Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Successfully Shoot Like Ashour!

Today I played my nemesis Schumacher again, and had him huffing and grunting all over the court. He won, but he didn't dominate me out there. 

I even had a wonderful Pyrrhic victory. I was at about the mid-court line when Schumacher lobbed a nice arcing shot heading for the backhand corner. I didn't like the look of that lob; I could tell it was going to drop straight down right in the corner. So I reached high with my racket, pretty much turned directly into the side wall, and tried to hit a little dunk shot to the right front corner. It required considerable concentration and balance, as demonstrated by this dog here....

This is a delicate shot, which I tried to do just to surprise the bastard a bit. But Schumacher watches well and he didn't hesitate for a second, moving right up to the right front corner to get his response.

But like Ramy Ashour, who does this shot all the time, my shot fell off the front wall and gently hit the sidewall nick, rolling purely off the wall without even a hint of bounce.

Schumacher let out a yell. I, like this dog here, let out more of a howl.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

British Squash Sucking Wind?

First it was the news that the British Open would not be held in 2011. That struck me as unfortunate.

Then it was the meager financial backing for the currently contested ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic, the total purse for which is an unimpressive $50,000. The posters for the tournament feature Amr Shabana stroking a backhand, but he didn't bother showing up for the tournament, nor did any other Egyptian, with the exception of Karim Abdel Gawad, at left, PSA #44, who crashed out in the qualifying finals. The tournament is very much a European affair, despite its promotion as a 'classic.' 

It's just too bad, that's all. Funding for British squash seems to be drying up. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What it Takes...

One of the better videos I've seen about the dedication behind our sport. Check this out:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

World's Worst Loser

Have you ever beat someone playing squash only to have your opponent be a sore loser? They might slouch off the court without a handshake, they may yell an obscenity and stomp off, or they may even re-argue a few let calls during the match that they felt were thoroughly unjustified. 

But what happens when you play a lunatic? 

Here's a report from the UK of a thoroughly disgruntled man who started arguing over the number of games he had won. The argument gets heated, both players start calling one another liars, and then, as his opponent bends down to pick up his racket, he hauls off and kicks him in the face, hard, breaking his jaw. "The victim later told police the sensation was ‘like crunching Polos,’ and he was left in a lot of pain with blood pouring out." 

Teeth were lost, the jaw was broken, the police were called, and the friendship was ruined. Plus someone had to clean up all that blood. 

This man was no squashist, he was a lunatic with a racket, a guy whose unbridled competitive streak had no brake, no warning voice between his ears saying, Hold it, maybe I ought to back off. 

To his credit, I guess, the fellow regrets his actions, particularly since he will now have to pay for the extensive dental work on his erstwhile friend's jaw, which has left his bite misaligned. And as in the US, there is the little matter of emotional damages, which has yet to be decided by a court. 

I have on fairly rare occasions played someone who is clearly too aggressive -- too aggressive arguing lets, too violent in their swing, too upset over a match -- too emotional for the game of squash. I say thanks very much, and I never play them again. 

The game of squash ultimately boils down to two people in a box with two rackets and a ball. We don't need an attitude problem in that confined space as well, it would get way too crowded.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Loading Up Teams With Foreign Talent

Here's an article from the BBC on how colleges load foreign talent onto their teams in the hopes of dominating the sport. In this case, the sport is tennis: "No other American college sport has more international players than tennis." 

However, US squash fans have heard the same discussion about college squash for years -- 13, in fact.

However, there is another angle to this story worth noting. One commenter to the BBC article, "Dedjiridoo," wrote the following: 

"I played men's squash, a sport that that has been dominated for the past 12 years by Trinity college. Trinity has recruited the best players in the world--junior champions from England, India, Pakistan, and South Africa. This was intimidating as a player, but also a wonderful challenge. We knew that we were competing against the absolute best and it raised the standard of the league."

That's a good point.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Web Round-Up

It's great when new internet sites about squash crop up, and I try to troll around the web from time to time trying to find the latest stuff. 

I recently got an email from a new site called Squash Hero, an admirable effort whose principal goal is to give those interested in purchasing a racket a variety of statistics on rackets and then try to identify the cheapest internet source. The site also has a section on squash tips, which are taken from other sources and amalgamated on their site. 

The breakdown of racket specifications on Squash Hero is a good service. It provides specific data about each racket that would otherwise require a lot of searching to get together in one place: it reviews weight (and whether it is appropriate for beginners or doubles play), head size, head-heavy balance (being the distance between the midpoint of the racket's length and the center of its mass), and string density (which they calculate as number of mains x number of crosses/racket head area). The site then notes the lowest price they have found for the racket. When you click on the racket's image, you get additional information, such as beam width, type of stringing, and type of grip. 

Obviously, the principal benefit for the squash player is being able to quickly go to the squash internet store that offers the cheapest price, and generally speaking the site does indeed offer up the cheapest I could find. But they are not flawless. I looked up the Wilson Hyper Sledge Hammer 120G: Squash Hero finds the lowest price on Amazon for $149, but my favorite squash store is Squash Gear, and they list the racket for $139. 

The site takes a little getting used to. You can sort your racket selection by manufacturer, weight, head size, or cost, all of which is great. But it takes some diddling to really get the feel for how the system works. Overall, though, I'd say it is worth it. It would be nice if they populated the site with additional squash tips, news, photos, etc. We'll see. 

A great site that is absolutely not to be missed is No Let!, a video review of squash play with very interesting commentary. I'm not sure who is responsible for this blog; there doesn't seem to be any attribution for it on the site. But whoever is doing the commentary knows his stuff, and I highly recommend this site and encourage whoever you are to keep at it!

Another blog you should definitely bookmark is Racquetsphere, by squash's very own James Zug. He covers not only squash but also the more rarefied sports of racquets and court tennis, which are worth reading up on. Racquets really is the mother sport to squash, and court tennis is the mother sport of tennis. Both are minuscule peculiarities in the world of sport nowadays, but I can vouch for the fact that court tennis is a lot of fun, and I can also aver that I haven't the cohones to venture onto a racquets court, for fear of getting killed by its golfball-like ball that ricochets around the court at nearly 200 mph. Zug gets around in the world of all three sports and has interesting observations and anecdotes about all three.