Tuesday, May 8, 2012


PST World Championships May 4-6

I cannot tell you how many years it has been since the DAC has hosted a professional tournament. On this weekend, it came back with a bang. A very big bang.

Being on all sides of a PST tournament - I played and watched one last year and have now organized and worked very closely with Joe McManus on this one - I can truly say that the PST naysayers are way off base. Taking this from the organizer and DAC point of view, there is one major difference between PST and the PSA that simply cannot be denied or ignored and I am not talking about the controversial “no-let” rule. It’s marketing.

Joe McManus is very hands on. He publicizes the stuffing out of his product between tournaments and that enthusiasm doesn’t wane when he is on sight - what changes is the focus of that enthusiasm. From the moment the PST entourage walked into our building, this tournament was all about the DAC, its members, its sponsors, the spectators. They were not interested in selling their players as much as they were interested in selling our club. And it’s so obvious why. 

Four of the pros with kids from the Racquet Up Detroit
urban squash program run by Derek Aguirre (far left)
The players sell themselves - David Palmer, Wael El Hindi, John White, Bradley Ball, etc, need no help. PST markets automatically because of them. Having all the players mixing in with our members, playing squash with them, socializing with them, creating friendships, is what our members will cherish forever. Now, I am not saying that doesn’t happen at a PSA event - it does - but PST go the extra mile. And a half.

On our request, Joe and David Palmer flew in one day early as we thought our members would get a kick out of having David referee our Open Club Championship final. There he was sitting in the middle of the crowd calling lets (PSA rules!) of a club match. It was a buzz for the players (I believe no one argued, but I thought a couple of calls were a little soft... ha ha!) and for the members to have access to a two-time World Champion on a very intimate level.

David Palmer and John White
with major sponsor Tom Delaney
from First American Title
They also bought their own marketing employee with them. Georgetta was the one who contacted the local media in television (Detroit TV20) and radio, social media and websites. They organized on site interviews which mainly focused on the DAC rather than the tournament. PST’s continuous promotion of our club and our tournament sponsors is what will bring this event back to the DAC. I cannot tell you how many members have pleaded with me within less than 24 hours after the final that we simply must do this again in 2013. After just two matches on the first day, I had members asking how they could get involved and sponsor.

Wael El Hindi being entertained by the DAC membership!
And therein lays the distinction. The on-court squash will be fantastic whether it’s a PSA or PST - but the PST builds the personal relationships and center their attention on their host. The weekend was about the World Championships - but it was also about us.

Now to the squash itself. First round matches went as I expected they would. The top four players were untroubled in their 3-0 wins. Bradley Ball had the biggest ‘scare’ of the day against Columbian Andres Vargas when he was extended into a tie break in the first game. Vargas matched the brutal strength of Ball with lightening speed but couldn’t snatch the game and after losing it 16-14 was overpowered in the following two.

The first semi-final on Saturday threatened to test the ‘no-let’ rule to its fullest. Bradley possesses an alarmingly quick racquet. Although he can hit meticulous drops, he mainly chooses to bludgeon the ball through the front wall. This tactic can hurt him a little because his accuracy can suffer. Egyptian Wael El Hindi is more adept at the front and is menacingly quick around the court - and is well known over his career of mixing it up with the referees - something PST clamps down on rather severely. A quick and easy 11-3 first game went to the Egyptian but the second game was turned around as Bradley stepped up started to pressure Wael more effectively with his volleying. He took it 11-9 to even up the match. It was clear however, that Bradley was not moving at a 100%.  Wael wasn’t perturbed from the second game and continued on his merry way moving Bradley back to front stretching him uncomfortably into the corners. He took the 3rd and 4th 11-7, 11-5 respectively.

The other semi final had the human howitzer, John White, against David Palmer. David won this encounter 3-1, but John always threatened. He is capable of hitting a winner from any angle at a blistering pace, or cut off a cross with a little stab of the racquet and plop in a volley drop into the nick. He is never out of a rally. If John is “on”, he’s lethal. But he is also capable of an avalanche of unforced errors. And in spurts during the match, he inflicted such self destruction.

The match for the PST World Champion kept spectators slobbering into their drinks, hearts racing, nerves tingling. Just one week before David had beaten Wael 3-1 for the American Open title and Wael had just one thing on his mind - revenge. David struggled in the first game as Wael started strongly establishing a lead he never relinquished. 11-9 to Wael. David came out for the second with a more determined attitude and picked up the pace, forcing Wael to show off his remarkable court coverage. The ability David has to stand so far up the court and cut the ball off with astonishing control as he guides in volley drop after volley drop is eye-popping. 11-8 to David. In the third game it looked liked the hard work he put into game two took its toll on the Australian. David could not maintain the pressure, whereas Wael was just as quick and bouncy as he was in rally one. The longer the exchanges went, the more they favored Wael. 11-6 to the Egyptian. Game four was a replica of game three - almost. David consistently found himself on the back foot, and try as he did, could not prevent himself from being 10-5 down and having to defend 5 match balls in a row to survive. But you don’t win two World titles without having the ability to find another gear. Inconceivably, David compelled himself to wrestle back control of the game. Incredibly tough rallies followed - long, spectacular, nerve wracking. One by one, David closed the gap with patience and brilliance. Until 10-all. He then hit a very uncharacteristic drop shot tin undoing all the work and handing Wael his sixth opportunity. Another unlikely save by David, but he was now running on fumes and Wael closed out the match 13-11 in 57 minutes. A wonderfully entertaining match. Congratulations to Wael El Hindi, 2012 PST World Champion!

There were a few let calls over the course of the tournament, a number of appeals to the side judges, and the odd overrule of the central referee. There was also a couple of interactions between player and ref (with Wael on court, how could there not be!) where the players were pleading their cases. Some rallies were replayed as well, a couple times for safety reasons and another couple of times for reasons I couldn’t determine - which left the crowd somewhat bewildered as to what had just happened. But the proof is in the pudding - in this case, the pudding is our members. (Some of them could go easy on the pudding, too). There were questions aplenty about the rules, many were understandably skeptical at first but after watching it live, not a single negative word was uttered about them. On the contrary - they adored the fact that the rallies were not stopping half way through, loved that the amount of decisions required were minimal, and frankly did not care one iota that a couple of the calls were strange. They want to see squash and this forces the extension of rallies - they got what they wanted.

It is not a perfect system - and Joe McManus does not claim it is. Videos of the matches will be reviewed, discussed amongst the players and refs, with the goal of getting closer to that golden nugget of complete fairness. They are prepared to change the rules to do it. Anything to make the PST product more attractive, more marketable. PST is not designed for the players - it is designed for the public. Ask the DAC members who watched what they think. Their answer is the only one that matters.

Back row left to right: Wael El Hindi, David Palmer, John White, Bradley Ball
Front row left to right: Ned marks, Supreet Singh, Adrian Leanza, Andres Vargas

Search This Blog