What’s your ranking? And, other dynamics of a squash club championship…

As I walked into Club Meadowvale, my friend Al asked me, “What’s your ranking?”Squash Club Championship

Not an everyday question that people get at the club.

Then again, we are not taking about everyday interactions here. The annual club championship – popularly referred to as the Club C – is about to kick off, and, the dynamics are a little different.

“Not very high,” I replied, reluctant to disclose my exact standing among the sixty-four participants who signed up for the tournament.

The draws – A, B, C, and D – of Club-C are complex. A first round victory or loss determines whether the player ends up in the top half – A/B Draw – or the bottom half – C/D Draw.

Hence the significance of the ranking.

I am a little miffed about my ranking. Many other players have their own pet theories about who should have been ranked above who. A scenario that most squash players who play in a club tournament can relate to. Unlike the professionals who are seeded based on a points system, there is a fair level of subjectivity to player rankings at clubs.

I try to put myself in the shoes of the Club Pro who came up with the rankings.

I do look like a poster boy for Tensor; I only play squash once a week; my one day of tennis really does not count towards my squash standings. Begrudgingly, I have to admit that he may be right. The mind is willing, but the body is weak!

“Oh, well, it’s not all about winning,” I kid myself.

That is part of the dynamics of a squash club around championship time. Egos are at stake, especially, when you are bordering on a “has-been.”

 And, what better way to display it than a higher spot in the rankings.

Squash Club ChampionshipSo, let’s take a look at some of the other dynamics at play during Club-C.

The top-ranked player, Ahad, is probably hoping that this is not the year that he gets upset. Being acknowledged as the number one player in the club, for a few years in a row, has to feel good. That kid, ranked number two, is not making things any easier though.

The second-ranked player, Rahul, likely believes that this could be the year that he pulls off that upset victory. Even if he does not, he knows that time is on his side. There is always next year for another shot at the top spot.

Players ranked within the top eight are hoping to get opponents that they have history with. Getting to the semi-finals of the A/B draw would be perceived as quite an accomplishment.  Upsetting Ahad still remains in the realm of wishful thinking.

Players that fall outside the top-eight, but, within the sixteen have a dilemma. Does it look better to lose in the main A/B draw, or win in A/B consolation?

There is a remote chance that players ranked 16-32 can get upset in the first round. Especially, if some of the lower ranked players end up being better than their rankings suggest. They also are likely to play their first round matches against people at their skill level making it harder to win.

Players ranked 32-48 have a point to prove. In their minds, they have a fair chance of winning the first round and proving the Club Pro wrong. At the very least, they don’t want to go down without a fight. They know that they most likely will end up in the C/D-draw where they will get another chance to prove their prowess.

Typically, players ranked below 48 are in it for the fun. Some of them have a shot at winning the main or consolation match of the D draw. They also get to play against some of the top players at the club who would normally not give them the time of day.

Irrespective of how each player fares in the tournament, the spirit of wanting to do well is undeniable. The complaints about incorrect rankings, match scheduling, and refereeing errors are all part of it.

So, when it comes to club tournaments, how competitive are you?

What’s your ranking?

Random observations on the longevity of tennis and squash players

Nicol David's Record

I recently asked players at my club to name three professional tennis players. “Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic,” the answer came without hesitation. I followed up with another question – Can you name three professional squash players? Ramy, Nick Mathew and that French guy said my friend, looking up from his beer.

The answers were not a surprise to me.

The universal appeal of tennis and its players cannot be understated. Even my wife, who is not actively into sports, recognizes professional tennis players and roots for Djokovic every time he plays a tournament. Admittedly, squash does not have the same profile nor the media presence that tennis has. Ramy Ashour, Gregory Gaultier and Nick Matthew are names that have been heard in the PSA circuit for a while. But, how do they fare in comparison with their tennis counterparts?

Is the longevity of a squash player’s career a factor? Is there longevity in tennis when compared to squash?

After all, squash is supposed to be harder on the body, even at the amateur level. Rarely do you find a squash player over forty who does not use some kind of a brace or support for his or her knees and ankles.

