By Anthony Ricketts, PSA No. 7
In sport there is not much worse than repeatedly losing to the same player over and over again. It hurts everywhere—physically, mentally and emotionally. You see the draw, whether it is in the club challenge, your National Championships or with your weekly challenge match with your best friend, and think, “Great here we go again!”
If you have ever mentioned this problem to anyone, they have probably advised you—“just pretend he is like any other player…just think you are playing a guy you normally beat!” This is all very well and good, but it is much easier said than done. It’s good advice, but the execution of these famous words is the real problem.
So what to do? How can you overcome this hurdle of repeatedly losing to the same guy over and over? To this there is of course no real easy answer. But a few little things which, put together, may make all the difference.
It is important to look at your opponent and break him down a little bit more. I know he may seem invincible and strong all over the court, but this is not the case. Every squash player in the world has their favorite area on the court, their favorite shot—their comfort zone. They also have a position or area in which they are not confident, they’re maybe not quite sure—there is some doubt in their mind about something.
In order to find this you have to look, study, explore and find that area where you just might think he is not looking quite as comfortable. This could be anything—lack of focus, lack of fitness, bad footwork, more errors on a particular shot. Really be imaginative with this as it only takes one small little thing for you to get confidence in and you’re away. When you think you have seen this small defect in the armor, go and watch your nemesis play against someone who will give him a close game—or better yet, he loses to. In doing this, don’t put as much attention on enjoying your guy taking a loss, but look for the area that you think you can exploit! This is really reassuring to you, bringing it home that there is something there for you to work with.
Ok, now that we have seen there is an area where maybe, just maybe, you can make your opponent feel uncomfortable, you have to go away and work on getting confident in playing to that area. There is no point in finding a weakness without having the ability to do anything with it. This may mean practicing against other players to work on hitting the ball to that area over and over again—even if you have to lose this match (as you know you can beat him when you need to)!
Now back to the advice you were given before to “pretend he is just another player.” The way we can make this work is by finding the nemesis’ weakness that gives you something to focus on. You are not walking around the court with no control of your thoughts other than “get me off here…he is too good.” All your attention is on the area where you think you are making something happen.
Now if all else fails, maybe you just have to say “too good….”