Carol Weymuller Open

I can hardly believe that when I wrote my last tournament recap (Nash Cup), the season was just beginning. Now, here we are in mid November, with squash season very much in full swing!

After Nash Cup

After Nash Cup, I was determined to fix what I felt had been lacking during my match with Nadine. I had difficulty controlling the ball on the hot court, and didn’t feel I could hang with her pace at the back of the court. For the next month, I focused probably 90% of my hitting on deep game variations, playing mostly against guys who hit the ball hard and take it early. This training tactic certainly paid off, as I went into my next tournament, Carol Weymuller Open, feeling fit and confident having improved this major part of the game.

I was fortunate enough to receive the wildcard slot for the Brooklyn-based tournament, meaning I was sure to come up against a more highly ranked opponent. Everyone in the draw was ranked in the top 50 (except for me, I’m currently #59), with the highest seed being world #3, Nour El Tayeb (EGY). My first round opponent was Nele Gilis, of Belgium. I’d played Nele once before at the 2017 Tournament of Champions qualifier in NYC, and lost in 3 games. (I think two of the games were close and one was not).

Carol Weymuller match – vs Nele Gilis (Belgium)

Fast forward to Weymuller first round. Nele is fit and fast, plays a lot to the back of the court, and has a very effective backhand drop/volley drop. Having played a lot of length games the past month, I was fairly confident I could hang with pace and pressure around the mid/back court. However, after an atrocious on-court warmup, and I didn’t feel like I could hit the ball to save my life. Fortunately, I know by now that that doesn’t mean much, and when I came back on court 90 seconds later to start the match, I’d somehow found my range. In retrospect, the awful warmup may have actually been a silver lining, and it forced me to focus on tactics and playing smart.

It was a very close first game, and I controlled most of the rallies for the first 3/4 of the game. Nele pulled away at the end, and I lost 11-9. In the second, I have absolutely no idea what came over me, but I think it was a combination of her settling in and playing better, and me going a bit passive. I lost 11-1. After tanking the second game, I was determined to change things around in the third (and was still feeling good physically), and put forth a pretty good effort. Unfortunately, I made a couple bad decisions when going short, and one or two bad tins towards the end of the game.  I lost that one 11-9. Agh!

After thoughts

In general, I felt I played well (for the first and third games). However, one thing in particular really struck me, and highlighted a crutch in my game. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel comfortable hitting a backhand volley drop (maybe because it was a glass left side wall- always tricky). This is probably one of my favourite go-to shots, and without it in my repertoire, felt a bit lost as to how to attack and take advantage of openings. Whenever I went short, I was going for a sort of mid-range kill shot, which worked sometimes, but felt forced and a bit anxious. I think the combination of being in a match situation, a faster court, and that side wall (something to practice and get used to), showed that I need to be able to have those shots under pressure and under all conditions.

When I compare this match to my level a year ago, I can tell there’s been a lot of improvement, mentally, tactically, and physically. It was even miles better than the previous month, against Nadine at Nash Cup. I was disappointed and annoyed to have lost, but didn’t feel it was a waste of time (which has happened before!). It highlighted holes in my game that needed to be fixed, which I’ve since taken into account and have been working on a lot more in solo practice.

All in all, it was great to be back in Brooklyn for a few days. Big thank you to Linda Elriani for giving me the wildcard slot and running a fantastic tournament, and to my billets for hosting. I hope to be back next year (maybe without the wildcard!).

Nash Cup 2018

Where has September gone?! I feel as though I moved into my new place in Stamford in the hottest weather ever, got settled, and now all of a sudden, pumpkin spice products are everywhere! I’ve also been traveling for part of the month, which always makes time seem like it’s going by in a flash.

My newest book… pretty fitting, in numerous ways.

Two weekends ago I traveled to Cincinnati to help coach a junior tournament, came home for two days, and then flew off to London, Ontario, last Wednesday for the Nash Cup! Nash Cup is always a fun way to kick off the PSA season. This was my third time playing the event, and can without a doubt say that it’s always a fun-filled time, thanks to the unwavering enthusiasm of the London Squash and Fitness club members!

