It takes senior Adrian Ezra a few moments to remember the last time he lost a squash match. Except for one contest, the finals of the National Intercollegiate Championships his sophomore year, Ezra has never lost a match. Ever.
The list of titles he holds, including last year's National Intercollegiate crown has grown unwieldy. Asked which titles he currently holds and he says, "You don't want the small ones, do you?"
The "big ones" include National Intercollegiate Hardball Champion, National Intercollegiate Softball Champion and National Indian Softball Champion.
Ezra says softball and hardball squash are very different games. Softball, which uses a softer ball on a wider court, is played internationally. Softball squash is "More like physical chess," Ezra says, adding that it is a more tactical game and therefore emphasizes endurance. "If you're fit for softball, you're fit for hardball," Ezra says, "But definitely not vice versa."
Hardball, on the other hand, is an American version of squash played on a narrower court. The harder ball means a faster game which emphasizes reflexes and speed and demands a shorter swing. It also allows luck to play a greater role. For Ezra, the switch between soft and hardball is normally mental. "I have to get into the frame of mind of playing a long match," Ezra says, describing his thoughts going into a softball match.
But at the Indian National Championships three weeks ago, the hotter, more humid weather was an additional factor to which Ezra needed to adjust. The heat meant the ball bounced more quickly and the humidity meant the tournament was more taxing physically.
Ezra usually arrives at the tournament a week early to adjust to the climate, but this year the tournament was about a month earlier than normal.
Because of academic and job recruitment related commitments, Ezra had to arrive at the tournament only two days before it began.
But that didn't stop him from breezing through the competion and winning. Not much does.
The Indian tournament is much different from American ones, Adrian says. It is an open tournament which is much larger. And it is more political. The tournament is organized by political factions. Occasionally, the groups have "Differences," Ezra says. "And they take it out in public."
The recent demands of academics and job recruiting have meant Ezra has had to curtail the number of tournaments he enters, but he remains enthusiastic about Harvard squash.
"The team is doing well and working very hard," he says. This year the team will try to win a fourth consecutive national championship. And with Ezra in its ranks, that probably won't be too hard.