Monday, 11 June 2012

Observation and Analysis: Nick Matthew in the Rear Court

As as been mentioned previously on this coaching blog, any aspiring player needs to study the game, and that means watching video of top players. Improving as a player is not just about drills and techniques. Nor is it only about strategy. It is very much about what tactics you use to impose your strategy on the ball and the opponent.

If all players could be placed on a continuum, that continuum would have a pure attacker on one end, and a strict defensive player on the other end. In a game like squash it is rare to find a player who succeeds at one extreme or the other. There are the exceptions, however most top players would fall near the middle, but leaning to one side or the other.

For example Peter Nicol was definitely a defensive player, near the extreme, who kept the rally going until the opponent either made an error, or hit a really loose shot that made for an easy easy winner. In Peter's waning years, and now on the Legend's Tour, he's incorporating more attacking strategy, which aids in keeping rallies shorter. Whereas Jonathon Power was considered a consummate attacking player, willing to shoot for a winner from anywhere on the court. (Although in times of fitness he was willing to rally a bit.)

Anyway, where you are on this continuum, is part of determining what your  game philosophy is. Whether you're an attacker, a defensive rally player, or somewhere in the middle.

Tactics are the specifics of how you implement your philosophical style while playing and working the opponent around the court.

Below is a link to a youtube video of Nick Matthew playing Peter Barker. Now as some may or may not know, Nick has won the past two World Opens, and just recently won his 3rd British Open. So he's certainly a good player to be looking at, and breaking down his game, looking for facets that one can incorporate in their own game.

As you watch this video, I've chosen this one in particular because the tactical area to be observed is very well illustrated here.

When I say 'tactical area', I'm referring to a particular area of the court, and I generally refer to three areas: Fore Court, Mid Court, and Rear Court.

And for everyone to understand my coaching intention, I look at one of these areas in isolation, and analyze what tactics (shot choices the player makes) the player uses that support his or her overall strategy.

As mentioned in this article's title, we want to look exclusively at the rear court, and what does Nick Matthew do from this area.

So set aside 15 minutes or so to watch this video. And you should be looking to answer the following questions:

1. What is the basic tactical approach of Nick when he is hitting a ball that is in the rear court (meaning behind the service box)?

2. What does Nick typically hit when he's retrieving the ball that is nearer to the floor, below knee height?

3. What is Nick more likely to hit when the ball is bouncing up, near knee high?

4. How does Nick's tactic in the rear court impact the opponent?


In case the link does not show properly above, then just copy the webaddress as follows and paste it into your web browser, this should take you directly to the video.


Now, hopefully you've been diligent in watching the video, and answering those four questions.

The first thing I'd like to note, is that the answer to the first three questions should be fairly straight forward for everyone. There's not a lot grey area for those questions and answers.

In answering question #4 there could be differing opinions, and certainly if we looked at video of Nick playing with different opponents the answer would change.

However, interestingly, Nick's rear court tactics are quite stable and consistent across opponents and years.

It would be good for those who are truly interested, to try and view a number of  videos available on YouTube that show Nick playing. What one will find is that from years back until the present day, Nick essentially plays the same tactics from the rear court, and who the opponent is doesn't matter either.

As mentioned, with two World Opens, and three British Opens on his resume, Nick is one of the premier players on the international scene. It is true that he does have his nemesis in Ramy Ashour. And to find out why, will be another video observation and analysis for the future.

But in the meantime, let's sum up what we can say about the game of a two-time PSA World Champion, three-time British Open Champion.

First is that Nick is extremely consistent with his strokes out of the rear court. He's very accurate, and he has a very low error rate.

Consistency: Accurate, Low-Error rate

Second is that Nick is very disciplined. He never wavers from his rear court tactics. As you would or should have noticed in your video analysis, is that Nick does not attack from the rear court. What his rear court tactics do, is to give him the time and space to return to the T, and hunt for the volley opportunities that he uses, to very effectively attack his opponents.

Discipline: Adhering to Strategic Philosophy and Tactical Plan

Thirdly, Nick is supremely fit. Tactically playing as he does from the rear court, means that the rallies will naturally be longer, against most top opponents, as unless they are attacking, Nick will keep the rally going until he gets hits chance at an attacking volley.

Fitness: Being able to play as a relatively fast pace for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. Is it possible for you to actually answer the first three questions rather than just saying they are "fairly straight forward"? It looks to me that when he is in the rear court he tries to hit the ball at or above the service line producing a shot that moves his opponent to the back. This also seems to be the case when the ball is below his knees. When it is above his knees he seems to attack more with something low and hard. When he plays the ball in the mid court area he also seems to prefer something more attacking.

    Since you're more of an expert on this than I am I'm interested to read your observations.


Thank you for your comments. I will get your comment up on the blog with a reply as soon as possible :-)