Sam (who made it to the final!), me, and Phill

I was originally meant to play the wildcard, Paula Jenkins, in the first round, but after a couple withdrawals, I received a bye. This put me up against the no 2 seed, Nadine Shahin, of Egypt. I’ve seen Nadine play a few times, so I had a good idea of what to expect- fast pace, boasts from the back, and lots of low hard drives. After two practices, I began to adjust to the faster courts, but found myself struggling to control the hot and bouncy ball, mainly in the back corners.

The match started off well, and I felt mentally confident and composed. This attitude didn’t waver much throughout the match, which hopefully bodes well for this season, I think. Last season, I played numerous matches where I felt anxious and overburdened with random thoughts. During the match against Nadine, I mentally felt pretty good, but physically didn’t feel confident to execute exactly what I needed to do.

Wise words from someone… although I did find this sign sitting beside the garbage.

I found that when I stepped up and volleyed, I was able to control the play, but the combination of Nadine’s hard drives and the fast front wall limited the frequency and accuracy of my volleys. I also think I needed to be a bit quicker with my racquet prep and off the T, to make my drives from the back of the service box a bit more consistent. While a lot of the rallies were close, I ended up spraying too many drives a bit too loose, which gave her the chance to tee up and hit some kills (or wicked boasts). Speaking of boasts… in the third game, Nadine began to boast much more from the back of the court, because I wasn’t hitting good enough length, and I just wacked them cross court- right back to her. And yes, “wacked” is a very technical squash term, here meaning “smacked the ball without much thought, usually when rushed”. Let’s just say I’ve been spending some time working on the counter drop this week.

In the end, I lost 3-0, all games about 11-6 or 11-7. I didn’t feel that the match was out of reach, but was very aware that I have a couple things I need to fix. More than anything, it was a good test to see how I held up mentally in competition (after an anxious and burnt out 2017-2018 season), and also how my technique/tactics fared after summer training.

Squash aside, Nash Cup was fun as always. I love catching up with some of the Canadian locals, and they’re always so generous and kind. (If you’re not careful, this can get you in trouble on the Saturday night!).

Much needed

Big thank you to Brad and Jen, who hosted me for the week, and to the promoter (Jay Nash) and volunteers/staff who helped run the tournament. You guys are the reason why people loving coming back to this tournament!

I’ve got 3 weeks now until my next tournament, Carol Weyemuller, which will be held in Brooklyn. Time to get back to training!

 

Life Update: From NYC to Stamford

Happy Tuesday! My week is off to a pretty good start. Despite a late start to the day, I managed to get some training in yesterday and coaching in the evening. I’ve got a few minutes this morning before I head off to practice, so I figured I’d try and finish write the life update blog post which has been in the making for a while. Until my new visa and job had been confirmed, I thought it would be best to keep them off the blog, but now that everything has been finalized, and I’m in the clear!

As you may know, I was working as a personal trainer/fitness coach at Body Space Fitness for most of my time in New York City. I also coached squash out of the Princeton Club of NY, which is where I did nearly all of my on court training. A little while ago, I quit BSF, and began coaching/playing pro full time. (This is partly how I racked up 17 tournaments last season…!).

In January, my coach, and then-head coach at the Princeton Club, John Musto, was offered a job as the Director of Squash at Chelsea Piers CT, located in Stamford. Having worked with me at PCNY for a couple years, he was able to put in a good word for me at CPCT, and offered me a coaching job starting this summer. So, in July, once my new visa came through, I became a full-time employee of Chelsea Piers Connecticut! Since my apartment lease wasn’t up until August, I stayed with a very kind family in Greenwich during the weekdays, and went back to Brooklyn on the weekends. This cut down my commute a ton, and it also meant I got to bike to/from work! I’ll take 26k of cycling/day over 4 hours of commuting any day!

