Thursday, February 9, 2023

Lower tin makes the women’s game more appealing

Laura Massaro attacks the front corners
Laura Massaro attacks the front corners

Girl talk reveals positive response to lower tin
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor


The introduction of the 17-inch tin (from 19 inches) into the women’s game some months back marked another step into standardising the game for both men and women. While there were certainly concerns about it being a move that would shorten the matches, things seem to have proven otherwise.

The first reaction many may have expected would be the fact that it would favour attacking players, particularly the Egyptians. But at the top of the game, it has been Laura Massaro who has been having one hell of a season thus far and grabbed the world number one slot.

In a recent interview with Squash Mad, Laura revealed how she had worked hard to cope with both the physical demands and the extra benefits created by the new court dimensions.

I thought that Raneem El Weilily, the player who dethroned Nicol David from the world number one spot, would benefit from this change, but this has not been the case. After winning the China Open in September, she has not made it to another final.

At the Qatar Classic, she was stunned in the opening round by India’s Joshna Chinappa. She reached the semi-finals of Hong Kong Open but fell in the second round of the Tournaent of Champions in New York. She now occupies the world number three slot, behind Massaro and David. 

Whether or not these events are coincidental or are in fact contributed by the change, it’s not something I could clearly tell.

But one thing that is very clear is that most of the girls are in favour of this change, which encourages players to employ a more attacking style of play, thus making matches more interesting and exciting for viewers.

There is also the risk factor of going short, or going for crosscourt drops, which leave the player vulnerable to an attack down the opposite wall.

At the Macau Open in mid-September, where the 17-inch tin was being used for just the second time, we managed to get some views from some of the players.

Joelle King, former world number five, who was competing in her third tournament since coming back from an injury break, said: “It’ll definitely make things more exciting. There’ll be more attacking squash and it looks better.

“Everyone’s just going to adjust to the change eventually. I don’t have to train on back home but the more everyone plays on it, the more they’ll get used to it. Last week in China, I don’t think there’s any difference in the length of games.”

An attacking volley drop from Alison Waters
An attacking volley drop from Alison Waters

Alison Waters of England: “I enjoyed it so far. It’s definitely good for the game. All the girls are very fit and can move well, so I don’t think there’s an issue getting to lower shots.”

Joey Chan from Hong Kong, who had an interesting view on how the games might actually be longer now: “I think it actually prolongs the game. Many shots that would’ve gone into the tin are now up. It also promotes more attacking squash and I guess when you face a skilful player, matches will get tougher.”

Australia’s Donna Urquhart said:  “Before the start, I thought it was not necessary. I was worried it will shorten matches. But since playing on it, maybe it doesn’t make much of a difference anymore. Sometimes you do notice the difference, but not a lot of times I have had to stretch that little further. I don’t think it will make that much of a difference.”

Australia’s Rachael Grinham, the former world champion and world number one, added: “I love it! Shots look a lot better and it’ll be good for the women’s game. I personally hope they will keep it at 17 inches from now onwards.”

Raneem El Welily in action against Tesni Evans
Raneem El Welily in action against Tesni Evans

Tesni Evans, Welsh number one, is a big fan, saying: “I like it. It is good for women’s squash. It makes all the shots look better for people to watch. It’s going to help the game with more attacking (squash). It will shorten the game I think, but not last week in China. Once people adjust, it’ll be shorter.”

England’s Victoria Lust: “It definitely feels a little different, especially with some of the boasts. Once everyone gets used to it, it’ll be OK. I think some games will be shorter. Right now women’s squash is good and this could make it even better to watch.”

Laura Massaro, who won her first title of the season here in Macau, right after her opening round match against India’s Dipika Pallikal: “I like it. (It’s) the first game of the new season and it’s a little unknown how things will be. But Dipika (Pallikal) used it very well in the first game and I started using it better in the next two. There’s not much difference in terms of lengths (duration), but it’s good for TV and the people watching.”

Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa had contrasting views
Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa had contrasting views

Dipika Pallikal of India, who was still unsure about it: “It was hard for me out there. Having to do that extra lunge to get to shots. But I think I don’t like it nor not like it at this moment. I’m still getting used to it.”

Latasha Khan, a former top 20 player who has been playing on the professional tour for over 23 years :
I think it’s good. It takes time to get used to and you just have to adjust to it with time, It’s just like when we first changed the scoring system. The shots now look better.

England’s Emily Whitlock was the only one who did not like it, saying: “I don’t think it’s the smartest idea that PSA has made. Women are that little smaller, less stronger and that makes the court a little bigger. I am 5ft 4in tall! I just don’t get how it makes anything better.”

Jenny Duncalf in action
Jenny Duncalf in action

Jenny Duncalf, straight after losing to Donna Urquhart, added: “I didn’t like it when Donna put in those boasts initially! I like it that more rallies finish with winners than errors. It is quite tempting at times to go for it though.”

Joshna Chinappa: “I love it. This is actually my first time playing on it (the 17-inch tin). It’s harder but it’s good for the game.”

Low Wee Wern of Malaysia, who was at the time still out on her injury layoff: “I haven’t had the chance to really have a hit on the 17 inch tin, but I am looking forward to getting there. I think the recent results have showed that matches are more competitive, less predictable results and it is an interesting mix to the game. I am still unsure how I will feel about the change, but I will let you know in due time!”



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