Monday 21 July 2008

Nick's journey back from injury

Great to see Nick Matthew making a comeback from injury to compete in the upcoming Forexx Dutch Open 2008.

Click on the video to the left (another great effort from Pro-Active for the PSA) to see what he's had to undergo to overcome his injury and get back to full fitness ...

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Friday 18 July 2008

squashblog poll: personality goes a long way

Poll resultsThe recent poll on this site that asked readers whether they thought that squash needed a 'Steve Redgrave-type' figure showed that opinion was divided.

The poll was in response to an article in the Guardian that suggested that the sport needed a popular figurehead/'personality' to attract greater participation and more money into the game ...

50% of respondents said that having a Steve Redgrave-type figure as the 'face' of the sport would be a positive thing.

And while around a third of you were unsure about whether such a figurehead would actually bring anything worthwhile to the sport, it was clear that those who thought that the players could effectively represent themselves were in a minority.

I don't think the problem here is in how the players perform in front of the media (almost every squash player I have ever seen interviewed is far more eloquent, humble and respectful of fellow professionals that in other sports I could mention). The problem is how the players access - or are given access - to the media, and the frequency and depth of coverage that they receive.

It is worth noting that the original Guardian article also drew mixed responses, so it's worth pausing for a moment to consider what the suggestion actually means.

Oliver Irish writes in the Guardian article suggests that "without a Steve Redgrave-type figure to both inspire young people to take up the sport and to attract sponsorship, how can squash become anything more than a minority sport?". The implication here is two-fold: that a) an inspirational figure in squash would generate the renewed interest that the squash craves, and b) someone like Sir Steve would help deliver those results for the sport.

The underlying suggestion that squash is crying out for a 'figurehead' is difficult to argue with, given declining interest in the sport of the past 20 years. Though perhaps some of the assumptions in the article are a little naive. Squash in the UK and abroad has a wealth of young, dedicated, highly marketable professionals who could all act as inspirational figures given the right level of media exposure. Some of the comments attached to the article make this point (though given how harsh some of the attacks were on the journalist, I'm not sure if the Guardian will bother to run a squash article again!).

Does squash need a figurehead like Sir Steve?Secondly, is Steve Redgrave the right kind of figure? The qualities associated with the five-time Olympic rowing champion are beyond reproach: commitment, dedication, physical and mental strength, the ability to be an ambassador for rowing and sport in general. An all round role-model that we should all aspire to emulate.

But Irish also mentions other, younger sportsmen that have caught the imagination of young people in the UK, such as Lewis Hamilton and Andy Murray. The journalist's point is that squash needs to attract younger players and more money into the game via sponsorship. Hamilton and Murray have a long way to go to achieve Redgrave's successes, yet the principal factor that makes them more attractive to youngsters and sponsors alike is age. The nearest squash has to a Redgrave figure is perhaps Peter Nicol who, while continuing to play a important role as an ambassador for squash and is undoubtedly also a great role model for young people, is - like Redgrave - retired from professional competition.

A 'Redgrave-type' figure, then, suggests someone who has great experience, an unblemished record, who can teach the youngsters a thing or two. In a celebrity-obsessed age, I'm afraid this won't wash. Any 'figurehead' must be younger, at the top of their game, and project an image that young people want to identify themselves with. 'Image' is not just about having the right kind of values: Tiger Woods and Roger Federer espouse the right values, but their image is moulded also by their representation in the media and their sponsorship deals.

As some of the comments attached to the Guardian article suggest, there are any number of players (such as James Willstrop) who could provide this role. Yet it is the conditions for this to happen - principally greater media exposure - that allow for such a figurehead to emerge.

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Tuesday 15 July 2008

Top players head for wine region

Australian Open 2008The Australian Open 2008 looks like it might be on the road to regaining the status of its vintage years, with David Palmer seeking to add the title he has never won to his glut of British and World Opens.

Palmer's entry should help to quench the Aussie public's thirst for seeing their leading players perform on home soil, where professional tournaments no longer attract the status they once did ...

I commented on the event - also held in the wine region of Clare - last year, lamenting the decline in the quality and number of events held Down Under.

Have things changed? Revisit the article - and have your say!

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Friday 4 July 2008

Richard Graham interview

The newly-appointed Chief Executive of the PSA, Richard Graham, is the subject of a lengthy two-part interview on YouTube.

Click to the right to see the first part of the interview ...

Interviewed by James Poole from, Mr Graham explains his vision for the PSA tour.

Below: Part 2 of the interview

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Wednesday 2 July 2008

Why 'the Wimbledon of squash'?

As it's Wimbledon fortnight, I've dug out an old article that argues why squash shouldn't align itself with tennis' traditions.

Disagree? Have your say ...

Read the article

Left: Photo copyright - AELTC

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Tuesday 1 July 2008

Tennis traditions given the chop

Federer does it, Nadal apparently does it, and Fabrice Santoro is apparently the master of it.

It appears that squash shots are becoming an essential part of a top tennis player's armoury - as an article in the Times last week revealed ...

"If you're dragged out wide and you've got no chance to get a racket on it properly, you can either throw up a lob and most likely watch someone bury it, or you can alter your grip and play a squash shot", Andrew Castle, the BBC presenter and former British No1, explains in the article.

Click on the video above to see Roger Federer employing a squash-type shot to stay in a rally.

The article also included comments from Peter Nicol on squash shots creeping into tennis:

"Yes, they are clearly adopting squash techniques, the use of the wrist shots, especially on grass ... Both squash and tennis have got quicker and quicker and you have to adapt and mix it up. You can't just use the old techniques any more. Federer once said that a lot of his different shots were from his days playing squash."

Watch a clip of Roger Federer using a squash shot to stay in a rally

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