Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)
Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The speed of squash

Although squash could be the most physically demanding racket sport in the world, Egyptian male and female players continue to dominate, reports Abeer Anwar

In April’s squash world rankings, Joelle King is the only non-Egyptian inside the top five, with Nour Al-Sherbini heading up the rankings ahead of world champion Raneem Al-Welili and Windy City Open winner Nour Al-Tayeb, while Nouran Gohar stays at No 5.

In the men’s April’s world ranking, four of the top five are also Egyptian except for French Gregory Gaultier in third place after Mohamed Al-Shorbagi regained first place. Ali Farag is second while Marawan Al-Shorbagi is in fourth place and Tarek Momen fifth.

Marking World Health Day on 7 April, the Professional Squash Association (PSA) released new data captured through innovative partnerships with Sports Data Labs and interactiveSquash that suggest squash could be the most physically demanding racket sport in the world – with Egyptians squarely at the top.

Through the use of pioneering new technology, data captured during recent PSA World Tour events in Chicago, Sweden and Zurich saw player heart rates regularly exceeding 190bpm – with players covering up to five kilometres in a single match, combined with hundreds of lunges, multi-directional movements and explosive bursts of acceleration.

For the first time quantifying the physicality of top flight squash, the data has shone a light on the supreme physical demands required of professional squash players when competing at the sport’s elite level – whilst reinforcing squash’s position as one of the healthiest sports in the world.

The data has simultaneously placed squash at the forefront of conversations surrounding biometric data with Sports Data Labs tracking player heart-rate data in real-time, providing the information for in-broadcast use to improve viewer experience and translate the intensity of lengthy rallies, and the players’ recovery abilities, into homes around the world – emphasising the sport’s commitment to enhancing athletes’ and viewers’ experiences, a cornerstone as squash vies to be included in the Olympics.

Squash ranking-men

During one match recorded by interactiveSquash’s distance-tracking programme, MoTrack, Egyptian Momen was monitored as he won a thrilling 97-minute five-game match over Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet. Momen covered just shy of five kilometres during a total of 100 contested points – an average of 49 metres per point – whilst striking the ball almost 1,000 times. The longest single rally recorded during the time period, a 141- second affair won by another Egyptian, Rami Ashour, saw the 30-year-old cover 235 metres and complete a dozen lunges of 90 degrees or greater – whilst striking the ball almost 50 times.

Through an average 52-minute match, players can expect to cover 2.5 kilometres, execute over 100 lunges and strike the ball over 500 times – with the ball in play 63 per cent of the time for an average of 33 minutes – a figure that pushes squash towards the very top of the relative time-in-play tables.

“Squash has long had a reputation as one of, if not the single most demanding racket sport out there, courtesy of the complex movements required and the repeated bursts of short, intense action with little rest periods – without mentioning the mental focus and concentration needed to compete at the elite level,” said PSA COO Lee Beachill.

“That reputation is one that we have lacked the ability to directly translate to fans and viewers in the past. But the trials we have run with Sports Data Labs and interactiveSquash have allowed us to develop a true understanding of players’ movement and relative fitness for the very first time, which goes a long way to help illustrate the physicality of the sport – and reinforces the health benefits associated with playing the game at the amateur level.

Squash ranking-women

“The numbers we have seen have made for compelling reading. To see players covering over one kilometre in a single game is staggering. That movement is made up entirely of three-six metre sprints, of which 30-40 per cent is a backwards movement, followed by a lunge or dynamic movement before striking the ball – a movement which in itself requires precise timing, strength and deft motor skills,” Beachill said.

The interactiveSquash system, developed in partnership with ASB Squash Court, records player movement, gathers distance and movement patterns, while plans are in place to expand the tracking system to record data such as ball speed and swing speed – metrics which would yield a greater insight into the demands of playing at the top level.

InteractiveSquash founder Markos Kerns said: “It is hugely exciting for us to be involved in this new step for squash.

“It is one of the fastest and most dynamic sports in the world and it takes an exceptional talent to compete at the very elite level. It takes an extraordinary athlete and talent to win at this level and we look forward to working closely with the PSA to develop the technology even further in the coming months.”

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