Once my lease finished up at the end of August, I moved up to Stamford. I’m currently living with two other squash pros who work in the area, and so far it’s going well. The suburbs are certainly much quieter than the city, but it’s nice to have more space to move around… and for less rent!

As for the work/training up here, it’s going to be a very productive setup. There are lots of training partners in the area, my coach is here, and Chelsea Piers is a world-class facility. There are 11 singles courts, 1 doubles court, an enormous gym, plus a billion other sports arenas (hockey, skating, gymnastics, soccer, tennis…). One day during summer camp we took the kids upstairs to play soccer on the indoor turf and I was in heaven. My favourite sports all under one roof!

While the city was very fun and exciting, Stamford will likely prove to have fewer distractions, which will be good for the pro athlete lifestyle. I am pretty responsible when it comes to no late nights/drinking during the season, but I think I’ll be much less tempted to go out in Stamford than in the city (for obvious reasons!). Furthermore, having all the Chelsea Piers facilities at my fingertips will cut out the commute time of to/from the gym/courts.

Canada

One of the highlights of the summer was my two week visit to BC in August. Part of the reason I went home was to “activate” my visa, but also to celebrate my moms birthday! While I was there I also played a local tournament, Sun and Surf, in Vancouver, which I used to play when I was a junior in BC.

I came up against very tough competition, as I played in the Men’s Open, but had a great time and realized there were a few things I still needed to really focus on and sharpen up before the season. The guys play consistently at a faster pace, and since I hadn’t done quite enough on court fitness training or full matches yet, I found it difficult to keep up while playing well. When I stopped trying to outhit them, and play instead play smarter, I found I did better (surprise, surprise), but it took me a couple games to get that idea through my skull.

Upcoming season

My first tournament, Nash Cup, is in a week and a half’s time, in London, Ontario. I don’t really feel I’m fully ready for the season/tournament play yet, but am going to go into the tournament prepared to use what I have. For the most part, I plan to train through tournaments this fall, and probably not compete quite as frequently I did least season (17 tournaments was too many). In having more training blocks, I’m hoping that I can focus more on the process, and that that will lead to results, general enjoyment, and less stress about outcomes!

That being said, I’m off to go bike to Chelsea Piers for some training!

Canadian National Squash Championships 2018

This year’s Canadian nationals were held at the Glencoe Club in Calgary, Alberta. In juniors, I would play tournaments at the Glencoe at least twice a year, but had not been back since. The Glencoe is an enormous facility, housing several squash courts, tennis courts, a badminton arena, an indoor and outdoor pool, curling, skating rinks, and even a bowling alley! Since I’d been there last, they had also re-done the cafeteria, restaurant, and gym. It’s an old club, but has a classic yet modern feel. I wish I belonged there!

The committee and club did a fantastic job organizing the tournament. Everything ran smoothly, and having the entire badminton arena blocked off for sponsors, lounging, and court control helped accommodate the masses of people. Furthermore, the Glencoe featured an all-glass court for the event, which was also put up in the badminton arena. This was pretty cool, since usually only main world series events are held on glass courts. The only downside to the court was that the decals (ie. sponsors logos) on the front wall were very large- and white. Since we were using a white ball, you would often lose sight of it when coming off the front wall. This, coupled with the fast front wall and altitude caused a few flubs over the course of the tournament. All in all, I don’t think it was a major factor in the result of my matches, but the court did take some getting used to, that’s for sure.

Matches

My first match was against Erin Roberts. I had the chance to jump on the glass court prior to the match, and this served as an advantage. I took the ball as early as I could and put pace on it, to force Erin into the corners behind me. This strategy worked well, and I felt surprisingly comfortable on the lightning fast court.

Kids, don’t try this at home!

Now in the quarters, I drew Nikki Todd, a fellow Canadian teammate. We’d played a couple months prior, in the Queen City Open (see previous post for recap), and I had lost in a somewhat close 3 games. Although I didn’t hype this match up to myself or to anyone, I knew it was more important that just a quarterfinal. With Women’s World teams 4 months away, Squash Canada had declared this tournament as trials. The top 4 women would make the world’s team. Sitting in 5th place, I had to beat at least one of the women ahead of me for a place on the team. (5th place is a reserve, but does not travel to the tournament).

