Friday, December 1, 2023

Exclusive: Chris Simpson has a British Open battle plan to tackle Gregory Gaultier

Exclusive: Technical transformation under David Pearson gives Simmo the angles to attack 
By MIKE DALE – Squash Mad International Correspondent

It's all about angles, says Chris Simpson
It’s all about angles, says Chris Simpson

The British Open draw hasn’t been kind to Chris Simpson, but the Guernseyman heads into his first round clash against Gregory Gaultier with a battle plan.

Simpson’s ranking has risen steadily over the last 18 months as he’s made dents in the armoury of many of the world’s top 15; taking games off Mohamed Elshorbagy, Amr Shabana, Daryl Selby and Simon Rosner this season.

His match with the World No.1 on Tuesday night at Hull Sports Arena may seem daunting (particularly as Gaultier hasn’t lost a PSA first-round match since 2009!) but Simpson’s approach will be to try and ‘annoy’ the Frenchman.

“With Greg, sometimes you never know what’s going to happen,” Simpson told squashmad.

“He’s very good at steamrolling people in the first round. A lot of guys don’t really ever get on a level footing with him, but if some of the lower ranked guys can do that for a 10- or 20-minute period, it can start to annoy him.

“When he’s annoyed, you can start to see a couple of cracks in his mental approach. That’s going to be my goal.”

The pair have met once before on tour, at the World Championship in Qatar in 2012, where Simpson admits he got “a bit of a battering,” but the world No.22 is more bullish this time around.

“I’m not going to go out there and change my game,” he says. “I’m going to compete as best as I possibly can. You never know what can happen.”

Now 27, Simpson is hopeful that he can emulate Nick Matthew’s relatively late surge into the upper echelons of the PSA rankings, particularly as they share the same coach, David Pearson.

After leaving Guernsey at 16 to spend a couple of years at boarding school in Brighton, Simpson moved to Harrogate, North Yorkshire, specifically to receive Pearson’s tutelage.

Photo by Kim RobertsSimpson admits he only understood “about 20%” of the reasoning behind many of DP’s early technical changes to his game, but he now fully appreciates the overall effect that the myriad of small adjustments have had.

“The work I do with DP is generally all about angles,” Simpson explains. “The angle of your racket face, wrist, fingers, elbows, every joint in your body, and it all coming together to create the correct effect on the ball.

“In the last year we’ve been working a lot on my forehand, using my fingers a lot more to get the racket head through the ball. It’s very, very complex stuff.

“There aren’t many people who look at the game in the same way he does. If you don’t spend a significant amount of time with him, a lot of the stuff that we talk about would sound like gibberish!”

In April, Simpson reached the world’s top 20 for the first time, a breakthrough that Simpson says “felt great.. for about a day.”

“I very quickly realised that there’s still 19 guys ahead of me!” he explains. “Top 20 has always been a big goal, but it’s never been the end goal. I had the satisfaction that I’d made it to that level, but I knew that I’m still not done.

“It was a bit like winning a tournament. There’s a massive feeling of elation, but then sometimes a little bit of a depression afterwards. You feel, ‘now I’ve got to forget about that goal I’ve been working so hard towards, figure out what’s next and re-align everything.’”

The next target is a place in the top 10 and to battle his way into the latter stages of PSA Tour events on a consistent basis.

With eight of the current world top 10 over 30, Simpson is conscious of a potential void soon opening up at the summit of the men’s game which he’s working hard to fill.

“Apart from Mohamed [Elsbhorbagy) and Ramy [Ashour] none of us guys in our 20s has made the move up to that top, top level yet. It’s really a race to see who can do it. That’s what all my work is going towards,” he states.

“It’s figuring out a way that with my game I can take myself to that level. Mohammed has figured that out. He’s figured out exactly how he wants to play and he’s not compromising with that against anyone.

“For me, it’s about having the confidence and the knowledge within yourself of knowing how you want to play every time you go on court. That comes from a little bit of experience playing these top guys and figuring out your game, instead of their game.

“With someone like Nick [Matthew], the breakthrough seemed to come a little bit later and I’m working hard to make it happen a bit like it did for him when he was 26 or 27. I’m hoping that at this sort of age I can make that jump from where I am now into the top eight. It’s a big long-term goal for me.”

Picture by KIM ROBERTS

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