Saturday, 27 December 2008

Happy New Year from squashblog

Happy New Year!Last post of the year before disappearing until mid-January. So (a belated ) Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone who has supported the site this year: let's keep the debate going in 2009.

Things I wanted to write about at length this year but ran out of time ...

1. Player of the Year: For me this had to be Karim Darwish (bottom), who stepped out of Shabana and Ashour's shadows to win in Qatar and Saudi, and a runner-up in the Manchester World Open.

It seems a little strange to overlook Ramy's remarkable achievement in winning the World title, but the velocity of his rise made it kind of inevitable sooner or later (maybe for him the achievement will not be 'when' but 'how many'). Karim's ascendancy to his highest ranking of number 2 in the PSA rankings appears to have more in common with Shabana's career; his elder countryman began his domination at roughly the same age Darwish is now, after adding a missing mental component to complement his shot-making talent.

Darwish spoke after Qatar about 'playing to win rather than just playing': he has clearly also worked on the mental aspect of his game, and it's great to see a player who may have been thought of as a 'nearly-man' (that World Junior title seems a long time ago now) prove his doubters wrong though patience and application.

2. The scoring debate/row/storm/scandal: Yes, it really was called all these things in various parts of the squash media. I felt this kind of got buried under the World Open coverage - though hats off to Ian McKenzie for conducting something like a proper debate at the Squash Player site.

The bigger story here is not in the scoring change to PAR itself (which I happen to agree for the good of the professional game), but in the decision-making process. As Tom Cruise (nearly) said: show me the mandate!

Karim Dariwhs3. Olympic Task Force: some positive news about squash's Olympic bid probably passed many of you by (nearly me included) as it slipped out just before Christmas. It appears that a sense of urgency has finally hit the WSF with less than a year to go before the IOC vote on Olympic inclusion, and an 'Olympic Task Force' is being set up which, amongst other things, will engage with new media "by using the internet to approach all those Squash players and enthusiasts worldwide who would like to support the campaign".

After assuming that the governing body had taken the lower-key route that I suggested when things were looking dicey , does this now mean that things are swinging the other way? Let's judge when we see that internet campaign - and the other initiatives - emerge. Happy to help!

Read the WSF press release here.

4. Squash websites: yo-yoing up and down like the FTSE-100. What's going on? Does squash get the media it deserves?

5. The PSA board:
now composed of a good mix of voices that will hopefully bring objectivity and new ideas to the development of the men's tour. Let's hope this is matched by representative, transparent decision making over the next year as the organisation enters a new era.

6. Women's tournaments in London:
I'm being selfish here. While it was great to see the best women players in action in Manchester at the Worlds, they surely deserve a platform in the capital. There's nothing like Canary Wharf or the Super Series for the WISPA pros, and looking back over event calendars I can't find the last time a prestige-venue women's tournament was held in London - and that's where their governing body is based! Why?

I'll try and revisit most of these in the New Year. In the meantime, keep sending in your comments, thoughts, ideas etc.

Happy 2009!

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