It was a tough week on the court this past week. I seemed to have lost focus on what works well for me. Thankfully this was a week off from league but still definitely was disappointed in my play. I am sure this has happened to all of us. I think what is important to figure out what went wrong and work to improve.
So what went wrong for me this week? Focus. I was playing squash but not with any purpose. I went on court without any clear sense of what I was trying to work on or accomplish. I hit shots without any clear objective. I was not trying to get my length shots to die in the back I was just hitting them. I wasn’t going short with the intent to work my opponent hard. I was just hitting balls. My movement was also without focus. I play best when I am hunting the ball and trying to volley as much as possible. I was not returning to the ‘T’ quick enough to be able to do that.
I am playing today and am determined to play with focus. The serve will be hit with variety and with an objective. It will hit the side wall when I am aiming to. There will be a few serves at the body to try and keep my opponent off guard. Length shots will be hit with purpose. They are going to get past my opponent in to the back corner and my opponent is going to have to really dig them out. When I go short it will be with the intent to really stretch my opponent out. They may well get the ball back but they will have to work very hard to do so. The focus is not on winning it is on hitting the best shot I can – every time I strike the ball. I will hunt the ball and volley as much as possible to exert pressure on my opponent.
As I am writing this I am watching the final match of the Hong Kong Open 2011 and am quite amazed at the performance of James Willstrop. The precision with which he plays is absolutely superb.
The first two games, in particular the second were very tightly contested. James was so accurate with his shots though he really contained Darwish and gave him few good opportunities to attack. Willstrop’s length was terrific throughout the whole tournament. When he went short he did a great job of keeping the ball tight to the side wall on the straight drops and angling it in to the side wall when volleying more from the centre of the court.
What was really interesting in both of Willstrop’s last two matches was that the first two games were really hardly fought but he forced his opponents to work very hard and gave them so few opportunities to really attack. The games were close in score but it was Willstrop who was controlling play. At the end of the second game both Gaultier and then Darwish seemed to have been mentally broken and not able to mount much resistance in the 3rd game.
The performance against Gaultier in the semi’s was really impressive partly because of how well James played but more importantly was the mental focus that he showed. The last couple of matches against Gaultier Willstrop has lost and has looked very frustrated with Gaultier during the match. Their last match, at the World Open Willstrop looked like he had carried over frustration from their previous match. In the semi’s of this tournament though he was incredibly focused and had put the frustration aside and definitely looked to be intent on getting revenge for the previous two defeats.
Congratulations to James Willstrop on such a dominating performance at the Hong Kong 2011 Open. From the opening match to the championship match he never dropped a game and played brilliant, accurate squash.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that the squash world was discussing David Palmer’s retirement from the PSA and now he has signed to compete on the US based Pro Squash Tour (PST). The PST’s full announcement can be read here.
Joe McManus, the commissioner of the PST stated that “David is the sport’s most recognizable name and one of its great ambassadors,” said McManus. “We have seen this type of signing before in sports. Pele came to America to bolster the game of soccer. Later, it was David Beckham for MLS. David’s addition to PST will benefit every player on the tour because his presence will allow us to attract more sponsorship and increase our tournament purses. It is a seminal moment in the history of the Pro Squash Tour and the game of squash.”
I certainly agree that David Palmer is one of the biggest names in squash. That is because of the success he has achieved on the PSA Tour and because of the longevity of his career. It is amazing that he left the PSA tour ranked #9 in the world in a game that certainly favours youth. He certainly is the biggest name on the PST. Heralding’s Palmer’s signing as comparable to Pele or Beckham coming to the play soccer in the US is certainly a bold statement but there are similarities. Both Pele and Beckham came to the US later in their careers. Palmer is certainly later in his career. Both Pele and Beckham were or are huge names in their sport as is Palmer. Beckham’s signing definitely got people talking about the MLS. I am sure the PST is hoping the signing of David Palmer will have the same outcome for them.
I do agree with Joe McManus’s assertion that having signed Palmer should allow the PST to attract more sponsorship and therefore increase prize money. I would expect that there will definitely be an increased interest in the PST’s events which should lead to larger audiences which should lead to more interest from companies wanting to market to them.
How will Palmer do on the Pro Squash Tour? Is he going to dominate? Following many squash related accounts on Twitter that seems to be the consensus. There is a belief that he is going to completely destroy the competition. When he left the PSA he certainly was playing at an extremely high level. I am definitely interested in seeing how he fares and just how well the PST’s current line-up fare against him.
Will more top international players follow Palmer and join the PST? If the prize money does grow there is a possibility of that of course. This is definitely an exciting time for the Pro Squash Tour and I look forward to following David Palmer on it and seeing if his signing does indeed help the growth of the PST and squash in general in North America.
David Palmer has been a fixture on the PSA tour for years and managed to maintain a top 10 ranking for over 10 straight years. He bridged generations of squash. He entered the top 10 near the end of Jansher Khan’s career when Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power were the dominant players on tour. When he announced his retirement Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour are now the dominant forces on tour. He finished his career ranked 10th in the world. He achieved nearly every major milestone in his lengthy career. He reached #1 in the world on 2 occasions, he won 2 World Opens and 4 British Opens.
The strength of his game in my opinion was commitment. He committed himself to being the best he could be in every aspect of the game. His physical training was second to none on the tour. He has a huge physical presence on court due to his size and strength. His endurance was equally impressive. His belief in himself was also an amazing attribute. He managed to win both of his World Open titles after having faced match points against. Even his swing showed commitment. The conviction he had when he hit the ball was impressive. He was set, hit through the ball and was very still and balanced while striking the ball.
Congratulations to David Palmer on a very impressive career and all the best in your future endeavours.
Below is a video interview with David Palmer after his last match.