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Stewart Boswell Factor: Injury Layoffs


31 , 2005: by Dan and Joe Kneipp (kah-nipe)         

see: [Susan Morrison’s followup to
this column
To Change the Rankings System]
and the
English Open Preview
on related subjects.

The Stewart Boswell Factor: Why
is this top tenner forced to re-enter the system at #262 ? Photo
© 2005 Debra Tessier

Recently we were talking with a player ranked in the 80s,
asking him about his upcoming tournament plans. He was hesitant to enter
a small tournament that he would normally be a top seed for because of
the ‘Stewart Boswell factor”

Most people should be aware what the “Stewart Boswell
factor” is, but for those who came in late…

Two years ago Boswell was the number four in the world.
He had been ranked in the top 10 for over two years, had made the final
of the US Open and made at least the quarters of the past four Super Series
events including the semis of the Hong Kong Open and the final of the
PSA Masters, when a mystery back ailment forced him to stop playing. Naturally
during this time his ranking went to zero, so a few months ago when he
was finally able to get back on a squash court he had to start again from
the beginning – qualifying for small tournaments.

tournaments would normally have been too small for him to play, and suddenly
he had to qualify to make the main draw. He played six tournaments in
a row and won all of them – something that is unheard of nowadays
at any level of men’s squash.. Most of his opponents were ranked in the
mid hundreds, with five opponents having rankings in the 200s including
an Australian junior ranked 275 and a Mexican local who he thrashed 11-0,
11-0, 11-0. Including qualifying matches he won 25 matches in a row and
for 23 of those matches he didn’t drop a single game, even when
he came up against higher ranked players like Raj Nanda (ranked 49) and
Jean-Michel Arcucci, the fourth ranked Frenchman at 51. It was only Mexico’s
Eric Galvez (54) and Australia’s Cameron Pilley (35) that were even
able to take games off him.
Boswell has been ranked in the top 30 since 1999 so it’s no huge

So who benefits from Boswell having to play small tournaments
to build his ranking back up?

The Stewart Boswell Factor: He
deserves to be mixing it up with the top 20.  Photo ©
2005 Debra Tessier

other players obviously don’t. They want him playing in the big
pool where he belongs. In theory it may be good for Boswell because he
is less likely to injure himself straining against a player ranked 180,
than against a player ranked 1 (incidentally the last time he played Lincou
he beat him), but 23 matches without dropping a game is less about easing
back into the competition and more about being way too strong for that
level. The promoters and spectators get to see a player that they otherwise
wouldn’t, but that’s a small advantage when it’s at the financial expense
of 25 lower ranked players.

So how should we deal with a players ranking when they’re
injured? Boswell’s situation shows that there needs to be a much
better solution than the current one.

pretty safe to say that our sport isn’t responsible for much, if
any, cutting edge developments in different areas of the game like general
training techniques, technology, equipment advances etcetera. Not that
there aren’t some great people working in squash, but we just don’t
have the money or exposure to be at the forefront of sports technology
to the point that other sports are hoping to learn from our advances.
As a profession we’re usually in a position where we can gain a
lot by adapting training advances from sports like football and tennis
that have much more money and resources.

The injury pressure (White at
the TOC in 2000): Players feel the need to push themselves back
oncourt too fast.  Photo © 2005 Ron Beck

for dealing with extended injury breaks we should be learning from professional
tennis. [ed note: or from the
WISPA tour

The basic premise of the men’s professional tennis
injury system is that after a prolonged period of injury a player is able
to re-enter the ranking system with the average they had before they were
injured, and that ranking stays in place for 6 months, so there isn’t
pressure to produce results immediately.

Having that safety net ensures players don’t make
injuries worse by trying to train through them, recuperate properly from
serious injuries, have the financial security they deserve upon re-entering
the tour and doesn’t create situations where a former world #4 is
beating up on players that have no chance against him.

The organisers of the upcoming English Open have intelligently
given Boswell one of the local spots in the qualifying draw so instead
of him having a few more months of playing smaller tournaments, he’s
back playing at a more appropriate level. If he qualifies, the four players
that could play him in the first round – Joe Kneipp, John White,
Nick Matthew and Shahid Zaman – won’t be too excited at the prospect
considering he beat every one of us in our last encounters.

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