Monday, April 19, 2010

Whack-It Ball

I read today on that Peter Nicol has decided to play in a racketball tournament, England's Dunlop National Racketball Championship, where he may end up playing 5-time winner Daryl Selby. [But, see Postscript below...]

Now why would Nicol go and do a foolish thing like this?

Actually, I can understand. About a decade ago I moved from the city to suburbia, and because of the move I didn't have enough money to maintain my city squash club membership. Believe me, the Squashist was very sad about this. Very sad indeed. After a while I realized that there was a local fitness club that I could afford to join so I could at least stay in shape, so I did, and I found myself drawn to their racquetball courts. What the heck, I gave it a whack one day. 

It's not squash, you run much less, and you are mostly concerned with hitting to the back corners, so tactically it is less interesting. Still, it's a court and a racket and a ball, so I hit a few times. I then noticed they were having the club tournaments, so decided to sign up. The pro there said, well, if I played squash, I should do okay in the 5th grouping, of which there were 11 in all. Although I didn't practice at all and only played the tournament matches, I won easily.

I then went back to just working out, but lo and behold time went by and the club championships came around again. This time the pro told me to play the 2nd grouping. That too I won, again without practice, although the final was tight. Soon after this, I recovered my financial wherewithal and rejoined the squash club, and so have never played racquetball again. But I had a pretty good time playing. I'm told, incidentally, that the 3 top players at the club, the ones in the 1st grouping, are all ex-squash players who have adopted the sport since there are no local squash courts nearby to play on.

The racket skills and court sense one learns in squash are transferable to both racquetball and racketball, the latter of which is what an American would call racquetball but played on an international squash court, which I believe is the version most common in the U.K. where Nicol will play the tournament. I very much suspect Nicol will win this tournament, his skills are too immense. I am reminded of a story about Gary Waite, an excellent squash player as well as top hardball squash doubles player, who became the champion Canadian racquetballer, just to see if he could. Heather McKay, Australian squash champion who is the winningest female squash player ever, also famously played racquetball, winning multiple American and Canadian championships.

The point is that racket skills and court coverage are transferable. That is the intriguing idea behind Racketlon, a marathon racket skills tournament in which opponents are tested in squash, badminton, tennis and table tennis. Each set is played to 21 points, with the winner being whomever scores the most points across all sport disciplines. Racketlon started in Finland in the 1980s where it was called mailapelit, meaning 'racket games', and has continued to gain adherents. 

I recently had a chance to play badminton, and found that the court movement and wrist action were similar enough to squash that I did well. And since I play tennis regularly, that sport's different stroke biomechanics are not a problem for me. Furthermore, a squash player's coverage of a tennis court is as good as anything a tennis player could offer. The problem for me: table tennis, which is much different from the other games of racketlon.

There is something about a racket player, no matter what the racket. See ball, run to ball, hit ball. I already feel a little sorry for Mr. Selby, poor fella. 

POSTSCRIPT: It seems The Squashist has revealed a touch of ignorance with this blog, and stuck his big size 13 foot into his gaping maw. Mr. Selby, it turns out, is a top squash player, in fact is currently #9. I'm sorry, Mr. Selby, I didn't appreciate that fact when I wrote this blog! It does argue in favor of my basic point, though, that squash players can walk on the racketball court and play a mean game from the get-go, but it also puts into question whether Peter Nicol, retired from the pro game, can likely put up stiff enough resistance against a top-10 squash foe. However, Mr Nicol rarely does me wrong, so I still say he'll take it! Selby, prove me wrong!


  1. Selby is currently top 10 in the world, if you think Peter is going to be able to grind him out you are sadly mistaken!

  2. Actually, your argument explains why Daryl Selby is so good at racketball, being a top squash player himself and one of the fittest guys in PSA. Maybe Peter Nicol will have a chance at winning in racketball. He certainly wouldn't have one at squash against Daryl.

  3. Down here in Memphis, very little crossover, but former World #1 racquetball player Andy Roberts dabbled in squash and was a good 5.0. He said the long points bored him.

  4. I think he's proved you wrong...

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