Thursday, October 31, 2013
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Karim Darwish, Egyptian professional squash player
Karim Darwish, of Cairo, Egypt, is one of the world’s best professional squash players. His list of accomplishments in the sport is impressive. As a young man Karim won the World Junior title and then the World University Championships. In 2009, at the age of 27 and after over a decade on the professional tour, he attained the PSA world number one position. As a seasoned professional, Karim Darwish has Captained Egypt to the World Team Championships twice. In 2009 he received the PSA "Player of the Year" award in tribute of his extraordinary success. Darwish is still ranked at number five in the world today and has had an unbroken stretch in the PSA world top ten since October 2007. He has also attained the remarkable achievement of 25 major tournament titles during his illustrious career as a squash professional.
I recently got the privilege of asking Karim a few questions about his squash career and his life in general. Here is our conversation:
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
|Roger Federer with Nicol David, long time squash world number one from Malaysia|
Thursday, June 6, 2013
The reason I was uncomfortable about the decision was because wrestling was the clear favorite of the IOC Board during this vote. I suspected that this would happen after comments made by Jacques Rogge, the outgoing IOC president. In September this year his twelve year term will be over and the IOC will have a new president. That vote on a new sport for 2020 will take place at the IOC general assembly meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A host city will also be selected for 2020 at that time. For the record: There is only a single spot for a ‘new’ sport. Two of the three sports on the shortlist have already been in the Olympic sports program, so to say they are ‘new’ would be an inaccurate description. For the sake of inclusiveness, transparency, fairness and advancement of the Olympic movement, one would think that the choice faced by the IOC membership is an easy one. Just vote for the sport that has never been in the Games and has never been kicked out. That is, vote for squash.
Friday, May 10, 2013
|Ramy Ashour immediately before his first serve to Simon Rosner in their KPMG Grand Slam Cup match|
This Wednesday in Frankfurt, Germany, the condensed single night squash tournament that was made popular in Boston arrived in continental Europe. A US company run by John Nimick called Event Engine hosted the inaugural KPMG Grand Slam Cup in Frankfurt, Germany. The games format for these one day events is shortened to make the events more entertaining for the crowd. And they have also introduced a sudden death third game decider that makes for nail-biting viewing for the spectators as well as the large online TV audience. Furthermore, the fact that there were no PSA ranking points on the line (which would be the case if squash were played in the Olympics) created an almost exhibition-type atmosphere where everyone was quite relaxed and where the players' complete arsenal of shots were laid bare. The lucky spectators at the cocktail tables at the foot of the court, those in the stands on either side, the office workers peering in from the glass cubicles above and all of those watching live on PSASquashTV could appreciate the players' full set of talents on display. Everyone could see the play very clearly and follow the white ball perfectly. The game of squash has a come a long way in terms of visual appeal.
Monday, April 15, 2013
|The final four before play began - the English in red, the Australians in white|
Monday, March 11, 2013
|Damien Mudge, doubles squash player|
The head pro at the University Club in New York is thirty six year old Damien Mudge of Adelaide, Australia. The University Club of New York houses one of the oldest squash clubs in the United States and is the largest by members. Damien has been head pro there for the last twelve years and has been the world number one hardball doubles squash player for almost all of that time.
The hardball doubles tour is a uniquely North American phenomenon and you may be surprised to know that the prize money is more in aggregate than what singles players earn playing tournaments in the US. This means many of the world’s top PSA professionals move to the US after their PSA days and coach and play on the doubles tour. So, Mudge has plenty of competition.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
At the recent Tournament of Champions in New York City one player caused a few huge upsets and entered the fray of top men's professional squash. Twenty eight year old Stephen Coppinger, South Africa's number one squash player, is enjoying the best run of his professional career right now. Coppinger was world number twenty three going into the event, so he was seeded to lose to Peter Barker (English world number eight) but beat him in the first round. In the second, he should have lost to Adrian Grant (English world number seventeen). He beat Grant in five games, something which very few players ever do. Grant is notorious for his fitness and mental strength and his good record at winning five setters. This makes what Stephen did even more notable, considering that he beat Grant 11-1 in the fifth game of their ToC match.