However, a quick look at the profiles of some of the more successful players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Ramy Ashour, and Mohamed Elshorbagy showed that my assumptions were incorrect. Generally speaking, there is a pattern to how the players got to where they are today. Most started playing the game early – as early as when they were five or six years old. They all won junior tournaments before breaking into the professional circuits. It took them anywhere between three and five years as a professional player to reach the top echelons of the game and win a major tournament.

When Malcolm Gladwell said it takes ten thousand hours of practice to get good at something, he may have gotten it right.

But, getting there is one thing; staying there is a completely different matter. How long can a player hang around at the top?

Thanks to Wikipedia, here are some stats that may surprise you.

There is no player in tennis or squash like Nicol David!

She has maintained her number one ranking for 109 consecutive months. A record which I believe is not about to be broken by any player – male or female – that we currently see on the horizon.

The only player who has consistently remained within the top three rankings for the past eight consecutive years is not Roger Federer or Ramy Ashour.

It is Novak Djokovic.

Longevity - Squash vs. Tennis

The squash player who comes close to Djokovic’s record is Nick Matthew who made the top-three list seven times out of the past eight years.

And, on the question of longevity, squash players have nothing to worry about.

Nick Matthew, currently ranked number two in the world, has been playing professional squash for nearly seventeen years. Roger Federer who broke into professional tennis in 1998, also has seventeen years under his belt. Matthew is not an exception. The current number three ranked Gregory Gaultier, Nicol David, and retired players like David Palmer and Jonathan Power all have had careers than span fifteen years or more.

So, the relative obscurity of squash has little to do with the length of the players’ careers.

Inclusion in Olympics 2020 would have helped raise the profile of the game.

Meanwhile, let’s keep our fingers crossed…







Ten mistakes on the squash court that can impact your game

Do you make the same mistakes on the squash court, over and over again? Squash Mistakes 4

If you do, you are not alone.

Some mistakes are harder to fix, some are not. If you recognize a mistake as soon as you make it, you have hope. You can try to avoid it the next time around. Bad habits acquired over a period of time are hard to shed overnight. But if you feel that you do make some of the mistakes shown below, you can pick a couple to work on.

So, here’s a look at ten mistakes on the squash court that can impact your game.

Advertising your shot: A good squash player always keeps his/her racquet back while approaching the ball to play a shot. This makes it difficult for the opponent to anticipate the shot and prepare for it. Approaching the ball with the racquet in the front, limits your options. A smart opponent will take advantage of your situation and prepare to counter your shot even before it is played. Your winning drop can quickly turn into a let or even a stroke.

Admiring your shot: How often have you played what you thought was a winning shot only to find that your opponent got to it and put it away? Club players often forget that a point is never won until the ball dies. Shots that win you points against a lower level player may not yield the same results when played against a player who is better than you.

Crowding your shot: Have you felt that some players seem to be able to cover the court with minimal effort? It is all about footwork. Many club players often overrun and find themselves too close to the ball to play a shot with accuracy or power. In effect, you end up wasting your energy and hitting a bad shot.

Rushing your shot: Good players seem to have all the time in the world to get to their shots? Very seldom do they appear to be in a scramble. They pick and choose which shots to attack versus which ones to keep in play. Occasionally, club players forget that there are walls around the court. Most of the time, the ball does bounce off the side and back walls back into play. Patience is sometimes a virtue in squash.

Punishing the ball: Squash is not only about raw power. While there is a time and place for power, hitting the ball too hard often gets it back in play, essentially giving up any advantage that you may have had. A ball that dies in the back corners of the squash court is worth a lot more than a shot that bounces off the back wall.

Committing early –Do you often get beaten by your opponent because you committed to your shot too early? A low hard cross court shot can leave you stranded if you commit, with your body turned, in anticipation of a rail shot. Good players seem to turn their heads to watch the ball without turning their bodies.

Not getting back to the T: How many times have you been told that you don’t get back to the T? If you hit a good length shot or a tight drop, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage by not getting back to the T. Good players control the T.

