This question of how long is typical squash match is very interesting, because with it flows the inevitable problem of how to make sure you are fit enough physically and emotionally to withstand all the demands that the squash match will bring.
Recently there has been a shift both in the amateur and professional to adopt Par or American scoring where every point counts regardless of who is serving. This tends to shorten the total match time as players are constantly moving their score on each rally to their goal of 11 points. Should they reach 10 points each one player must win by a margin of 2 clear points 14-12. International scoring was played with a method of scoring where a player had to be serving and win the rally to score a point.
I witnessed the longest match. It was played at the Chichester Open England 1983 between Jahangir Khan, World Champion from Pakistan and Gamal Awad, Egypt’s #1 whom I as coaching between games. He had been my training partner for a couple of years and we had discussed a plan.
The first game lasted 75 minutes. The plan was to not open the court and to simply wear Jahangir down. Gamal played to the game plan brilliantly but Jahangir matched him length for length. The first rally took 7 minutes and resulted in a let, meaning the point was replayed!
The first point was scored after 15 minutes and the and the entire match which was only 4 games was 2 hours 46 minutes. What do you say to a guy who came back from an 8-1 deficit to win the game but has to face the onslaught of winning 2 more games. All Gamal could ask me was to please rub his legs as they were cramping, he knew that he could not keep this up for ever but was prepared to try to stick to the game plan. We had no idea about how Jahangir felt, it could not have been great, but that first game had taken it’s toll.
He played the rest of the match and in the middle of the second game started to go for winners as he knew he had given all he had to give. The final result was 9-10,9-5, 9-7, 9-2.
The interesting thing about this match was that Gamal was never the same again. This match broke his spirit, realizing that he could not beat Jahangir was devastating to him, and he retired from competition a few years later.
Squash lost a legend when in 2004 at the age of 49 he died suddenly of a heart attack.
The longest women’s match was 1 hour 57 minutes, with 90 seconds between games and with a 5 minute warm up the match lasted a total of 2 hours 7 minutes. It was played in 1981 at Mayfair Parkway in Toronto in the Final of the Women’s World Championships between Rhonda Thorne now Clayton and Vicki Hoffman now Cardwell.
This match also had a tragic outcome, the loss of the friendship between these two fellow Australians. Vicki was fine all the time she was No1 in the World and Rhonda her training partner and team mate, was No2 but the moment that was reversed, it seemed to be more than Vicki could accept. Emotionally it took years for Vicki to get to grips with this. So often this is the case in life when the status quo is upset the new order is not always readily accepted.
This match even changed Rhonda, who having achieved the goal she had strived for, for so long, she lost some of her competitive edge and retired a couple of years later after the 1983 Women’s World Squash Championships in Australia. Again this is not uncommon in life to focus and drive towards a goal once achieved, resetting a new destination is often very challenging.
Now most amateur matches are around 35 minutes for amateurs and 45 minutes for professionals. This means there has been a slight shift in the emotional and physical demands for competitors. Par scoring favours the opportunist and with shorter rallies the intensity must inevitably be high, any lapse in concentration will probably mean a point is scored, unlike international scoring where there might be only a loss of serve.
However, be sure that anyone winning any major competition is going to have to focus, concentrate and gather up reserves of strength and courage to finally come out victorious.