Nikki started off strong, and I lost the first game fairly quickly. She was more consistent at applying pressure with low hard drives- similar to what I’d done to Erin the previous day. In the second, I did my best to regroup, and narrowly missed out. The third was a bit scrappy, from what I can remember. I managed to save a couple of match balls, hit a drive  between my legs at 11-11 (which I will blame on a funny bounce), and squeaked it out 13-11. I knew I needed a good start in the fourth game, but quickly found myself trailing by 5 points. Not ideal! Now, with my back against the wall, I began to play better squash, and scrapped together some points. However, in the end I couldn’t pull it out, and went down in 4 games.

After that match, I had several people come up and tell me it was a good game and that I played well, but I couldn’t help feel a bit disappointed. I’m not sure if that was because I knew I would not be on the team going to Womens World teams this fall, or because I felt I could have played better. I actually talked with Nikki after the match and asked her what she had thought of it. I was curious as to what her strategy had been, given my strengths/weaknesses, and the court. Nikki said that instead of lobbing or hitting mid-height shots from a defensive, she aimed to keep the ball away from my volley, with low drives, or drops or boasts if necessary. As someone who likes to attack on the volley from the midcourt, I did find it a bit frustrating, since I had to find other ways to create pressure, and furthermore, neutralize her attacks.

My final two matches of the tournament were both against Calgarians. The first match was against Jamie Laird, whom I’d played Jamie once before in college, and lost in five. Jamie is a great competitor, and had been in form this tournament. The match was a bit of a roller coaster on my end, but managed to win in five games.

Following Jamie, I was up against fellow Princeton alum, Jackie Moss. Jackie graduated right before I matriculated, and played top 3 for the team. Like Jamie, Jackie is a great competitor, and can never be counted out. Now on the last day of the tournament, this match would not just be a matter of squash skills, but also a test of how well your body had held up after 3 hard matches. Despite playing 5 games the day before, I felt pretty decent, and closed it out in a close 4 games. Despite a few reffing blunders, the match was competitive and fair, and a good way to finish off my season.

Overall, I’m okay with how the tournament went. I was seeded 5th, and upheld that ranking. It would have been really nice to have done better, however upon reflecting, I came away with two “macro” positives. First off, I felt mentally much better than the year before (mentally, I was not in a good place for last year’s nationals). Secondly, I had more confidence in my game and in myself than at the beginning of the season. I guess playing 17 tournaments in the span of 8 months will help with that!

Victoria

After a fun night out (there’s always an end of tournament banquet), I flew home the following day to Victoria. I had the best week at home, running a bit, hiking, biking, working out, and also playing “fun squash”, including doubles and lives! I also got to go kayaking, and meet up with friends. The weather was perfect, which made it easy to be outside and be active. That’s one thing I miss about the west coast… no fight for quiet green space!

Early Offseason Plans

Since I’ve been back in NY, I’ve been coaching, and have taken a break from playing. My workouts have consisted of lifting, general circuits, Kettlebell and core at Body Space, and a run. I’m letting myself take the rest of May off from squash, and will start to ramp up off court training in June. As for hitting, I think I’ll get back on court when I feel like it. Last summer, I took nearly a 2 month break from squash- something I’d never done before. It was really necessary, but this off season I’d like to spend more time working on my game, so I feel better prepared for the fall. I am hoping that in the next few weeks, I’ll start to get the itch to play again, but in the meantime, I’m going to work on off-court, and enjoy life a little bit!

