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!).

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!

 

Calgary CFO Consulting Services Open + A Trip Back Home

A resolution for next season: get better about tournament recaps! Although it’s been over a month now since the tournament in Calgary, I can still remember my matches and time there quite vividly. (It definitely also helps to take pictures to serve as little reminders!).

Two days after returning to NYC from Bermuda, I flew off to the other side of the continent for the CFO Consulting Services Open. I always look forward to playing in Calgary because they put on a great event, and I get to see friends from junior squash. (Shoutout: Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers, and of course, Glenn Stark for putting on the tournament! You guys do a fantastic job every year, and make the event very special- especially for us Canadians!)

This year I stayed with friend and Canadian teammate, Danielle. I’ve stayed with her a couple times before, and we always have a good time. (I think the first time I stayed with Danielle was for a tournament in Grade 10!).

Breakfast by D!

Match vs Nouran El Torky

I had a bye first round, and drew an Egyptian, Nouran El Torky for a spot in the main draw. As the first seeded qualifier, I was technically “expected” to make it into the main draw, but it is not uncommon to have underrated players come through qualifying and beat the odds. My opponent was definitely one of those cases.

I went into the match with a neutral and relaxed mindset. I knew if I lost, that I could opt not to take the ranking points and it wouldn’t hurt my rating, which alleviated some pressure. Instead, I made my goal to just play and not worry about the outcome.

This “gameplan” (which was more of a mindset), worked surprisingly well. The score was like background noise- I knew it was there, but it didn’t have much bearing on my play. Even when the games went to a tie-break, I still felt calm. I actually found myself wondering if I was too relaxed, and was too indifferent about the score. As much as possible, I tried to let those thoughts pass and not bother me. I was playing well, and avoiding confrontation with my opponent (she tends to get into it with the refs and there are always lots of calls), and just tried to keep doing the right thing tactically.

After losing a couple match balls in the fourth game, I eventually lost in a tiebreak in the fifth. It was a very long match (about 75 minutes), that was more mentally draining than it was physical. I can’t imagine how spent I would have been if I had been anxious or wound up during the match, as opposed to having a calm, relaxed mindset.

Injury + Victoria

Unfortunately, my body found the match to be more difficult than I realized, because immediately following the very last point, I threw my back out. It wasn’t any particular movement that hurt it, so my best guess is that the injury was a result of massive overuse and repetitive motion. In other words, lots of squash and lots of tournaments, without adequate training and rest.

The pain was so bad that I couldn’t bend down to take my shoes off or put my pants on without holding on to something or compensating in some way. I even took some pain killers for the next few days to help the pain subside.

I flew home to Victoria the following afternoon for a little visit with friends and family. Before the whole back injury episode, I was hoping to get some really good training in. However, as the weekend progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that I needed to make rehab the central focus. Massages/rolling, mobility, and contrast therapy became my best friends for a few days, as I literally could not function if I didn’t do some sort of rehab every couple of hours. My back was tiiiiiight!

On the plus side, I got to see some old friends! Danielle, Lindsay, and I have known each other since Kindergarten (almost 20 years!), and I’ve known Casey since middle school. We go way back!

Casey, me, Danielle, and Lindsay

I also convinced my mom to go on some walks with me to enjoy the sunshine. How beautiful is the Pacific Northwest?!

After an amazing few days at home, I flew off for my last two tournaments of the road trip: Regina, Saskatchewan, and Houston, Texas. More on that in another post!

 

Bermuda Open 2018

The location of this tournament doesn’t need much of an introduction, does it?

Three days after returning from Chicago, I flew off to Hamilton for the Bermuda Open! Everyone I met was incredibly kind, and the family I stayed with could not have been more welcoming. Check out our morning views!

The first couple of days were really nice weather, but by the first day of the tournament, the sky had clouded over and it rained a bit. This was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it would have been difficult to resist being outside all day before competing in the evening.

Matches

1st Round vs Sanne Veldkamp (NED)

My match with Sanne was fairly straight forward, and I tried my best to feel out the court and get rid of the first match nerves.

Aly and me at Aerial Sands! (And no, I’m not naked… strapless top!)

