last 10 years and prognosticate about the future. Whereas there are many pundits better than I, I nonetheless feel it is time for me to throw my opinions into the blogosphere and subject myself to whatever outraged commentary comes hurling in my direction. So here goes:

A look back over the last ten years reminds me of a great number of wonderful squash players. Here are my favorites on the men's side:

Best Deception: Jonathan Power
Best Mouth: Jonathan Power
Best Overall Player: Tie--Amr Shabana, Peter Nicol
Best Mental Discipline: Thierry Lincou
Best Exuberance: Ramy Ashour
Toughest: Tie--Nick Matthew, David Palmer
Best Scandinavian: Olli Touminen
Best Hair: Olli Touminen
Best Humor: John White
Best Personality: John White

For the ladies, I'm a bit less opinionated:

Best Overall Player: Nicol David
Very Honorable Mention: Sarah Fitz-Gerald
Best Mental Discipline: Tie--Nicol David, Sarah Fitz-Gerald
Toughest: Tie--Jenny Duncalf, Rachel Grinham
Best Scandinavian: Anna-Carin Forstadius

I also have a lot of typically male opinions about the relative sexiness of these players -- hey, The Squashist is human -- but without getting into a Best Legs, Nicest Smile, etc., etc., list, I feel I should say that any great woman squash player is naturally sexy. She's athletic, smart, and determined, and that's a great combo.

A look ahead leads me to a prediction that I'm convinced will bear fruit: There will be an increasing number of top-10 squash players from the US as the next decade unfolds. I think there will be a #1 from the US this decade, and it will more than likely be a woman. But the men will not be too far behind; by the end of the next decade, there will be a man from the US in the top 3 -- maybe even #1.

Why do I say this? Because the junior game is thriving in the US, and many accomplished foreign squash players are taking up residence here and teaching their skills to US players. The American system of athletic equality means that women are getting as great a squash education as the men, and there are a large number of women athletes in the US because of this system. A few of these women will break through to the top echelon, and I'm betting one will go all the way. (I'm discounting the great Natalie Grainger, who still could reach #1 herself, because she is foreign-born; I'm writing here about a native American.)

At this writing Julian Illingworth has already climbed to #28, as high as an American has ever achieved. Might he make it to the top? It's very possible; he's young enough that he is still learning and he is a determined athlete; he might well be able to do it. But there are scores of players coming after him, so watch out world, the American decade is about to begin.

(I'm off for 10 days for a trip down South and up to DC, so nothing new from me for awhile. Everyone, have a great holiday: God Jul! as they say in Sweden.)

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