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The
Reinvented Jonathon Power

By Ron Beck
May 13, 2005

All content © 2004 Squashtalk


[last update was

15-may-05

]

Jonathon
Power Gives Everyone a Lesson

Jonathon Power keeps introducing new
tactics against familiar foes such as David Palmer. (photo ©
2005 Fritz Borchert)

Jonathon
Power is what the game of squash needs right now — skill, excitement,
drama, showmanship, charisma, and yes, extreme mental toughness.

I
am happy to report, after having watched Power in action at several events
this spring, that Jonathon Power is back, reinvented, better than ever,
confounding the critics.

He
won the last two events – Bermuda Masters and Superseries Finals – in
convincing fashion and in between collected his sixth Canadian National
title. In the process he defeated almost every player ranked ahead of
him, including #1 Thierry Lincou, #2 Lee Beachill, #3 Peter Nicol, as
well as David Palmer and Amr Shabana.

About
a year ago this time Power was struggling to recover from a constant stream
of injuries, and the critics (most of them from England) were quick to
predict his final demise from elite PSA tournament contention.

In
fact, the predictions of Jonathon Power’s demise have dated back to the
turn of the century, the beginning of 2000. In a now infamous issue of
Squash Player magazine, a number of "squash pundits,"
(all of them from England) were asked to predict the PSA men’s pro top
ten in one, two and five years from now. To a man, they all predicted
that Jonathon Power would be dropping out of the top ten almost immediately.
How wrong history has shown those predictions to be!

What
Jonathon Power’s opponents have known for some time, and what most of
the squash observers fail to fully grasp is the extent of Jonathon Power’s
(a) mental toughness on the court, (b) ability to analyze individual opponents
and return several events later with a new strategy for that troublesome
opponent, and (c) determination to constantly question his own approaches,
try new things, and pursue new ways to achieve superiority in the squash
world.

When
Jonathon Power said this week that his goal is to "one more time
reach number one," his opponent’s better take notice because he probably
has a good plan to achieve that.

When Power and Amr Shabana meet up,
expect a lot of fireworks, exciting all-court attack, and clean play.
(photo © 2005 David Barry)

Jonathon’s
approach to the Superseries Finals this week is a telling exhibit. First,
Jonathon arrived in the company of his wife Sita. In a tournament setting
where Jonathon has always felt somewhat uncomfortable, namely England,
Sita clearly provided him a good anchor point and emotional boost. Second,
Jonathon showed impressive mental toughness. In the matches where he needed
to be at his best – in the semis against David Palmer and in the finals
against Thierry Lincou – Power was totally focused, completely patient
in his shot selection, active in his discussions with the referee but
never out of control, and a showman in the best sense of the word, which
unpredictabley got him the strong support of the London crowd. Third,
Jonathon was physically and mentally ready to "suck it up,"
as he phrased it.

Jonathon Power is looking trim, fit
and mentally sharp. (photo © 2005 David Barry)

On
semi finals day, Jonathon arrived at the Broadgate arena with his ankle
taped up. His shoes had broken the day before and he had consequently
had a slight ankle twist. He was forced to played with a brand new pair
of shoes, of a brand he had never used before (Yyonex badminton shoes).
Always thinking, Power informed us that he had selected badminton shoes
because they are softer than squash shoes, and he didn’t have time to
break them in, so he decided on the softer shoes.

As
it turned out, he was exceedingly sure-footed in the event-filled contest
with David Palmer that took both players to all corners of the court on
a constant basis.

On
finals day, Jonathon arrived at the Broadgate arena not sure whether he
could play at all.

"I
can’t believe he’s out there at all," his wife Sita told me before
the match. "He woke up and said he couldn’t move and couldn’t possibly
play." (because of a knee strain suffered in his match with Palmer)
But after spending all day getting his knee checked by a physio and a
doctor, being assured that he was unlikely to create further injury, and
being expertly taped up and worked on, Power arrived at the arena ready
to give it a whirl.

"It’s
my last event until Hong Kong in late August," Jonathon said, "So
I decided, just suck it up and play your hardest. I just decided to go
all out and see what happens."

There
was nothing tentative about Jonathon’s approach to his match with Lincou.
In fact he was totally focused, totally sharp, and totally mobile.

A
Jonathon Power who had been humbled by Lincou in a disastrous match at
the US Open in September of 2003, then lost to him in the finals of the
Canadian Classic in November of 2004, tonight turned things about and
completely dominated him. Yes it’s true that Lincou may have been somewhat
tired from two long five game matches the prior two days in London, but
Jonathon attacked Lincou with a new game plan, that had Lincou scrambling
to retrieve a dizzying array of cross-angle shots that were offensive
rather than defensive, and a constant but measured attack that forced
Lincou to stretch and react to any open shots, especially Lincou’s lobs
to both the backhand and forehand that were volleyed by Power from almost
impossible positions and frequently forced Lincou short.

The
Jonathon Power, who the pundits (and some of his opponents) have written
off several times, has come back from his injuries trimmer, with new training
and nutritional habits, and smarter about his tournament appearances.
"I can’t just play back to back." Jonathon has said recently.
"My body just can’t take that. I have to be careful about the intervals
between appearances." He has also modified his tactics. Still immensely
dangerous up front and from almost anywhere in the court, he is now more
patient about his shotmaking, and selective about which shots to barrage
which opponents with.

And
the Power who many had written off as losing interest, has shown he has
far from lost interest and may be tougher and more durable than some of
his rivals. "I’ve been in squash since I’ve been a kid." He
commented recently. "It’s in my blood. I’m going to stay in the game."
PSA rivals take note: Jonathon is not done with the tournament circuit.
He has a few things to prove, especially whether his body will allow him
to finish another run back to #1. With a good three month break before
the next major ranking event, don’t sell him short!

Power got the crowd on his side, even
at the tensest moments of his Superseries contest with David Palmer.
(photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert)

And
his court demeanor has to also be mentioned. Power, who while never rude
on court, was in the past viewed as a complainer. But Power has polished
his act, and while still ready to stand up for his views with on-court
discussion, he’s now more likely than not to get the crowd on his side,
while he appeals for his point of view with a touch of humor, displays
a softer edge, and argues his point with a strong measure of positive
showmanship. In their current reinvention, his animation and commentary
are lively and good for the game.

And
Jonathon has shown himself to be ready to contribute a lot more to the
game. The new instructional DVD he’s put out is more thorough and thoughtful
than most similar efforts. And the camps he has just started to get serious
about at Dartmouth College are a genuine and committed effort.

Special
Offer! Get the SuperSeries Videos 2003, 02, 00 produced by Jean De Lierre
including the great ’03 Nicol-Power match.