Today I'm going to talk about Max Lee. I just got around to watching his 2nd round match against Shabana and I was very impressed. There is a lot we can learn from this match and watching this young player as he rises up the ranks. Lee is currently ranked 20th in the world and I feel like he's a potential top 5 player. Here's why.
To start with Lee is unbelievably fast. His feet are very quick and he didn't appear to slow down much even after a long 78 minute battle with Shabana. Of course Max was playing an older player and he has played Shabana before so he read him quite well. To pass my quickness test I'd like to see him get on court with Shorbagy or Gaultier. Those two guys for me are relentless in their hitting and cover the court the best in the game. Maybe Max looked faster playing an again Shabana. Even still he is undoubtably super fast. Part of this I feel is because he has a good muscle mass to strength ratio. He's strong but not too heavy to slow him down. He also reads the game extremely well. Lee seemed to anticipate and move before Shabana had hit the ball. Shabana is normally so creative at the front of the court, but he was pretty predictable because he was a bit late getting to the ball. This meant he really only had 2 options most of the time, a lob or a counter drop. I think if Shabana was a little quicker to the front and used more delays in his shots he would have had more success from the front of the court. Whenever I play someone that seems to be on the ball before I'm done hitting I assume they are reading me and leaving early, so try a flick and a delay and see if you catch them leaving early and going the wrong way.
Okay, so moving on from Lee's incredible speed. I was also impressed by how far up he played on the T. He plays as high or even higher than Matthew. For a guy who's only 5'9 this was fun to watch. He basically said you're not beating me short from the back and was in a better position to volley when he got a loose ball being up so high. I know to the average amateur they will fatigue playing up this high and doing a few rotating drives, but for a professional that does this all the time they should be fit enough. Having good footwork to the back and quick back to the T is essential if you're playing high on the T. With a lower tine and a glass court I'm surprised I don't see more of the players up this high.
Two more things really impressed me about Lee. The first is that on top of his retrieving he hit some fantastic winners and barely made any unforced errors the entire match. Shabana made a lot more unforced errors and I thought Lee was going to sneak out the win. Next time I think it will be a different story. So Lee isn't just a retriever, if you give him an opening his hands are soft and he takes the ball in short with a high degree of accuracy.
The last thing that really impressed me was how Lee hung in and kept fighting. He didn't appear to be satisfied with just getting a game or 2. Max wasn't intimated by the great Amr Shabana. Max was there to win and looked like he believed he could. He had a good game plan and almost pulled it off. I think many young players in Lee's shoes would have not really believed they could have won. I get the feeling Max would go in the same way against any of the top players. Even if he loses 10 or 20 times in a row to Matthew or Gaultier, I think every time he plays he will believe that this is his turn and he will always give his best effort.
So yes, Max Lee did a lot of things to impress me. What would I recommend he work on as his coach? For me the biggest thing is just experience against the top guys. I think he has all the tools. The one area that might get him in trouble is that he leaves too early sometimes. But Shabana didn't make him pay for this too often, so maybe he could make this adjustment. The only other thing I would like to see is that early in the match Lee tried to call some minimal interference lets. Luckily the video judge overturned the calls and gave him no lets and Lee started playing more free flowing squash. This is certainly a habit I don't endorse and after watching the Gawad and Dessouki match I feel is something I would make a point of and not tolerate as a coach.
I didn't see much else wrong with Lee. It will be interesting to see just how high he can get. Before giving him too much credit I'd like to see him play the top 3 guys. Shabana couldn't handle Gaultier at the finals of the Netsuite and I think has slowed down just a notch and I don't think his fitness levels are as good as the top 3 are. If Lee can hang in there and learn to even out the retrieving and attacking against those top 3 guys he could have a long career in the top 5 of the rankings. He's very hard to win a point off because he's so fast, hits good length, doesn't make many poor decisions, and hits very few unforced errors. Of course if he had won, how would he have been able to back that up? Is he fit and strong enough to have 70+ minute intense matches on back to back days?
Did you watch this match? Have you seen Max Lee play before? What are your opinions? How high do you think he'll get up in the rankings?