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Navy with Electric green logo Open Squash

Open Squash

Jun 6th 2024

Making Squash More Entertaining For Everyone

Matias Knudsen Image

"My motto is 'no more straight drives"

Matias Knudsen

Matias Knudsen, courtesy National Squash League

"My motto is 'no more straight drives'," says Colombian squash player Matias Knudsen. "Who wants to watch a video of players exchanging endless straight drives down a single wall?"

In a nutshell, that's his approach to broadening popular appeal for the game. If you follow him on TikTok, you'll see a mad array of squash trick shots on display. This is the one he's most proud of, so far. He kicks the ball up, spins the racket, hits the ball off the spinning handle, and then chops it into the knick. The shot took him weeks to execute, spending 15 minutes after every training session. 

"I'd get sick of trying it, get annoyed, quit, and then come back another day," he said. "It's something different that gives people joy, and of course they're hard to do, you know?"

Still, it's rewarding when Knudsen gets messages from kids all over the world. "I hear often from, say, 11-year-olds in Egypt telling me how cool these shots are," he said. "It's a new way to see the game."

The former Drexel University player recently completed a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). He's also ranked 91st in the world on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) tour. He wants to continue moving up the rankings. And he sees the value of the new National Squash League (NSL) in growing interest in the game. The New York Knights drafted Knudsen, along with three other players: Sebastian Bonmalais from France; Rory Stewart from Scotland; and American Samuel Scherl. The Knights will play a match at Open Squash in New York's Financial District on June 8 before the finals on June 21. 

Far from competing with one another, Knudsen sees how the NSL and the PSA can combine.

"A good insight that a lot of people don't have is that NSL and PSA don't have to be exclusive," he said. "Both are going to grow each other if they work together. Together with the Olympics in 2028, it's all going to increase the money going into the game. It'll make more people join the sport and stay involved. We need more players to decide to stay on tour and pursue it. After all, squash is the most difficult sport in the world. So we should reward it a little better!"

The new NSL format is different from the PSA. It's much faster-paced and more gladiatorial. Three players play two 20-minute periods of squash, and they're able to substitute in and out. Each of the first two periods counts for a point. Then the third period counts for two points. If there's a tie, it goes to a "point for point" shootout. Knudsen played such a shootout during draft weekend, with Saturday's exhibition match at 2-2, 2-2, Matias beat Youssef Ibrahim in a sudden death "winner takes all" point.  

"It was crazy", he said. "It was absolutely amazing."

Power play periods also add to the drama: Only the team on power play can score points. The defending team can win rallies and serve but not score points until the duration is up. If it sounds enticing, you can watch NSL games on Youtube. You can also see Knudsen in action against the Chicago Grizzlies in a recent game.

Knudsen describes himself as "incredibly passionate" for the NSL format and business. With his MBA, he has also enjoyed being part of shaping the business behind the new league. 

"Squash lacks the excitement for people that don't really know the sport," he said. "Not everyone can appreciate watching the best players in the world beat each other over 90 minutes. This format brings more people into it."

That’s in line with Open Squash’s mission to broaden interest and participation in the game for everyone. Best of luck, Matias!

Make sure to get excited for the NSL match on Saturday, June 8th - Get your tickets here!