The Global Gallery: Views on the world of squash by Martin Bronstein

Global Gallery Number Three, May 2, 1999   ©1999 SquashTalk    [SPECIAL! Gallery 4: May 6th]

[Who is Martin Bronstein?]

[Read Global Gallery # Two, from April 2, 1999]

[Read Global Gallery # One, from March 8, 1999]

Age Rage

The blue band brigade in Britain were up in arms – tennis elbow straps clearly visible – against the organizers
of this year’s World Masters Championships to be held in Sheffield, England, 22-28 August.

The organizers had reneged on a promise. I got this straight from the horse’s mouth: Lance Kinder is a major mover and player in the Vets squash in Britain with a garage full of trophies to prove it. He also runs the huge GB Vets annual tournaments and is not only highly respected but liked by all.

Which is probably why Mr. Kinder was invited on to the organizing committee for the world doubles when he played in the last championships in S. Africa
two years ago.
It was then agreed that there would be doubles tournaments for all age categories, which go up to 70+.

But lo! When the literature and entry forms arrived, there were only three categories for doubles: 35+, 40+ and 45+. When Lance objected to omission, he was told they could run unofficial doubles matches. WSF prez Susie Symcock said there would be only singles courts on which to play doubles. Lance points out
that there ARE only singles courts in Sheffield, there will be no softball doubles courts available.

He also pointed out that few players from overseas would come just for singles. They want a full week of squash, singles and doubles. Well, I am glad to report that the organisers have had second thoughts and that there will be doubles tournaments in four categories: 35+, 45+, 55+ and 65+ for Men. Women have three categories: 35+, 45+ and 50+. There are eight age groups for Men’s singles and five for Women’s singles.
For info and entry forms: Fax – 44(0) 114 273 6682

No Ageism in this Column

Perhaps I should explain the term Blue Band Brigade used in the above item when referring to Vet squash
players. As the body gets older, bits start breaking down so in most vets games you’ll see the blue
elbow straps, the blue knee straps, the blue thigh straps and the blue shoulder straps helping the
mature (subtle eh?) player to keep body and joints together.

Do I mock these wise elders? No sir, I am
one of them. It was just three years ago when I found myself donning a huge elbow strap against
recurring tennis elbow, a knee strap because I thought my knees were finally going and an ankle strap.
But what I really need, I realize now, is a blue brain strap to shore up the decline of that muscle.
Alas they are not available despite constant assurances from the boffins that Artificial Intelligence is

New Rules for Doubles

While North America has always had proper doubles courts, in the UK doubles were played with the
softball on a singles court. If the players were hackers, matches could go on for months.
(All right, I exaggerate) The plus side of this situation was that players with brains realized you
couldn’t hack the ball – you had to go for shots and so it actually improved their singles game by
adding an array of winners to their arsenal.

With the new, wider doubles courts, things improved enormously, but there are not many around. And so
watching an interminable doubles match on a singles court recently where the players rarely went for the
nick, I came up with some new rules for the game of doubles on a singles court.

  • THE TIME RULE: No game to last more than 15 minutes. Whoever leads at that time wins. If tied, sudden death on next point.
  • TIN RULE: To help with winners, tin height reduced to 6″. (That’ll get rid of the hackers.)
  • BONUS POINTS RULE. Dead nick winners earn two points. Overhead smashes into the nick worth three points.
  • THE LETS RULE. Any player causing three lets to be sent off for three minutes making his opponent play one-on-two.
  • THE DRINKS RULE: If all five games go to the 15 minute sudden death, the players have to buy drinks for the referees and ALL spectators as compensation for exposing them to terminal boredom.

Speedy Stefan

Belgian squash star Stefan Casteleyn who is up to 11 in the world rankings because of his tremendous
performance in last year’s world open, says it’s his speed that marks him out from other players.
Not just on the court either. Stefan married his American lady in April and, he tells me, in September
she will give birth to a baby boy. Slow down Stefan. And incidentally, he is a perfect European.
As the European countries gradually see the sense of becoming the United States of Europe through the
common market, Stefan is setting an example by playing in leagues in Holland, Germany, France and Belgium. It’s the only way he can assure himself of top class competition during lean PSA periods.

