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!).

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!