 

 

Queen City Open (Regina) and Texas Open (Houston)

Queen City Open

My final two events of the 5-tournament road trip were tough. My back was still bugging me a lot, and my movement was very compromised. Every morning I would struggle to get out of bed, let alone have a reasonable practice hit. Fortunately, as I’d move and warm up throughout the day, my back would feel a bit better, and after a good warmup and an Aleve, I’d be able to compete without too much pain. Funnily enough, even though the pain wasn’t as acute, my body still wouldn’t let me move in certain ways. In particular, any balls to the backhand and anything low were really hard to retrieve. My reaction time was also really slow, which made me feel like a bit of a boat out there on the court (ie. slow to turn).

Playing Jaycee in my first round match

One positive takeaway was that I had to be conscientious and smart about my tactics. I found that cross courts often got me in trouble, so I kept a large percentage of shots straight down the wall. In addition, since I was hesitant to cover the front, I had to be careful and tactful about when to go short.

About to serve to Nikki (Quarters in Regina at the Queen City Open)

My first match vs Jaycee was tense. was a bit nervous about my back going into the match, but after I realized I probably wasn’t going to make it worse, I tried to settle in. Jaycee played well, and I managed to win in 4 games. Aside from one game where I stepped up on the T, I was pretty passive for most of the match and let a lot of balls go to the back.

In the quarters, I drew Nikki Todd, a Canadian teammate. It had been about a year and a half since we’d played in competition, and knew I’d have to bring my A game. Also, as a Regina native, she was the home favourite. I think I played about as well as I could have given my back, but wish that I had been more confident to attack short. Nikki is very quick, and I was very aware of her ability to counter attack off of my weak short shots. Instead of giving her that opportunity, I played a lot of balls to the back- when in doubt, a tight, straight volley helped keep me from scrambling. The games were all close and competitive, but I ended up going down 3-0.

Aside from losing, Regina was pretty fun. My billets were great, and I really enjoyed getting to know the Queen City committee members.

All of the athletes participating in the Queen City Open

A few of the pros were also asked to work with some of the local juniors in a Saturday morning clinic. They were all very enthusiastic!

Novum Energy Texas Open

After the Queen City Open concluded, I flew to Houston for a 25k in some warmer weather. I can’t tell you how nice it was to finish off with a tournament in a summer-like conditions!

The first two nights Danielle and I stayed with a billet, Melissa. She and her family were incredibly welcoming, and we were sad to leave to go to the hotel! Since us athletes cover our own accommodation (and transportation), we are always grateful when the tournament promoter covers hotel rooms or arranges homestays. In this case, billets were arranged for qualifying dates, and hotel was covered for main draw players. I was in the main draw, but arrived during qualification, and was therefore put up with Melissa for a couple nights until the hotel bonus kicked in.

My first match was against #4 seed, Mayar Hany of Egypt. Mayar had just been in Regina for the Queen City Open as well, and had won the entire event. I knew I could look at this one of two ways: 1) Mayar could be confident because she was playing so well, or 2) she could be very, very tired from having played so many tough matches. I disregarded both thoughts, and just tried to focus on my own game.

I think Mayar was half asleep in the first game, and I won it narrowly 12-10. After that, it was as though I had awoken the sleeping giant, and I proceed to tank the next game, losing 11-0. Yikes. I don’t think I’ve ever been bageled before (ie. losing 11-0) in competition, and that got in my head a bit. The next two games were better, but I didn’t feel as though I was hitting the ball well, and was always on the back foot. She hit some ridiculously good boasts to the front left corner, that I just couldn’t retrieve (partly limited because of my back, but they were also great shots).

It was a frustrating match, because I felt that if I had played well and been healthy, the score could have been different, but at the same time I was relieved to be done with tournaments. After 5 tournaments in a row, my mind, and especially my body were in desperate need of rest.

Overall, Houston was a good experience. I really enjoyed meeting the promoters and sponsors of the event, and hope to return soon! The squash community in Houston is very enthusiastic, and I see great potential for either an urban program or simply more tournaments. The complex that we played in (the Metropolitan club) was right downtown, and was huge. Immense workout facility (weights, treadmills, basketball court, crossfit studio), as well as 5 squash courts, probably a dozen tennis courts, and a restaurant/bar. The saying “everything is bigger in Texas” is true!