Quarterfinal vs Anna Kimberley (ENG)

For my second match, I was pitted against Anna Kimberley of England. I’d seen Anna play a bunch in college (she went to Trinity), but we never competed against each other. She has a typical English game, and hits good lines, and also retrieves a lot. She outplayed me in the first game, but I managed to step up my game in the second grab the second one. The third was close and physically challenging, and I narrowly missed out in a tie break. However, the damage seemed to have been done, and I think the tough rallies from the first three games took a toll on Anna, and I was able to put the pressure on to win the last two games. It was a long hard match, which certainly forced me to dig deep, and I was happy to pull it out against an underrated opponent!

Semifinal vs Alex Fuller (RSA)

My match against Alex was a bit all over the place. I felt that I was hitting the ball pretty well, and my body felt fine. However, my tactics were all off. I went short too early in the rally, when I should have pressured Alex to the back and used the short ball as a moving shot, to then attack to the back again. She is quite quick and fit, and I underestimated my own fitness. Not sure why I didn’t quite believe enough in myself, but I know for certain I wasn’t tuned in with respect to my tactics. Looking back on video, I see that a lot of the shot choices were a bit random and undisciplined. We had some hard rallies, which I should have fought through, but instead let the thoughts in my head get to me. The rallies were all close, but I went down in 3 straight games.

I ended up flying out first thing the next morning, as there was a storm approaching Bermuda. I didn’t want to risk getting stuck for the weekend, as I had a quick turnaround to Calgary shortly after!

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with a picture of my Bermuda airport breakfast. It was very “Keto-friendly”! (Not that I’m on the keto diet, but it’s a nice way to justify having bacon and eggs!)

That’s all for now! Still have several tournament recaps to write, so I’ll continue to roll those out, as well as a few more current posts.

 

Windy City Open 2018

Hello from Houston!

I arrived late Monday night, after a long but relatively easy day of traveling. This is the last tournament in a long stretch of consecutive events, and although I’m about ready to be home in NYC, I’m also glad to be in summer weather as opposed to the Northeast snowstorm!

Since I’ve got 4 tournaments to recap, I’m going to attempt to make each of them concise (although that never happens…). Here goes… only a month late! (I don’t have any pictures from this tournament, but posted a couple videos on my Instagram, if you want to check them out!)

Windy City Open (Chicago)

Match vs Sarah Cardwell (AUS)

I was originally supposed to play fellow Canadian, Hollie Naughton but the draw changed at the last minute, and I drew Sarah Cardwell instead. It was nice to have someone new to play, especially because I recently played Hollie at ToC in January.

The first two games went by quickly…not in a good way. I did not play well and Sarah attacked a lot from the middle of the court. By now, I’ve had enough experiences on court where I’ve gone down 3-0, failing to settle into any kind o groove. I knew I didn’t want to do that again, and tried to let all thoughts and anxiety go, hoping to let myself just play. When I walked on to the court in the 3rd game, I felt instantly more confident, and from the moment I returned the serve, I felt like a whole new player! I took the 3rd game in a close 11-9. I began to find my stride, and won the 4th 11-6 and the 5th 11-7. My tactics felt effortless, and I did a good job of attacking short vs attacking long. In particular, I felt that on my backhand volley, I instinctively knew when to go deep and when to attack short. Holding and hitting really helped me get the ball by Sarah, to achieve a good position to attack.

Overall I was really pleased with how I turned the match around. It was the first time I’ve been able to let go and just play in competition, and it was both a relief and motivating!

Match vs Yathreb Adel

My body was tired after a long and hard fought match against Sarah, and in particular, my right quad was shot. I got a 30 minute massage later that day to try and flush out my legs, but I think the damage was already done!

Nevertheless, I gave it my best shot at the former top-30 player. The first game I was tentative, and let her rattle off point after point, mostly from the midcourt area. In the second game, I was able to extend and control the rallies a bit better, and tested her movement. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite keep the intent and focus right to the end, and lost 11-9. The third game was very similar to the first, as Yathreb came out firing once more, and I stepped back, making poor shot choices, some of which were poorly executed and right on her racquet.

Although I lost in three, I was happy with the second game, and wish I had believed a bit more in myself to actually win the game. It was good to see that I can play at that level, but need to be able to compete that way consistently, point after point.

All in all, Windy City was a good experience this year. I made some good money and scored some really good ranking points, which, along with those from the Philly tournament, helped bump me up from #68 (February) to #59 (March) on the world tour. Woo!

My next post will recap the Bermuda Open!