In the squash community, the PST (Pro Squash Tour) seems to be a little like the New York Yankees – you either love ‘em, or you hate ‘em. Ever since Joe McManus started this tour about 18 months ago with the no ‘let’ rule, controversy has ensued. The tour is growing rapidly, and PSA ban their players from competing; the rule itself has met much criticism, and from what I read on the squash forums, some (if not most) of that disparagement is from people who have never seen the rule in action and simply speculate. Even I wrote a disapproving article without ever witnessing it. But now, I have personal experience from watching and playing in the recent PST tournament held in Cleveland.
Interference in our match was rare. With the guillotine of the referee’s ‘no-let’ decision hanging on every call, asking for a let in the first place is a risk. Unless you are sure it’s a stroke, you need to get used to playing the ball. Putting the shoe on the other foot, the fear of the ‘stroke’ for not clearing properly definitely makes you take that extra step away to allow your opponent in. It takes a little to get accustomed to. David asked for one let in the first game, and I asked for one in the third and we both instantaneously knew we should not have done so. Both lets were denied and rightly so. Under normal rules, these calls were 100% lets, and 30+ odd years of playing that way makes it a tough habit to break when requesting a let on such trivial interference situations.
I watched the other 3 quarter final matches, the 3rd / 4th playoff and the final (I missed the semis) and paid close attention to the no ‘let’ rule and the affect on the squash. The word that came to mind was… “refreshing”. Of all the matches I watched, there may have been a total of 25 requests for lets. If that. Play was continuous, that is, rallies were not being interrupted by constant appeals from the players. Because of that, because of the players making an overall greater effort to play the ball and clear, many of the rallies were rather spectacular, athletic, long, and the reaction from the crowd was extremely positive. PST rules are also extremely strict on player behavior. There is a no tolerance position on arguing, verbal or racquet abuse. This is of course does not stop all the issues – but eliminates 95% of it. Players still get emotional, and those emotions can get the better of them. But compared to what I have regularly witnessed at PSA events, it was absolutely no comparison.