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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 00:43 GMT 01:43 UK
Rumsfeld master of 'combat squash'
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Washington

Donald Rumsfeld giving his speech at the Southern Center for International Studies in Atlanta
Donald Rumsfeld is said to relish the combative nature of the game
Reports that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's squash game is as uncompromising as his political instincts have been confirmed by a former champion who played the Pentagon chief in Germany.

Recently a leading US paper raised eyebrows by comparing Mr Rumsfeld's running of the defence department to his hardball tactics - or "combat squash" - honed on the courts in the Pentagon's basement.

Despite his 74 years, Mr Rumsfeld remains stubbornly competitive, hitting the ball well, but refusing to play by the rules, aides told the New York Times.

Mohamed Awad, once a world top-10 pro, spent half an hour hitting with him last February at a racquet club in Munich, where Mr Rumsfeld was attending a military conference.

"He is still playing a hard game, he blocks like he is playing ice hockey," Mr Awad told the BBC. "I think if he comes up against someone of his own age, he will crush them easily."

His eyes follow the ball all the time, he has got great reflexes for a man of his age
Mohamed Awad

Mr Rumsfeld, currently recovering from surgery on his left shoulder for an injury unrelated to squash, took up the game more than 20 years ago, and last year indicated it had helped shape his military philosophy.

"I play squash with him," he said of former Pentagon aide Lawrence Di Rita, in an interview with military writer Thomas Barnett.

"And when I pass him in a shot and it's a well-played hard shot, I saw speed kills. And it does. If you can do something very fast you can get your job done and save a lot of lives."

'War inside the court'

Mr Rumsfeld is said to take every opportunity to play a sport he says has helped keep his "sanity'' in a time during which he and the administration have faced growing political pressure.

David Palmer tangles on court with Gregory Gaultier
Squash is a battle at close quarters

The deep-pocketed politician - who has had a high-flying business career - is thought to have paid around $20,000 for exclusive use of Munich's Parkclub Nymphenburg in February.

Mr Awad, the club's head coach, said: "When I came to work they had shut the club down for the day. I was very nervous, there were security guys all over the street, I thought they were making a James Bond film or something.

"I played with him as a sportsman - I don't care who he is, I just respected him as a fellow squash player.

"His best shot is the crosscourt. He watches it very well with his eyes and hits it with the middle of the racket. His eyes follow the ball all the time, he has got great reflexes for a man of his age."

"Squash is a tough game, it can be like a war inside the court," added Mr Awad.

"You strike hard, you put pressure on your opponent, you control the battle - that is how you win."




SEE ALSO
Rumsfeld heckled over war in Iraq
05 May 06 |  Americas
Rumsfeld praises Afghan mission
11 Jul 06 |  South Asia
Profile: Donald Rumsfeld
18 Apr 06 |  Americas

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