Thursday night is league night for me in our regional league. I play B level and myself had a pretty straight forward match. Our #1 though was in very tough playing the top player in our league, one of the top under 19 players in Canada. The junior used to play at our club until he went to University so these two have played countless time before. The match ended with the expected player winning but not without some interesting twists and turns along the way.
The pace of play for the outset was really fast and hard. Both players are extremely fit and their movement is astounding. The ability to retrieve balls that look like they are not returnable is quite amazing. The first game was tight the whole way through with rarely more than a couple of points between them. Our #1 was able to close it out in extra points though I believe 15-13.
Games 2 and 3 went to the junior but were tightly contested.
Game 4 is where it got really interesting. The junior got off to a quick lead and kept adding points and our #1 was having no success getting on the board. At around 5-0 there were murmurs in the crowd of a possible bagel. The junior was digging in and our #1 looked like he could not figure how to win a rally. Even when he was really extending the junior the ball kept coming back. This is where the really interesting turn came. The lead eventually got to 7-0 and there was a clear focus from the kid on getting the bagel. He definitely knew it was possible and wanted it. Our #1 knew it too but for the last few points had worked the kid all over the court and even though he had lost the rallies it was clear who was doing way more work. At 7-0 a very hard and low unexpected boast ended the run and the hopes of the bagel to bring the score to 7-1. That 1 point was huge of course but the work that our #1 made the kid do was even more important. The game completely turned around and the score kept getting closer. The change in the match was not only physical it was also mental. There seemed to be a definite focus on getting the bagel and when that was lost there was a mental let down as well. The game eventually got to 10-9 for the junior. Remarkably close considering the score had been 7-1. The kid did manage to close the game out and thus the match but it definitely looked in question.
It was a very entertaining match to watch. The 4th game was definitely an incredible affair with a couple of lessons to be learned. If you are the player that is struggling to win even a point against a tough opponent don’t give up hope. Mental toughness is imperative. If you are in the rallies and really making him work focus on that. Don’t let the negative aspect of the score deter you. See the positive in how you are extending your opponent and realize the work you are making him do will pay dividends later. Look for a let down in focus. If you are the player way out in front remember the goal is to win the match not bagel your opponent. Certainly you do not want to give up any cheap points but keep focused on the match and its outcome not on winning a personal battle, getting the bagel, and in the process risk losing the war.
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.
I will focus.
Today I would like to discuss the hurry up drop shot. It is an extremely effective shot as it puts your opponent under time pressure. It is best used when your opponent has been forced to boast out of the back corner and has invited you to the front. Take the boast as early as you can and play a nice safe soft drop shot. The focus of this shot is to hit it very early, soft and to keep it tight to the side wall when it bounces. Do not worry about it being very low and tight to the tin focus more on hitting and early and keeping it tight to the wall. We are not trying to win with this shot we are making our opponent work really hard to get to the ball. Hopefully they will be late and hit something weak cross court so we can send back to the back corner and get them running the diagonal. The hurry up drop shot like many other shots is designed to put mileage on our opponent. Use it to make them run and watch the court open up later in the match when their legs are not as fresh as they were at the beginning of the match.
Practicing with a purpose in squash is vital to achieving good results and to improving your game. All to often when players play practice matches they don’t set objectives. They just get on court and play. It is very helpful to focus on a particular part of your game. Do this before you even step on court and then remind yourself of it throughout the game. It could be movement, watching the ball and your opponent, your front court game or any number of other things. The key is to remember to focus on what you have decided to practice on and to stick with it. This will help keep you focused during your practice match and help establish good habits. Over time those good habits will make it in to your game even when you are under severe pressure.
We at Control the ‘T’ Sports would like to congratulate Nick Matthew on his recent win at the 2010 PSA World Championships.
2010 has been a great year for Nick Matthew as he reached World #1, won double gold at the Common Wealth Games and now has captured the World Championship.
Nick’s success is amazing considering the competition in the men’s game right now. He has reached the top of the game at a time where there is so much parity in the top 5 or 6 players. Also considering that he is the oldest of the top group of players makes this accomplishment even more astounding!
It goes to show that a hard work, focus, training and setting goals can take you a long way.
Nick’s racquet of choice is the Dunlop Aerogel 4D Evolution 120.
In September of 2009 I changed squash clubs due to a move and since then I have made some serious changes to my game too. I had a chance to play one of my friends at my old club the other day and there was a startling difference in both of our styles of play. We both had pretty predictable styles of play before, very different in that I almost always played long and he always tried to go short.
Congratulations to Nick on achieving the #1 spot in the world. This last year of squash from Nick has been very impressive. He has steadily moved up the rankings from the middle to bottom of the top 10 to being the top player in the world. Since coming back from injury he has seemed more focused. He has always played at a really hard pace but he has really become more clinical in finishing since his return.
What is also impressive is that he has reached #1 just before turning 30. Ramy reaching #1 was almost expected. He is young and so full of natural talent. It has been believed by many for the last couple of years that Ramy reaching #1 was just a matter of time. I am not sure too many people would have picked Nick a couple of years ago to reach the top spot in the game. It is great to see such a good work ethic and focus on a goal be rewarded.
Nick’s rise to the top of the squash world is something we should all take note of – hard work and focus pays off.
Control the ‘T’ Sports