Different hemisphere, different styles of squash by Ashley Davies

June 30 2016

As a young player starting out of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour, Ashley Davies toured New Zealand where he played in several PSA World Tour events. In this artivcle, Ashley shares his thoughts on how exposure to different players helped him develop new ideas about his own game.

Alongside having an incredible time playing the sport I love, drinking endlessly brilliant flat whites & enjoying some of the most breath-taking views & landscapes the world has to offer, I feel that I learnt a lot about my sport as well as myself from my recent trip to New Zealand. Exposure to different players has opened-up new ideas for me about my game.

The main reason for travelling over to the other side of the world was to get a chance to play some different players in unfamiliar environments outside of my comfort zone. I think it was one of the best trips I have done to date, another step round the snakes & ladders board of growing up! Long lonely flights, lots of reading & more importantly lots of time to ponder & think about what possesses me to do all this travelling for the game I love.

During my seemingly short four weeks in New Zealand I played many top players: a South Korean, a Pakistani, a Malaysian, three Australians & many top club players. Every player I played out there was completely different: whether it be their tactics, shot selection, temperament or simply just how they played the game! Every time I played, presented an opportunity for me to learn & gain exposure to top level squash, but from a different perspective. For example, the Aussie boys I played were solid deep hitters with fast movement & random shots & styles. Whereas the Malaysian I played was so talented; not only in his movements, but in his technique & style, he chopped & changed the pace brilliantly, whilst playing with a straight emotionless face throughout.

The week after playing the Malaysian I found myself in a tough battle with one the Aussie’s who was repeatedly trying to get under my skin to say the least but recalling my match from the week previous I remembered how the Malaysian had kept ice cool & managed to dispatch me so calmly. I kept my head, said nothing & ended up winning comfortably. Without the experience I gained the week prior I am not sure I would have been able to keep such a steady, mature head in the moment & get the business done out on the court.

That was just one of the examples of how I believe my learnings during my trip have helped me realise these little extra things that are there to be gained. Money, lessons, coaches can only provide you with so much. Experiences on the court, especially on the World Tour, can’t be bought. They are priceless & must be found & felt by the individual. The more painful the better, I think. You might also say there are plenty of different styles in England or Europe, but if you don't get to play them on the PSA World Tour where money, points & pride is on the line, I don't believe you learn all that much as there is no real consequence.

All the guys who I was lucky enough to mix with were so diverse from players that I’ve played before & that’s where I feel there is so much knowledge/experience to be gained from them. I guess what I’m getting at is the more exposure to diversity & different evolving situations the faster we can improve, learn & become adaptable to the ever-changing game we play.

It’s refreshing! The best players in the world are the players that deal best under pressure. They are adaptable & can easily change what they are doing to suit the situation. Nick Matthew, Gregory Gaultier, Ramy Ashour & Mohamed El Shorbagy can all play in so many different ways to such a high level & that’s why they have all been unbelievably dominant within their own right.

I think it’s very easy to train & compete within a bubble in the UK especially, as there are so many solid players & so many top events. We can settle into playing or training with the same opponents week after week, playing the same game getting the same results & forming superficial pecking orders which is dangerous because it puts a limit on your rate of improvement.

It was a real eye opener competing in the southern hemisphere, playing 20,000 km from home & visiting some interesting squash clubs & playing on some very cold courts which only showed how differently the game can & is being played.

I think I have stolen a few good tricks & shots after my short time over there. I feel the mixing of styles, cultures & people help not only our squash but also help us develop as individuals which is equally important. The more different environments we expose ourselves to, the more opportunities we give ourselves to learn, improve & grow. I am fortunate that squash provides me with that platform to compete & train within so many different cultures & meet so many amazing people in every corner of the globe & for that I feel blessed. I am a strong believer that an open mind to change & reinventing the wheel regularly is a massive part to continual improvement.

Ashley Davies was a professional squash player who started competing on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour in 2013 & achieved a career-high PSA World Ranking No.98.