I know they're already into the round of 16 at the World Championships so I'm a little late getting around to it. I was away during the weekend and didn't have a chance to watch any of the games until last night. Of course I had to pick Ramy's 2nd round match against Adrian Grant. Ramy is the most exciting player in the game and it's glad to see him back on court. Is he 100% healthy? I don't know, but I sure hope so.
Ramy has been out for 6 months and before that he had to pull out of a few events because of his hamstring. They said last night that it had something to do with weak glutes. The way that Ramy plays is tough on the body, even though makes it look so effortless clearly it isn't. Ramy is never out of a rally and plays more back wall boast than anyone on tour. He reads his opponent so early and can run over top players very quickly. I think Ramy has the best finishing shots of all time. Even after missing 6 months of competitive play he hit a number of roll out straight volley drop nicks against Adrian. Nobody else plays this short with such precision. Ramy hits his drop just millimeters above the tin and hits his minuscule target consistently.
Will Ramy will the tournament? I don't think so (but I hope so!) just because I don't believe he's 100% fit and healthy. When he's healthy I would never bet against him. Sorry Shorbagy, I know you're technically #1 in the world, but not until you beat a healthy Ramy!
Even Ramy not at his best, I still give Ramy a shot just because of his incredible racquet skill. I would guess that Ramy has spent considerably more time solo hitting than any other pro on tour. His drops are inch perfect, his length is as good as anyones, he has great touch on his lob, he looks to volley everything, he has an unlimited number of shots he can play plus he has the most deception and pace from such a short backswing. It's almost like Ramy doesn't have a backswing on his forehand from the front corner. Ramy also has the mental game and confidence to go with his exceptional skill set. He can make an error at a crucial stage of the game and has no hesitation about going for a nick of the next serve..of course the difference with most other players is that he'll make the next shot.
What can we learn from watching Ramy? I think the biggest thing is the importance of learning to play attacking squash at an early age. I don't see many or any of the top players change their style of play once they are already established professionals. Nick Matthew as done this somewhat but is not nearly as attacking of a player as Ramy, but who is? Ramy didn't be able to hit all of these shots without making a bunch of mistakes. I'm sure it was trial and error and watching other top players that got him to where he is now. I don't know many kids that spend enough time solo hitting to develop the touch, accuracy and strength that Ramy has. He has such a quick wrist and sends top players the wrong way and guessing all of the time. The way he plays makes senses to me and I feel it's like watching a master at work.
We may think now that there will be no other Ramy, but someone will come around again at some point and change the game and dominate it. There is always room for improvement. Clearly one way to improve upon Ramy's game is by being physically healthy and taking the proper steps to ensure he is fit and his body holds up. I also like to think how would Ramy do against himself? What would his strategy be? Can someone do what he does better? Not at the moment, but at some point someone will.
I believe in having a vision for the athletes I work with. I try and have a clear image of who they will become and what type of squash will suit their body type, style and personality. So I wouldn't try and coach everyone to play like Ramy or most kids wouldn't have any success or rallies. But if someone showed exceptional hands, was creative and had the speed to cover attacking shots than this is a player I may begin to shape and shift into someone like Ramy. This type of strategy is almost easier to coach and play. It's a go strategy. You attack from the first point at every opening. You don't let mistakes shy you away and you accuracy will improve with time. As a coach we spend most of our time working on the fundamentals. Does this mean that Ramy has spent less time working on length than the rest of the top pros? Possibly, but his control is so pin point that he can hit his targets regardless of the shot. So instead of hitting drive after drive I would have them practice more volleys and drops where the accuracy has to be even more exact than a length.
I always believe that if someone wanted to play professional squash from a young age should they not grow up and play on a 4 wall glass court with a lowered tin? Of course if they have the opportunity to do so. Wouldn't that be a bug advantage when they become a pro and play on these courts? Surely there would be some benefits to doing this. Even just getting a glass court once per week from a young age would be helpful for a future pro.
So where does the game go from here? What will the next top player be like? Will they be fitter, faster, stronger, more or less attacking? Will they be a lefty version of Ramy? I can't wait to find out. We have players like Jonathan Power and Ramy Ashour to thank for making the game so exciting. That's what I love about the game. Now let's hope that Ramy stays healthy now for a number of years. Ramy is the most entertaining player in the history of the game and when he's in a draw he makes every tournament more exciting. Let's go Ramy!!