HomeArticlesCSA x CROSS COURT ANALYTICS: Chan vs. Subramaniam - 2023 Ramsay Cup...

CSA x CROSS COURT ANALYTICS: Chan vs. Subramaniam – 2023 Ramsay Cup Final

Cross Court Analytics is a York, England-based company which uses a unique and innovative approach to assess squash matches in an objective and statistically rigorous way. A Cross Court Analytics evaluator catalogues every shot selection, shot location, and rally result from an entire match and then categorizes and analyzes the results, looking for patterns and tendencies. CSA is pleased to partner with Cross Court Analytics for this introductory article.

With the College Squash Association (CSA) season drawing to a close in March, Cross Court Analytics broke down the numbers from the 2023 National Collegiate Individual Women’s Championship between Simmi Chan (Columbia University) and Siva Subramaniam (Cornell University). Though Subramaniam started strongly, the defending champion ultimately succumbed to Chan, three games to one.

Chan’s success in this final was underpinned by an attacking mindset. Despite Subramaniam returning a more favorable Winner:Error ratio (15 Winners, 8 Errors), it was Chan’s sheer volume of Winners which tipped the battle in her direction. Chan’s 19 Errors may have been high, but the Columbia player racked up an astonishing 27 Winners, with 25 of these coming in the final 3 Games alone.

Subramaniam hit 2 Winning shots for every Unforced Error she made (W:E ratio of 2:1); Chan hit 3 Winners for every 2 Unforced Errors (W:E ratio of 3:2). A player’s Outright Winners are combined with their opponent’s Forced Errors to produce total Winner numbers.

It was as if Subramaniam’s one-sided Game 1 win (11-2) forced Chan to reevaluate her strategy: no longer content to try and match the Cornell player’s probing line and length, Chan gambled on aggression. Chan began Game 2 with five Winners and three Unforced Errors, taking the ball short once every five shots, up from once every seven shots in Game 1. One thing was for sure: points would be short one way or the other. The average rally length dropped from 10 shots (15 seconds) in the first game to 7 shots (11 seconds) in the second.

A lot to take in, but worth the effort: Rally length is shown on the vertical axis; the number of the rally within the Game is shown on the horizontal axis. The colors of the shapes show who won the point, with shape revealing in what manner. Just 2 rallies all game lasted more than 12 shots, with 6 of the final 7 rallies in the Game over before the 5th shot.

The contrast in styles – Chan the aggressor, Subramaniam becoming more reactive – is seen most clearly in the pair’s backhand shot selections. Subramaniam sought to close down attacking opportunities, hitting 85% of her deep backhand shots down the line. And the Cornell woman was also content to slow the tempo where possible: Subramaniam lifted 28 times from this region, twice as frequently as Chan used height (14).

Numbers represent the percentage of shots each player hit to that region from deep left (circled).

Chan, by contrast, hit straight from deep on her backhand just 62% of the time, opting to open up angles for attack. And attack she certainly did: from mid-court backhands, Chan took the ball short once every three opportunities (Subramaniam once every seven).

Numbers represent the percentage of shots each player hit to that region from mid left (circled). The darker the segment, the more shots hit to that region.

But switching play from deep left and attacking from mid-left was not without its risks for Chan. She hit 12 of her 19 Unforced Errors from these two regions combined (63%).

Information 3 ways: Dots show location of Unforced Errors hit from; numbers represent the percentage of a player’s Unforced Errors hit from each region. The darker the segment, the more Errors made. Subramaniam hit just 1 Unforced Error on deep backhands; Chan hit 7.

Once taken into the front, Chan and Subramaniam adopted very different approaches. Subramaniam counter-dropped on half the opportunities she could; Chan, though proactive in taking the ball short from mid-court, typically sought to move play to the back once Subramaniam had countered. The Columbia player hit half of her shots (48.4%) from the front left to deep on Subramaniam’s forehand.

Numbers represent the percentage of shots each player hit to that region from front left (circled). The darker the segment, the more shots hit to that region.

Subramaniam may watch this match back and think she was too predictable from short. As Chan grew into the contest, she was able to read the Cornell player with ever more confidence: closing in on Subramaniam’s forehand counter drop was a particular strength for Chan, who hit the greatest number of her Winners from this front right region (28.6%).

Dots show location of Winners hit from; numbers represent the percentage of a player’s Winners hit from each region. The darker the segment, the more Winners hit.

She may have been reading Subramaniam’s game well, but Chan still needed to put away the Winners. She did so in Game 4 with a series of sublime backhand crosscourt volley drops. This was an area of strength for Chan: across the contest, she hit four Winners in this way and just one Error, much improved on her general Winner:Error ratio of 3:2.

Each dot represents the location of a shot played. It may be of interest to note that Chan opted to serve backhand from the right, while Subramaniam chose to serve forehand.

It was Chan’s ability to get on the volley which really paved the way for her success. In points Subramaniam won, Chan volleyed 29% of the time, marginally higher then Subramaniam’s volley rate of 24%. But in points Chan won, she increased her volley rate to a high 35%, and limited Subramaniam’s to just 19%.

This chart only presents data from the points won by Chan. In these points, she dominated the mid court (38% of shots), volley opportunities (35% of shots), and made Subramaniam boast (11%) and lift out of trouble once every 4 shots (24%).

The final was played in great spirit, with the contender dethroning the holding champion. Just over one month later, Chan and Subramaniam were drawn against each other again in the opening round of April’s British Open, and Subramaniam avenged her loss with a fairly smooth victory. The 2023 Ramsay Cup National Championship Final is a fantastic advertisement for the high-quality squash played in the US College Squash system and the ability of CSA’s players to compete at the highest level after college.