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 2017

My 2017-2018 squash season has officially commenced!

Held in mid-September, the Nash Cup is usually one of the first tournaments of the fall, and is always one that the pros look forward to. Not only is there great competition (both 15k purses for men and women), the members are extremely excited and involved.

Pre-Tournament Prep in Windsor

A few days before the tournament, I flew up to Windsor, Ontario, to train with the Canadian women’s national coach, Graeme. About a month ago, he held an optional training camp, which proved to be one of the best training stints I’ve participated in in a while. Five full days of ~4-6 hours of on court training a day with top players- it doesn’t get much more motivating or intense than that! At the end of the camp, Graeme invited us to come up to hit and sharpen up prior to the Nash Cup, and I decided to take him up on his offer.

I ended up being the only one in Windsor for the pre-tournament prep, but that didn’t mean that there was a lack of squash! In between or after training sessions, I hit with some members, and also helped coach clinics and lessons. During my sessions with Graeme, we focused mostly on deep shots (drives and some cross courts), and taking the ball early.

A big thank you to the Windsor squash club, my host family (Moceris!), and Graeme for being so welcoming and supportive.

Match vs Millie

I knew roughly a month prior to the tournament that I would be pitted against the #1 seed, and world ranked #22, Millie Tomlinson. I had only played the Englishwoman once before, in Chicago this past spring. Although the game scores were respectable, Millie won that encounter in a reasonably decisive 3 games.

Drawing upon that experience and my current game, I began to formulate an idea of how the upcoming match might play out. Millie has a very consistent game, and prefers to hit most of her shots to the back with pace. She is very quick and reads the game well, so short shots can seem ineffective against her when played poorly or at the wrong time.

I went into the match half-expecting to be stuck behind Millie for the majority of the rallies, but surprised myself by stepping up on the T, and volleying. As my coach, John would say, I was going “toe to toe with her in the back court”. Compared to many of the higher ranked players, I have usually found my length game to be less consistent and less accurate, so this was a welcomed surprise.

Unfortunately, I found that although I was creating opportunities from the back, I reverted to “amateur squash”, when trying to attack and finish a rally.

In terms of attacking, I think I went wrong in 2 ways:

  1. I went short often at the wrong time, when I wasn’t quite in position
  2. I got nervous and doubted myself when it was time to play an attacking shot

Although I lost 3-0, I wasn’t overly disappointed with the match, as it pointed out several things that I need to work on, and also gave me the opportunity to test myself against a top player.

What’s Next?

I’ve got a couple of weeks now until my  next tournament, Carol Weyemuller, which is here in Brooklyn, NY! Time to train up on and off court, and see if I can play better in this tournament.