A ToC Cheat Sheet

By Matt Lombardi

To help ToC viewers who aren’t familiar with the pro squash tour, I’ve divided up the players into categories based on their distinguishing characteristics for easy reference.

Viewers who do know the tour will consider these lists a crude tool, but trust me – in five minutes you’ll have a basic grasp of what to expect from the players in front of you.

These lists include all of the players from the main draw except for those who had to go through the qualifying rounds (which are still being played as I write this). Each list is given in order of the players’ current PSA rankings.

The Squash Geniuses

  • Ramy Ashour
  • Nick Matthew
  • Gregory Gaultier
  • James Willstrop
  • Mohamed El Shorbagy
  • Amr Shabana

These guys are the superstars of the game. Between them they’ve won all of the major tournaments for the past two years, and one is going to win the ToC. Each has his particular strengths, but they share a mastery of every key skill the game requires: shot-making, retrieving, endurance, speed, tenacity, delicate touch, tactical savvy – you name it. They all have incredible squash instincts; they glide around the court as though they know where the ball is going before the opponent hits it. And they all have periods of being “in the zone” when they’re simply unbeatable. Bottom line, you want to watch any match that involves one of these players. Even if it’s a blowout, you’re going to see some amazing squash. When they play against each other, that when the real magic happens. Most awkward fit in this category: El Shorbagy, unlike everyone else on this list, has never been ranked #1 and has never won a major pro tournament. But as I discussed in the previous post, he’s knocking on the door.

The Lords of Discipline

  • Karim Darwish
  • Peter Barker
  • Tom Richards
  • Laurens Jan Anjema
  • Adrian Grant
  • Ong Beng Hee
  • Nicholas Mueller

There’s a diverse range of players on this list, but they all spend a good deal of their time on court focusing on patience and precision. They win by making their opponents work harder than they do, and, when necessary, by enduring a lot of punishment without breaking. At first glance they’re not as entertaining as the players in other categories – you won’t find them going for as many flashy, high-risk shots. Over the course of a match, though, their play can be both impressive and engaging. If this were boxing, these would be the fighters who seldom score knockouts but are almost always still standing in the 15th round. Most awkward fit in this category: It’s ungenerous of me not to put Karim Darwish in the “Genius” group. He’s an exceptional talent and a former world #1, but it’s been long time since he’s made it to the final of a marquee event, and he keeps losing his matches to the top dogs.

The Master Blasters

  • Omar Mosaad
  • Alistair Walker
  • Simon Rosner
  • Cameron Pilley
  • Hisham Ashour
  • Olli Touminen

These boys like to put extra oomph into their shots. Power is part of every squash player’s game, but it’s almost never the crucial element of success (which helps explain why Pilley, who has hit the fastest shot ever recorded, ranks 18th in the world and not first). This list includes some of the largest bodies on the tour, and their use of hard hitting both plays to a strength and compensates for a weakness: they’re blasting away to keep the quicker, more nimble players from having a chance to pick them apart with drop shots and deception. Most awkward fit in this category: Hisham Ashour, the older brother of Ramy, really should have a category of his own; he’s a big hitter, but more than that he’s a big risk-taker who lives and dies by his daring shot-making. He’s very fun to watch. Also, while Walker can crank it up when he wants to, his game is more varied than the typical big hitter.

The Golden Retrievers

  • Tarek Momen
  • Saurav Ghousal
  • Stephen Coppinger
  • Miguel Angel Rodriguez

Here are squash’s speed demons, who fly around the court picking up any shot their opponent can toss at them. They’re enjoyable to watch for two reasons: some of their retrievals are spectacular in and of themselves, and often they’re quick enough on the ball that they can counterattack. Their specialty may be retrieving, but that doesn’t mean they’re conservative, low-risk players. Most awkward fit in this category: Steve Coppinger stands a head taller than the other players on this list, and I’ve included him partly to fend off criticism that I’m height-biased. He’s not as quick as the little guys, but in the most recent match I’ve seen him play, against Omar Mosaad in December’s Hong Kong Open, his dogged retrieving was the key to his upset win.

The American

  • Todd Harrity

Every year the ToC has one “wildcard” player who’s put in the draw despite not having the qualifications in order to add a local rooting interest. This year it’s Harrity, a senior at Princeton and the reigning U.S. collegiate champion. I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve read flattering things about his game. Matched against the best players in the world, though, his biggest prize is probably going to be a good story to tell his grandkids.

Join Our Email List