|Stephen Coppinger, Tournament of Champions 2013 Giant Killer|
Monday, November 26, 2012
|Not a terrible view greeting you when you fly in to Bermuda|
Thursday, October 4, 2012
|England's Alison Waters on court against world number one, Nicol David|
Saturday, September 22, 2012
|Samantha Cornett, Canadian professional squash player|
Thursday, August 23, 2012
|Usain Bolt, fastest man ever, is an avid cricketer, but has he hit a squash ball?|
Thinking back, there were so many stand out moments during the Games that it is hard to choose just one favorite. I enjoyed seeing Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt achieve greatness and watching the Fab Five win the team gold in the women's gymnastics. And who can forget Misty and Kerri's third straight gold in the highly entertaining women's beach volleyball, or the inspirational efforts of double amputee Oscar Pistorius in the 400m? He competes again in the Paralympics starting next week in London.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Squash is in the running to be included in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. A reliable source once told me that a few decades ago squash simply had to formally apply to the IOC and it would have been guaranteed entry into the Games, but the powers that be (in squash) dragged their feet and did not apply. Then when they decided they wanted in, it was too late. One wonders what the motivation was to keep the sport out of the Games. During the 1970's squash was one of the preeminent sports in the world. Winning the British Open was the highest honor, it was the de facto World Champs at the time, and it was competed for by the best squash players from many countries around the world. I am sure those squash players would have opted to play for Olympic Gold had they gotten the chance. One can only hope that the decision at the time was made for good reasons, with the best interests of the sport in mind.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
|Donna Urquhart, Australian professional squash player|
Donna Urquhart was born in December 1986 in Yamba, a small town on the east coast of Australia popular for its good surfing. This tall and powerful squash player made her break through into the top twenty in 2010 after a year of strong results. In fact, at the Cayman Islands Open early that year she nearly took out world number two Jenny Duncalf, after losing a close fifth game. Since then Urquhart has shown she can hang with the world's very best players. Recently she beat both Madeline Perry and Kasey Brown, two players ranked higher than her in the current world rankings. Clearly Urquhart has a lot of upside potential.
Monday, April 30, 2012
|A busy day in New York City|
As you approach the National Squash Center building from the nearby downtown Manhattan subway stop on this cool but sunny Saturday afternoon, you see that the bicycle racks near the front entrance are near to full. Great, you think to yourself, this means there are lots of people inside. Pretty normal, but you still find it a welcome surprise after six months as a member at the club, as it makes for a nice ending to a day in the City. A friend of yours is parking his shiny new motorbike across the street. "Hey man, what's up?" you say. He saunters over with a smile on his face. "I'm good, thanks. Nice evening for squash huh?" "Yip" is your only reply. It's all you really need to say to your friend; he get's it. You walk into the club together.
Friday, March 16, 2012
|James Willstrop, immediately after reaching world number one for the first time|
Last month James Willstrop did something very impressive... he beat Ramy Ashour 3-0 in the finals of a major PSA tournament the day after Ramy had beaten Nick Matthew in convincing fashion. Ramy is widely considered the most talented player on the tour and has been world number one himself. Many assumed that Ramy would beat James too. I was one of them, admittedly, after seeing what happened in the semis versus Matthew. This was a battle between the top Egyptian squash player of his generation versus the two best Englishmen on the planet right now.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
There are three big Professional Squash Association (PSA) tournaments in the United States every season. The US Open was in Philly at the end of last year and the Tournament of Champions (ToC) just finished in New York. You would expect the third tournament to be in another major squash hub, like Boston, but it is not. It is two hours south of Washington DC, in Virginia.
