Thursday, January 26, 2012

Last Night of the ToC! Boo-hoo!

It will be an interesting match tonight as once again the #1 ranking is on the line, with Willstrop hoping to prove he deserves the accolade and Matthew hoping to regain what I'm sure he feels is rightfully his. 

Matthew is coming back from injury, and that has a tendency to put a small grain of doubt in one's mind. If I had to guess, I'd say Willstrop in 5 very hard games. But I admit it could easily go the other way... 

It's also nice to note that the ToC isn't just about the pros. Here's Chris Walker, still looking exceptionally fit, showing some StreetSquash kids the art of the drop.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Empowering Effect of a Dose of ToC

My arch-enemy Schumacher and I went to see the Tournament of Champions last night, paying good money to get seats midway down the left wall. It took a while to get used to the crazy angle, but once we did we were treated to some close-up views of the pros and their shotmaking. 

We saw four matches. The first was Olivia Blatchford, one of two players from the US, playing Dipika Pallikal, the 7th-seeded Indian. It was really no contest, as Blatchford appeared by turns nervous and agitated over her play. She lost in straight games. Here's the last point, as recorded on my lousy cellphone:

We also saw Australia's Donna Urquhart, who is without doubt one of the sexiest woman in squash, play Pakistani sensation Maria Toor Pakay. Pakay has come under the wing of Jonathan Power, who is helping to guide her as she negotiates her way from the ultra-conservative tribal areas of her country, where a woman is not supposed to be involved in sport whatsoever, to playing squash at the highest level in venues around the world. A big step, and judging by her play last night, she's not there yet. She appeared to be nervous and relatively uninterested in doing anything other than smacking the ball hard to the back corners. Urquhart, on the other hand, remained unfazed and looked perfectly delightful in a wonderful peach-colored dress. I am here to report that there were murmurs of appreciation from the crowd, and they weren't talking about her squash game....

We also saw two good matches on the men's side. First up were Englishmen James Willstrop, looking very sharp, and Peter Barker. Barker looks to be in great form, so it is a little amazing that he hasn't had more success against Willstrop, but the latter seems continually to have the edge up, and so it was last night, with Barker being shown the door in under 40 minutes. We also got to take a look at Egyptian teenage sensation Marwan El Shorbagy, who seems to float effortlessly about the court, and a very impressive Daryl Selby, Englishman, who I think played a magnificent match. Selby can be quite deceptive, employing a full bag of head fakes and last-second wrist breaks. The effect of all this was to keep Marwan running, and that he did. They had several very long rallies, after which Selby seemed to take one long breath and then was quickly back ready to play, whereas I saw Marwan doubled over a few times trying to catch his breath. I think Selby, who won in 3, has a shot to reach the finals this year, he is playing that well. I also think that Marwan will be the #1 player within 7 years: he moves better than any other player I have ever seen.

There is something empowering about seeing a lot of high-level pro players going about their business. Schumacher and I agreed to play this morning, and I, feeling jazzed by my observations last night, foiled my arch-enemy's plans for total domination and offered up a soul-crushing win in 5. The squashist wins! The squashist wins!


Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ladies Come to the ToC

Commuted in this morning and there was a pair of the female contenders at the Tournament of Champions doing a little early-morning practice. I think I am correct in saying that this was Natalie Grinham and Sarah Kippax playing a friendly -- both looked sharp. 


I have to ask, why can't we get a full women's draw with some decent prize money for the ToC? C'mon, you masters of finance, help fund the ladies so they can have a full tournament at this great squash venue....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ToC Getting Ready in NY

I was pleased to see the goings-on at Grand Central Terminal during my morning commute. The court is being assembled today! The best week of squash in New York City is about to begin ....


Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Future of Squash Is Egyptian, Yes?

Egyptians have just won 7 of 8 titles at the British Junior Open. A great achievement, with a clean sweep for the country denied only by one determined Pakistani, who won the boys 15 and under.

Above, Marwan El Shorbagy lets out a roar after winning the boys 19 and under, and you can bet he will make his presence felt on the pro tour soon. 

But I worry for Egyptian squash. There is already news that squash is not receiving the political support needed to keep funding at recent levels, and we are increasingly seeing great Egyptian squash players opt for other locales -- often, the US -- as they segue into teaching pros. 

That's great for US squash, but I would hate to see Eqyptian squash whither away from political disinterest. Egypt is too important as a squash nation, and their players are too great, to welcome something like that. Squash needs Egypt. 

But at this juncture, will Egypt be able to win a similar number of championships at next years BJO? I think squash pundits would have to say, 'No, quite possibly not.'

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blogs Redux

Rather amazingly I realize I have been doing this blog for 2 and a half years now. Sometimes the pathetic roll of the blogger is to publish a post and watch it head off into the blogosphere, never knowing for sure what fate will befall it, like a parent watching his child go off to college...

I've had a couple of strange experiences. On two blogs I mentioned Tiger Woods unflatteringly. The first time I did that lo and behold the very next day I got a reader for the first time in the town in Florida where he lives. Hmmmm. 

Amazingly enough, I also mentioned the pope one time and, believe it or not, Rome lit up on my map of hits the next day. I envisioned the pope, sitting in his jewel-encrusted personal library, silently damning me to hell.... Perhaps the single posting that was read in more strange places than any was a Wikileaks parody I did. That post was read in some very dicey areas all over the world, including unruly regions of Africa and 'the Stans.' 

Of course I've had my share of dud postings, but I thought I'd take a look back and revisit a few posts that I was rather fond of. Take a look; you be the judge:

Here's a review of loud grunting on tennis and squash courts.
How top athletes can remain very calm and hyperfocused at the same time.
Here are 27 great squash tips from the Khan dynasty.
I've always maintained goggles should be a must in squash.
Here I announce my love for Nicol David, a squash goddess.
A friend nearly loses it, but squash is his lifeline.
Two blogs reviewing squash injuries (part I and part II).
Here I review the 10 Commandments of squash.
Stretching before a match? Probably not a good idea...
Perhaps my personal all-time favorite: motor disinhibition in top athletes.
Does sex affect your squash game?
Here I try my hand at poetry. And then I try it again here....
I used to slice my feet with razors to reduce blistering. No, really....
All about how intense exercise can make you sick.
All about hardball doubles, from a master.
An interview with the Pro Squash Tour's McManus.
US Squash innovates again...
Here I recount a weird night out in superbia. Oh, I mean suburbia...
My personal list of things to remember when playing our game.
And finally, all about my birthday: September 11...

I hope you've enjoyed some of these. All you squashists out there, thanks for tuning in!