Nottingham Centre of Excellence

Listen to me young man – or woman. If you are really serious about becoming a top
ten squash player, book a flight to Heathrow or Manchester and then take a train to
Nottingham. The Nottingham Squash Rackets club is serious stuff. On any given day you will find the likes of Simon Parke, Alex Gough, Peter Marshal and Dan Jenson,- to name but a few major names, practising and playing each other. Women include Jenny Tranfield and top Scot Pam Nimmo. The club has a proud history of hosting the best of British going back to Gawain Briars and Lisa Opie. If you get that sort of opposition every day, you can’t help but improve.

The Dreadful One-eyed Monster Strikes Again

I read, with tears of laughter and hateful frustration in my eyes, that tennis wants to change its
rules (no ad points, best of three sets in Davis Cup matches)
in order to make tennis more television friendly. “Don’t do it,” I scream at the newspaper. “Why,”
I yell hysterically ” do you want to be friendly to television?”

You see, dear reader, this outburst of Russian emotion (despite my Brit upbringing), is
brought on by the fact that I’ve seen it all before. Squash, goaded by the seductive blandishments of
television, changed more technologically than any other sport. New scoring, transparent courts, colored
walls, colored balls, graphite racketsÂ… you name it, Squash changed it. The result? Less television

In the eighties the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) used to broadcast at least two hours of
squash a year. (that’s right, a YEAR!). Now, almost nothing. Oh yes, you see PSA tournaments
telecast in 30 minute highlight segments because the PSA and sponsors pay all production costs and
present the networks with finished tapes for broadcast. And how much does Sky or TSN pay for this? Zilch.

Sport has been seduced by television. Every sports governing body thinks that the way to huge
sponsorship deals and untold riches for all concerned is to get on the tube. In my mind the television
camera has become this dirty old one-eyed man offering fraudulent rewards in exchange for our body and
minds. Like innocent children, we keep getting suckered in. Television’s promise of fame and fortune
ranks in the same category as perpetual motion, eternal youth and cars that run on water.

And now tennis. Marketing giant ISL has signed a contract with the ATP for $1.2 billion over ten
years. Seven million people tuned into the incredible Davis Cup tie between the US and GB. Five setters
and advantage points did not mar the excitement, it prolonged it. This fact seems to have escaped the
suits who feel network television has special needs. What television needs is closure, so that we can
all get back to human intercourse again rather than troglodytes slouched in front of the tube or glued to VDU becoming internet nerds.

England do the Double in Europe

So the BHI (Bronstein Handicapping Index) for team championships came unstuck in the European championships. In the big showdown final, England’s Men beat Scotland 3/1 in the four-man team event, while the England Women beat Germany 3/0. Peter Nicol, now ranked two in the world, beat No. 4 Paul Johnson 3/1, Simon Parke, ranked seven beat world number five Martin Heath 3/1, Chris Walker,16, beat John White, ranked 17, and Lee Beachill, 44, beat Stuart Cowie, ranked 68.

Simon Parke has been playing superbly lately – probably the best of his career. He is more controlled and his game has matured. Although he is ranked two places below Heath, his record over the last six months has been better. Heath’s ranking still benefits from the mass of points he earned for getting to the final of the Al Ahram last year. Chris Walker also earned some brownie points for his heroic comeback from two games down to beat the upcoming Aussie-turned-Scot John White.

Jonah Barrington once said that winners expect to win and losers expect to lose. The trick is pulling the correct switch in the brain to start thinking like a winner. England have won the European team championship so often, that they go on court expecting to win. The team spirit lifts their performance up several notches and Scotland couldn’t handle it.

Wales came third and Finland fourth. I did predict that France could make the top four: they finished fifth.

Quote of the Month

One of my all-time favorite squash people was Mohamed Dardir, known everywhere
simply as Dardi. This small, likeable Egyptian has been a truly global force in
squash, training the Egyptian team to success and then having a profound effect on New Zealand squash. Aussie great Heather McKay told me Dardir was the first coach to ever to tell her to aim for a spot on the front wall for a specific result. In the eighties he lived in England and I even had a lesson from him. Most remembered, however, was the day sitting next to him at the British Open and listening to his comments on almost every shot on all the matches. I learned a lot.

In 1971 he wrote a book with Garth Gilmour called, “Dardir on Squash.” There’s a lot of wonderful advice in the small book, but I like this from the Q & A section:

Q:I always have trouble hitting a drop shot off the back wall. What am I doing wrong?

A: What you are doing wrong is trying to hit a drop shot off the back wall. This is an extremely difficult shot – unless you’ve mastered this in practise, this is one you should avoid.

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