|Which of the world's best squash professionals will win the next big tournament on US soil, the North American Open next week. To watch this impressive promo video click HERE|
Friday, January 20, 2012
|Nick Matthew in a match against a big rival recently, Amr Shabana|
Nick Matthew is easily one of the best English professionals in the history of the game of squash, a sport invented in the country of his birth. He was PSA world number one for all of 2010, has been world champion twice, has two Commonwealth individual gold medals and has led his English compatriots to the World Teams title twice, and the European Teams title seven times. On American soil he has won North American Open twice and the US Open once. Unfortunately though, he has never won the Tournament of Champions (ToC) in New York. This could change in the next week and he could potentially add this title to a long list of tournament wins during his illustrious career. I asked Nick Matthew a few general questions yesterday in New York. You can read his answers, some of which may surprise you, below.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
|The Trinity College Mascot above the squash offices, a blue and yelllow Bantam|
The Trinity College Men's Squash Team has won two hundred and fifty consecutive college matches over the course of the last thirteen years. It is the longest unbeaten streak in the history of US college sports. The men's team coach, Paul Assaiante, is now a legend of the game and is the current US National head coach. He even consults for the New England Patriots football team. He knows how to get the best out of a sports team.
Monday, December 19, 2011
|Yasir Ali Butt, Pakistani professional squash player|
Yasir Ali Butt is a professional squash player from Lahore, Pakistan. He is a friend of Baset Chaudhry, of Trinity College fame. They played together on the Pakistani junior national team. Yasir is currently a member of the senior national team, the team that underperformed in the world champs in Paderborn, Germany, a few months ago and was then controversially banned by the Pakistani Squash Federation from playing any events in his home country for eighteen months.
So he recently moved to the US to pursue his squash career.
Friday, December 9, 2011
|The clubhouse at the Rockaway Hunting Club in Cedarhurst, Long Island, NY|
There is a quiet little neighborhood an hour outside of New York City on the south shore of Long Island where, in 1878, the Rockaway Hunting Club was founded. As one would imagine, the primary sports at the outset were fox hunting, steeplechase racing and polo. Rockaway was particularly well known for its strong polo team. They frequently won the national championships and the club boasted many of the best polo players in the country. But the playing fields and paddocks have long since given way to eighteen grass tennis courts and a short but deceptively challenging golf course. The old stable house still stands; it is used as storage space for equipment and machinery. The oldest sport that remains is skeet shooting.
Monday, October 31, 2011
|St. Louis Cardinals celebration immediately after winning the World Series|
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
|Egyptian squash legend, Amr Shabana, holds aloft the US Open trophy in 2009|
This week I had the privilege of sitting down with Egyptian squash legend, Amr Shabana. I have never met anyone with such a record of achievement in the game (look him up if you don't know the name, in which case where have you been(!)) and so I was a little nervous asking some of these questions as I was not exactly sure how Shabana would respond. I was very relieved that Amr is not only a genius on the squash court but he is also a total gentleman, a great conversationalist, and has a real love for squash that is conveyed in the passion with which he speaks about the game. Oh, and he knows more about the history of the international game than anyone I have ever met. Hands down.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
|A picture of Maria from her youth|
Sunday, July 10, 2011
|Hisham Ashour, professional squash player|
For those who don't know, Egyptian professional squash player, Hisham Ashour, is the older brother of Ramy Ashour, a world number one (currently he is at two). Ramy is one of the most gifted of all the squash players on the PSA circuit right now, and he is not the only one in the family. Hisham is also an extremely talented squash player, but he has not achieved the same success in recent years as his younger brother. Occasionally, Hisham has been accused of being an underachiever, given his incredible abilities. But he has been putting in hard work this past season and has shot up in the world rankings to PSA number 13 - and he may still go higher. He is most famous for the Mazuki shot (check it out here: Mazuki video). He is also very well liked by many of the other top professional squash players. One gets the sense that he is like a big brother to many of them, not just Ramy, leading by example on court and through his enthusiasm and love of the game. A little while ago in New York I got the rare opportunity to talk with him -