Flat-footed on the T: Do you have trouble pushing off the T to get to a ball? When you serve and move to the T, you may be cementing your feet to the floor. This makes it harder for you to do a split-step or move quickly to your next shot. Staying on the balls of your feet will enable you to move quickly off the T or turnaround.

Not calling your lets: If your opponent has a tendency to poach and take away a portion of the front wall from play, stop. Call a let. If you chose to play on, you are technically limiting yourself to one half of the front wall making it easy for your opponent to volley or play to the far corner making your next shot difficult.

Volleying shots that you should not: While a good volley takes time away from your opponent, a bad volley just leads to a weak return. Knowing which shots to volley and which one to play off the floor or off the back wall differentiates a good player from a not so good one.

So, do you make any of these mistakes?

Should you challenge the referee? And, ten other questions for squash and tennis players…

In sports, rules have to be followed. But, etiquette is open to interpretation!
Ten questions for Squash & Tennis players

There is also conventional wisdom on how each game should be played. Occasionally, it makes sense to pause and wonder what would happen if you went against the grain. So, here are ten questions for squash and tennis players that you may not get from your club pro.

Do you challenge the referee when you clearly feel that a call should have gone your way?

If you are good-natured and let doubtful calls go every time, you may not be doing yourself any favours. There is a reason that Jonathan Power and John McEnroe perfected the look of disbelief when calls didn’t go their way. While, the introduction of Hawk-eye and similar technologies have lessened the influence that tantrums on the court can have, it still is used effectively by many club players to sway decisions in their favour.

Remember, it is always the squeaky wheel that gets the grease!

If you picked up a low hard shot on the second bounce and the referee called it good, will you stop play and give the point away?

Technically, it is not your call, it is the referee’s.

But, referees are human and make mistakes; especially when they don’t have a clear line of sight to the ball. At the club level, it may make sense to admit to the double bounce. But, I would be surprised if the pros feel obliged to do any such thing.

If your opponent does not clear and the referee only gives you a “let”, will you prove your point by taking a shot that hits your opponent?

This is another tough one!

Personally, I would not. I would resort to challenging the referee on it. However, many people do chose to prove their point by taking the shot and earning the point. If you do chose this option, make sure that you do not do it on a turn-around shot.

If you are down one game and 1-9 in the second in a PAR 11 squash game, will you try to come back, or save your energy for the third game?

This is a tough one!

If you have the fitness, I would suggest trying to come back. Losing 11-1 can be bad for your morale as you go into the third game.

Do you play more aggressively when you play squash under the “hand-out” scoring format vs. the PAR format?

If you play the same game under the two formats, it’s time to stop and think. Under the hand-out system, you can be more aggressive when you are serving. You don’t run the risk of losing a point if your opponent wins the rally.

If you did not hit tin in an entire squash match, is it a good thing?

Most errors in professional matches are made when a player hits tin. If you never hit tin in a match, it would imply that you played safe and were not aggressive enough.

Have you won, or, lost more matches, after having led by two sets?

On reflection, I would say that I come out even on the above question. But there are some who are better at winning matches than some others. You may be a better player in many cases, but, can you win matches?

Do you take more risks when you are ahead?

It never hurts to put pressure on your opponent when you are ahead. The alternate option is to play safe and hold on to your lead. I would pick the former.

In tennis, if you served an ace which clipped the tape resulting in a “let”, would you try the same serve again, or go for something else?

I would say go for the same serve. While you can argue that the surprise element is lost, you can counter argue that your opponent expects you to do something else and the same serve would be unexpected.

If you didn’t make a single double-fault in an entire tennis match, is it a good thing?

I would argue that it is not a good thing. To me it means that you played safe by taking something off the second serve to keep it in play.

If you have a clean overhead shot in doubles tennis, and your best chance to win the point is to hit your opponent, will you hit away?

The right shot is to go for the opponent’s feet. Going for that shot would mean that you do run the risk of hitting the person’s body. Overhead shots are not soft; so, if you are on the receiving end of things, it is wise to stay out of the way of the shot than blaming your opponent for hitting you.

Clearly, the answers to the questions above would vary based on the situation and context.

Hopefully, now you have some perspective!

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