Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Observation and Analysis: David Palmer

So it's time to look at another player. And why not look at David Palmer? Looking back at the past decade. A decade in which David was a constant member of the PSA World Ranking Top Ten.

A player doesn't stay in the Top Ten without an enviable match record against the world's best.

In the decade of his Top Ten membership, David was a finalist in the PSA World Open three times, and came away as champion twice. In addition, he won the British Open four times. Certainly, remaining a Top Ten player for ten consecutive years, winning the World Open twice, and the British Open four times qualifies Mr. Palmer as one of the greats of the most recent generation of squash players.

So let's chat a bit about observation and analysis:

When observing a player, and wanting to get an accurate sense of their strategy and tactics, it's important to watch a number of videos. Watch matches with differing opponents, watch matches where they won easily, won with difficulty, and look at matches they lost.

First is to just watch the various videos that you can find, just to get an overview. Watching a variety of videos, without looking for details, should allow the observer to develop a mental image of the player, and hopefully some definite ideas where this player tries to control and dictate the rallies from and maybe with what kind of shots.

After watching a decent selection of videos, then choose some specific matches to focus on. I suggest that after reviewing a number of videos the first one to really observe for detail, is a match where the player won relatively comfortably.

Doing this should offer a more clear picture of the player's tendencies tactically, and the underlying strategy should become fairly obvious. The problem with matches that are very close, it becomes more difficult to find the patterns, because neither player is really achieving ascendancy, thus both players are likely struggling to be effective in asserting their strategic plan. Because their normal sequencing of tactics is constantly being disrupted by the opponent.

So first we look at matches that are more easily won, discovering the strategy, and the tactics used to implement said strategy. Then look at matches that are close,  to observe the tactics in use in a more competitive situation. This will provide opportunities to see how one tactical and strategic approach lines up against another. Finally, observing matches where the player has lost, analyzing what the opponent did to not only neutralize our player's tactics/strategy, but also to assert their own approach.

So let's start with the following YouTube video of David Palmer, playing an early round match. David wins this match with relative ease. The beginning of the first game is a bit back and forth, but once David warms up, gets the feel for the ball and the court, then he moves on inexorably to victory, and there is little that his opponent could do to even slow the inevitable.

Please copy and paste the link to your browser, if the active link is not working:


When you watch this video, look to answer the following questions:

1. Where does David control the rallies from?

2. What are the primary shots that he uses to apply pressure on his opponent, and maintain his control of the rally?

3. Why are these shots successful in applying pressure, and what happens when the opponent has been pressured?

4. What are his usual shots in the forecourt? How would you explain David's tactics in the forecourt?

After we've considered these questions, we will be able to come up with a nice overview that should be pretty accurate in explaining Mr. Palmer's approach, why it works, and how it compares with the tactics and strategies of other players.

Okay, watch the videos, work your way through, to develop your own analysis, and then we'll come back with more commentary and a summary.

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