PST’s “No Lets” in action

This is Joe McManus from the Pro Squash Tour. (listen instead)

You’re about to watch the final rally of the 2012 Albany Open Championship match, which ended in some controversy. First, this was a brilliant match, played by two of our toughest competitors, John White and Bradley Ball. I am speaking today to address how this match ended so that fans can hear my thoughts as well as see the rally for themselves.

I’d like to thank Floris Jansen for providing the video, who recorded it as a fan sitting in the front row.

Here we see the end of John White’s serve. At the 16 second mark, John stretches from center court to retrieve a ball that is tight to the wall. He then does the exact same thing on his backhand at the 26 second mark.

At 37 seconds, he moves to play the ball but his opponent is now directly in his path. This shot, as evidenced from the prior two, is a ball that John can play.

According to PST’s Rules of Play, if the incoming striker’s opponent prevents his shot to the front wall or movement to a playable ball, the referee should award the point to the incoming striker.

This rally highlights one difference between the old style of play and Pro Squash Tour’s modern rules. Bradley is a top touring pro and is capable of hitting shots with great pace and precision. In this example, Bradley had time to play the ball and the entire court to play his shot.

The shot he chose to hit is the only one that places his body in line with John’s path to the ball. Bradley played his shot from the mid-court and the ball bounced a second time in the middle of the service box. John’s only path to the ball was through Bradley.

This is a very common shot on other pro tours because it places the incoming striker under pressure to reach the ball while simultaneously having to contend with an opponent who is blocking his path.
Under the old rules of play, this would almost certainly be called a let. In fact, increasingly a large number of lets at the pro level are being called under similar circumstances.

In PST tournaments, the referee should, as he did here, award the point to White.

But Bradley chose to challenge the call, which is entirely his right to do so. Had John been awarded the point, he would have won the fourth game 14-12 and the match would have proceeded to a deciding fifth game.

Bradley took an extended period of time to voice his challenge. Because squash’s rules require continuous play, players will typically challenge a call quickly because of the time constraints of an impending serve.

As this was the last point of the game, there was no such time constraint specified in our rules. It is also fair to assume that by the time the challenge was made, the challenge officials did not have a clear recollection of the rally. This may have contributed to their incorrect decision to overturn the call.

Like many sports, there is a human element involved with officiating a squash match. In many ways, this enhances the fan experience. But on occasion, it results in an incorrect call being made. My role is to acknowledge these moments, so that players and fans have a clear understanding of the circumstances, and to create a system which makes these moments rare. I issued a statement earlier this week acknowledging the issue and will be sending a memo to our referees and players to close this loophole.

Thank you for your interest in squash and the Pro Squash Tour. And thank you to our fans in Albany for hosting such a magnificent tournament.

 

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8 comments

  1. Joe,

    I have a couple of comments about the summary you have presented.

    1. “This rally highlights one difference between the old style of play and Pro Squash Tour’s modern rules.”
    It is not the old style of play it is the international way of playing. To imply that the international rules are old and the PST rules are modern is unfair. Just because the rules have been around for years does not make them suddenly antique just because an American tour comes up with it’s own rules.

    2. The final shot that Bradley played is the type of shot that any good player would play not to block the opponent but because it is down the line and hard. The mistake Bradley made was that he did not clear out of the way quick enough and the ball was not tight enough.

    3. No matter how you change the rules they are still going to be intrepretated correctly and incorrectly by referees, that will never change, as you stated.

    4. To give the point to White who was under tremendous pressure is unfair to Bradley. Bradley had him running over all over the place and there is no way White was going to be able to play an attacking shot from Bradley’s ball.

    5. The rule the PST has brought in is going to create a lot of body charges/hits so that players can “prove” that the opponent is blocking and then receive a point, instead of making a true effort to reach the ball.

    I think it is interesting rule change but on that will be exploited by the players.

    • Re 1: Point taken, Brian. Not meant to be dismissive in word choice. Was just trying to be clear in differentiating. Likely could have found better wording.

      Re 2: You and I are close on two, but I would suggest many players are cleverly using their bodies. More than you may think.

      Re 3: agreed

      Re 4: If someone is accustomed to lets, I understand your point.But our rules have a different emphasis, which is to clear your shot and allow your opponent a path to the ball.

      Re 5: I am aware that fans who haven’t seen our matches intuitively think this. In our experience this is not the case.

  2. You can sort of see the logic of giving the stroke to White: “he prevented me from getting to a ball I could have played”, even if it does seem a bit harsh given the pressure he was under to reach the ball. He certainly wouldn’t have passed the “old” (that’s going a bit far, Joe) test of being able to hit a winning shot.

    Two of the refs didn’t think White deserved the stroke, which resulted in the even more bizarre “no let” outcome, which is incredibly generous to Ball.

    At the risk of repeating myself, “sometimes the only fair outcome to a rally is a let”.

    Steve Cubbins

  3. Hello!

    for me this is a STROKE! Bradley plays a shot that is too short, and too far off the wall, AND he does not clear the ball!

    So a stroke would be the correct call, I think!

    • Marcel,

      Even using international rules I think White would be hard pushed to get a stroke, he is nowhere near the ball but due to his amazing reach (shown earlier in the video) he has proven that he can reach it but a stroke would be very harsh in relation to the height of the ball.

  4. no let…

    Weak shot from John..

    2nd bounce from where John’s movement is initiated and flowed through with would not have made a good return..

    John fished for the the let ..

    Bradley’s ball was a good low kill and John needed to show more effort to ball the ball and not the player..

    Though this can be interpreted in another way for the let, this would have have prolonged a rally or previous rallies, of similar style.. Proper reffing at the first sign of not playing the ball more and playing the player, with no-lets please play at the ball would have set the tone, for the players to play to.

    My two cents 😉

  5. It’s a stroke. No doubt about it. SquashBall is lose and Bradley Ball doesn’t clear but moves backwards into John White. This would be a stroke on any tour if you have a good referee.

  6. Folks,
    Pleas allow me a suggestion here: It´s clear there are completely different interpretations of this situation, each one of us with different arguments to support his/her own interpretation.

    For the sake of the seriousness of this discussion, I would like to suggest each one of us to mentio the suqash rule upon what our interpretation was based.

    For me it was a typical let, based on Rule 12.9: “The Referee shall allow a let if there was interference, which the opponent made every effort to avoid, and the player would have made a good return”.
    Bradley made every effort to clear (he was immediately trying to run backwards to the T”).

    One may argue that Rule 12.8.2 would apply:
    “The Referee shall award a stroke to the player if:
    12.8.2 there was interference, which the opponent made every effort to avoid, but the
    opponent’s position prevented the player’s reasonable swing and the player would
    have been able to make a good return;”

    But Bradley didn´t prevented John´s swing, as John was just too far away from the ball when he met Bradley´s body on the way. Hence no argument for a stroke here.

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