“Nothing is more revealing than movement” Martha Graham
For a brief moment it seemed like the squash world may be turned on its head by the surge of younger players on tour with a new style of attacking squash and movement.
It appears the attacking squash may not be the hindrance to world dominance but perhaps it may be the court movement.
The movement was in unison with the squash; raw and improvised. This wooed the spectators but may not be conducive to longevity and consistent performance – the benchmark of success and a world ranking – or to keeping injury or pain free.
No player wins events from the treatment table and the primary goal of every professional is to be fit and healthy first.
The game of squash is generous and can accommodate many visions but court movement must be ordered to follow the functional lines and mechanics the body best operates within to ensure long term success.
The intensity of the sport requires a balance of movement fundamentals from moving forwards, backwards, sideways, up, down and sometimes all of the above within a split second to find the appropriate economy and position for maximising the court space. The finest example of this may be Amr Shabana whose spatial awareness seems unrivalled, his awareness of the ball in the court in conjunction with his body is immaculate and has allowed him to compete at the highest level for a number of years despite maybe not being amongst the ‘fittest’ players from a purely physical standpoint.
The synchronisation of his movement is an art and not without thought – conscious or otherwise and I think it would be foolish to assume that only the mind has the capacity for thought and awareness.
It does seem Shabana is prepared to forsake some volleys to allow the court to fit with his size, ball striking and movement patterns. Only Ramy Ashour’s extraordinary tempo and creativity can consistently unhinge his game plan and rhythm.
The obvious mantra at the higher levels is to take the ball or get to the ball early and all aspects of the game lean towards this principle. Players are constantly looking at the fractions within their swing and movement to cut down the time it takes to play the ball and to suffocate their opponent of time and court position. Once this is achieved then the deceit and artistry can commence.
But this done without deliberate planning can be hugely damaging on the body and will need to be supplemented by specialised conditioning and a sound understanding of footwork and movement basics.
It has been interesting to see Ramy Ashour during his last tournament outing (sadly some time ago now) adopt some of the movement patterns of Thierry Lincou with whom he is working in an attempt to protect his body from the fierce intensity with which he plays the game. This in itself is highly commendable and reveals the type of character needed to succeed by working at a perceived weakness but is it correct?
There are obvious issues with such a venture not least the body structures both men possess and the style of squash they play. Are they mutually conducive to one another? I have my doubts and believe Ramy could save his body in many other ways without radically changing his movement patterns which I think in large part have beautiful timing and rhythm.
So, it may be time for the next generation of professional squash players to build a strong movement and footwork foundation to complement their modern type of squash. Rhythm tends to be personal so it is best not to fight this and adopt general principles which can complement your own game philosophy. Peter Nicol is on record saying words to the effect of – only when I move well do I play well – and the other greats of the game may agree. We need to think of hitting and moving as one and the same thing.
In response to the quote at the top I would add that for squash players nothing is more revealing about a player and their personality than how they prepare to and execute the serve.