Excerpt, Rob Dinerman's Selected Squash Writings Volume 1

This is the introductory passage to an article about great rivalries in squash that focuses on three specific rivalries that defined the 15-year period from 1970-85 during which squash in North America had some of its greatest growth.
In professional sports, the careers of two athletes often become intertwined. This phenomenon normally evolves from a combination of chronology, continuity and confluence from which a shared legacy emerges in the public perception. They may be friends, and may even have similar backgrounds, but when locked in competition they feel the intense rivalry that develops between them. Mutual respect is created between many pairs of players, while mutual hostility festers between others, but the rivalry, particularly when it exists at the top echelon, can be powerful enough to define an entire era in the history of the sport.

The differing courses that a rivalry can take over the span of a career are often influenced not only by ability but also by the personalities of the duelling duo. Subtle weaknesses can become glaring shortcomings to one who learns how to exploit them: a fear of defeat, a predilection with the flashy shot, a hesitation under pressure, a hot temper, an inability to react promptly and properly to changing tactics. This constant interplay of strategic and psychological adjustments causes a competitive relationship of unique intimacy to develop between the two athletes, a relationship forged in part by the cruel knowledge that their rivalry will neither permit them to become strangers, nor allow them to truly be friends.

Thus have such legends as Ali and Frazier, Evert and Navratilova, and Russell and Chamberlain marched in uneasy but permanent alignment into history's expanding ledger and thus have the battles they waged impacted the annals of their sports in a manner that far outweighs the statistical measurements of their formidable achievements.

In squash, a trio of rivalries during the 1970's and 1980's truly stand out for the role they played in the development of the North American professional game. It was during this period, beginning with the early 1970's and extending to 1992, that the WPSA Tour, which was in its infancy as the 1970's began, rose to prominence before merging with the world PSA softball tour in the mid- 1990's.

Many factors can be cited for this expansion, from the promotional expertise of the WPSA business office in Toronto, under the leadership of Clive Caldwell, to the technological advantages of the three-glass-wall portable Tour Court, to the vision displayed by those companies whose active sponsorship had enabled the once fledgling tour to grow.

But it is the players themselves whose styles and performances have truly constituted the sport's headlights. The sparse ten-man ranking list of 1972 metamorphosed by 1990 into a 100-player computerized system, and the undulating rhythms of lifelong rivalries constantly showed up in the weekly shifts of these rating charts.

This article focuses on those three head-to-head rivalries that commanded special prominence during this crucial time in the WPSA expansion. As it happens, this set of rivalries are of similar duration and spaced fairly evenly throughout the period we have been describing. But what they really share is the quality of having defined the tour's ongoing evolution.

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