Pro Squash is a Battle of Wills
Published: 05 Apr 2011 - 20:03 by raystrach
Updated: 05 Apr 2011 - 20:03
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I have taken great delight in watching some of the great matches of the pro Squash tour, not the least of whcih is the constant mental battle which is going on in every match.
Perhaps it is because my game is at a complete low point in so far as my mental strength is currently virtually non existant when it comes to playing tough opponents. It is interesting, to say the least, watching the mental battles play out over the course of a match and a tournament.
An interesting case in point is the progress of Peter Barker in the recent Canary Wharf Classic.
Peter has been a steady performer over the past couple of years, firmly ensconced in the top ten and capable of providing stiff opposition to evey player.
However, it has to be said that in recent times, he has found it difficult to actually beat players ranked above him, especially in the top 5.
During this event he beat fellow countryman James Wilstrop for the very first time ever (including many matches as juniors) and you could see his confidence both as he finished that match and when he started the match against Nick Matthew in the final.
If you happened to start watching the final and you did not know who was who, it would have been Barker who you would have picked out as being the world number 1.
He was dominating proceedings, making few errors and generally playing a much stronger game. You certainly could not have described his skill level as being lower than Matthew's.
However, it takes more than a swallow to make a summer, and Nick Matthew showed exactly why he is ranked at 1.
He shrugged off the disappointment of being outplayed in the first, and set about turning the tables completely from the start of the second.
Although it was pretty easy to see the results of this turnaround, it is harder to pinpoint exactly how or why this occurred. As much as Barker dominated the first, Matthew was even more dominant in the remaining games.
Barker did not reduce his effort, but as the match porgressed it was evident that Matthew really believed that he was going to win, or more accurately, there was virtually nothing that Barker could do to hurt him.
This was never more evident than in the fourth game where each players mood was in contrast to the other. Matthew was totally confident and playing with complete freedom - he knew he could counter anything that Barker threw at him.
By contrast, Barker felt that whatever he did, he was playing a wall - every shot came back; he was contantly under pressure. Although he fought it out to the very end, never reducing the level of competitiveness, none of this seemed to affect Nick Matthew.
He seemed impervious to pressure.
The mental strength shown by Matthew is a common trait in players from all sports who are number one in their field.
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