For me, Tim ‘The Vole’ Vail is one of the most skillful players I have ever seen play. I can honestly say playing against him was always a pleasure and an enjoyable experience. I did win our matches but I always felt he was the better player – there would be several times in every match where he would hit a shot that I would just be in awe of. I’d turn around to him and smile, because essentially, I loved seeing people capable of amazing shots that I just could not play, and he had a truck load of them in his repertoire.
I think we played three times at his home club in Lee-On-Solent and maybe once in a National League match. I’d always look forward to it. He’s incredibly fair; outrageously skillful; and a top guy who is usually smiling. Forever popular wherever he goes, and massively respected by fellow players and spectators.
Tim’s technique is superb, and his body position on every shot is very ‘school of Neil Harvey’ – meaning a delightful, almost ‘over-rotation’ on his shot preparation, particularly on the backhand. Neil Harvey was Peter Nicol’s coach, so hopefully you can understand and picture the shoulder rotation I’m talking about. Different to Pete Nic however, Tim has an almost irreplicable smoothness to his swing which looks so natural and effortless. This flowing technique allows him to hit an array of different shots from any position on the court, and also gives him the softness of hand to improvise in a flash.
After a superb junior career, representing England regularly in a phenomenally skillful era with ex World No.1 Lee Beachill, John Russell, Iain Higgins, Lee Jemmett, Chris Tomlinson, Adam Stevenson, and then with Nick Matthew and Adrian Grant challenging as they were just 18 months younger. These may not all be household names but anyone who has heard of them will know they were incredible players. John Russell in particular was awesome. All of the above were among the best juniors in the World at the time, competing with Egyptians Ahmed Barada and Ahmed Faizy. Surprisingly, Tim was never able to impact heavily on the PSA Tour, but instead chose to dominate the British scene – and has he ever! There won’t be a keen squash spectator from ‘down south’ who hasn’t been wowed by Tim slapping cross-court nicks in league matches over the last 25 years.
Most top pro-squash players training in and around London during this time will have lost to Tim in a league match at one time or another. On his day, he was capable of beating almost anyone. Aided by his new svelte appearance, The Vole has also managed to maintain his superb standard over the last ten years, even though these have been his ‘masters’ years where most people see a rapid drop off in level. He is now 45 and I’m sure he’s basically the same player he ever was.
Thankfully Tim went into coaching at an early age, and I can only hope he has the opportunity to coach as many players as possible in the future, and ideally potential World Class players, because Tim has the know-how to create exceptional players. I know he’s coached several juniors who have gone on to win National Titles… – if I were in charge of England Squash I would honestly make Tim the head senior national coach. He already holds a junior coaching role within the organisation so the promotion would be an easy one to make. A change is exactly what they need and I couldn’t think of a better, more worthy candidate in the country to be working with England’s very best. It’s certainly worth giving him the role for ten years to see what difference he can make. He’d walk in on day one and immediately have the respect of the top players, which is half the battle won. I’m sure he could bring a fresh new approach enveloped in his bubbly personality and through his leadership I’m sure we’d see very positive results.
Tim is also a relentless monster at racketball (I’ll try not to hold this against him too much!). He’s basically unbeatable and has won 11 (yes, eleven!) national titles. I’m pretty sure a better change of name for the sport would have been to call it ‘Timmy Ball’ instead of Squash 57. This shows his skill and understanding of having a racket in his hand. I would bet he’s pretty good at tennis too. In essence, he’s just a racket wielding wizard.
So, to sum up; uniquely amazing player, top coach, classy guy.