I did a very simple experiment these past few months...to determine the single most important aspect in squash.
Some say squash is the most demanding sports in the world in terms of fitness. High level of fitness is greatly required to properly play this fantastic game.
I had doubt about this claim, although I admit fitness/stamina is crucial towards how far a player can move up the rank in squash.
I placed more importance on finesse, because to me, squash is about technique. I remember, during my younger days, watching in awe how (King) Kenny of Malacca beautifully control the ball and made his opponent move like a headless chicken around the court.
Kenny was the man who inspired me to take up squash seriously. I met him before I knew Fahmi, another squash's gem from Malacca. These two were the biggest impact that influenced my early life.
I had been playing squash without the aid of stamina last year (played one week, rested three weeks, played again, rested another month). The result was humiliating...I lost even to the young player who took up squash just recently.
So I tried a new formula...build up my fitness before I hold squash racquet again, by concentrating on badminton.
I played two to three times a week (badminton), sometimes until my body told me to stop. I also played ping pong sparingly (at least once a week) and watched my food intake. I tried regulating my sleep pattern to ensure that I sleep around the same time every night.
After a month and a half, today I picked up squash racquet and headed towards the court. I'm fairly confident that my level of fitness has arisen significantly, although the same could not be said of my skills. Skills and techniques improve and rot in tandem with practice...if you didn't practise, your skills and techniques will surely deteriorate with the passing of time.
I played against Cyrus and comfortably won, which was strange. I used to struggle against him, but not this time. We played a total of five games, and I won all.
Next was Megat, my long-time friend when off court, but arch-enemy when inside court. Megat is now a coach for Penang under-12 category. I never beat Megat before, and this trend seemed to continue when I went down the first two sets against him.
But something strange was happening, as the match went on, I felt more and more comfortable moving around the court. As the match progressed, his point lead was narrowing, and I won the third set after levelling the score.
I strongly believed this miracle has something to do with my fitness level. I used to think fitness is second after finesse, but now after this experience, I think fitness is more important than finesse, at least in squash.