The Man who was Thursday

There is an entertaining story by the same name written by G.K Chesterton. I am not sure if Mr. Chesterton ever encountered the game of squash racquets, because that is the topic of discussion today.

I have of late managed to organise two games of squash per week, against two separate opponents, who shall be known as Thursday and Saturday, for obvious reasons. Now Thursday never plays on a Saturday, it fact, it was difficult enough getting him to play on Thursday, although we did try Monday once. Saturday, on the other hand, hasn’t always been the same. He changes from week to week, although I have played the current Saturday two Saturdays in a row now.

Now, about the squash, I noticed in last week’s game, a considerable improvement in my play. This can,of course, be ascribed to various factors, including an improvement in fitness, increase in court time over the past month, and most especially, a strong coffee taken an hour before the game. I managed to block Thursday out completely, whereas I used to forfiet the first game or two when we first started. As for Saturday, I had resolved to figure him out after the heavy defeat I suffered the first Saturday we played. He serves deep and hard, which, if left poorly answered, results in easy mid-court put aways for him.

My solution was to take a step up at the start of the point, allowing me to volley the serve, especially on the backhand. This paid off, as the duration of the point increased, and Saturday’s fitness came into play. When i had played him years ago in my youth, I had found that he was short of fitness, due primarily, I believe, to his ability to finish off the points relatively quickly. Now, by extending the point with better ball control, I tap into another advantage I have, namely body conditioning. Also, in those cases when he did try to put away poor length from me, I was able to better retrieve in the front of the court. My drop shots were themselves of better quality. This was due, I believe to my better sense of anticipation, which is where the coffee came in.

Squash is a lot like life, as they say. Always keep your eye on the ball. Anticipate the next shot. Keep fit. Dominate the centre.

Nasruallah Khan once described a game he had with Geoff Hunt, the World Champion from the 1970’s. He had never defeated Hunt before, but in the final of one tournament, he fought a great battle of body and wits to take the first game 10-9. He thought he had finally gained the measure of the great player. In his mind he was racing to the trophy already. Starting the second game, he was, however, dismayed to find that Hunt had taken several steps forward in preparation for the  serve, and far from being mentally defeated, Hunt was prepared to attack even more. Needless to say, Hunt won.


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