by Alex Rankin
In this most recent 2017 Piedmont Driving Club (PDC) squash tournament, my friend Erik and I decided to take part in the hardball doubles draw. Although I have been playing squash for six years, I have never played a hardball doubles match, and Erik hasn’t either. To have some experience before the tournament, we decided to have a hardball doubles squash lesson with Ahmed Hamza, the PDC pro. Even in an one-hour lesson, Ahmed was able to prepare us well for the tournament. He taught us a simple, yet effective game-plan, which was to get the opposing team in the back by a high lob, and then hit a three-wall boast. He also taught us the positioning in hardball doubles. In hardball doubles squash, you want to stand almost next to the sidewall when returning shots. Because a hardball bounces further and faster than a singles ball, Ahmed fed Erik and I shots to return so we would get used to how the hardball bounces. We were also taught the importance of communication to prevent confusion on the court. The last thing he taught us was the difference in rules between hardball doubles squash and singles squash; for example, the games are played to fifteen, with sudden death (first team to fifteen points wins, no matter what). After the lesson, Erik and I felt more prepared and confident going into the tournament.
In our first match, Erik and I were playing against two strong, tall opponents, who had good reach and could really hit the ball. Erik and I realized the only way to get our opponents in the back was to hit a high lob over them. Then we could take them forward with a boast, as Ahmed told us. This play won us the first two games, but unfortunately we lost the next two games as our opponents took more control of the front of the court than we did. But after we regrouped for the fifth game we were able to make the points last longer to give us more time to regain control of the front of the court, and we won the fifth game. Although we were a little shaken from the first match, we were still able to perform well and win a decisive three-game match in the quarter-finals.
After we won the quarter-finals, we advanced to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, Erik and I had to think a little more to figure out what worked against our opponents and what did not work. As Erik and I are juniors, we were aware that we had the advantage of fitness and long points. In this match, Erik and I really had to use a pattern of a lob, then a short drop, then another lob, and so on, continuously moving our opponents up and back. We felt this strategy sufficiently tired out our opponents as we won the fifth game eleven to five after four tough games.
Now we were in the finals, and Erik and I were coming up against two great opponents, and like the last match, they were very efficient in the front of the court. Erik and I conceded the first game, but strategized well and realized we weren’t keeping the ball in the back for long enough. The next three games we hit good passing lobs, and only went short when we were confident it would be effective. Erik and I ended up winning the finals in four games, which we were both excited and surprised about, being that this was our first experience with hardball doubles squash. Erik and I learned from this tournament the different tactics and the effectiveness of shots in hardball doubles squash, compared to singles squash.