The National Squash Academy Open was held last week and it would be my first tournament in nearly two months. I had put in a good, consistent summer of training and was very anxious to finally get on court and see what improvements had been made. It was a nice change to be feeling 100% physically and take some rest days before the match, as summer training is very high volume and taxing on the body; you’re never quite fully recovered from your last session before you start a new one.
I was drawn against Tyler Hamilton, a fellow Canadian and opponent I’ve trained/played with often. I had never beaten him in a competitive match and had been thinking about the impending showdown every day since the draw came out a month before the event. I wanted to perform well at my home club, but more importantly wanted to prove to myself that I am indeed improving. I was extremely nervous the entire 24 hours before the match, which is a rare feeling for me. A poor performance would mean another first-round loss and a (seemingly) wasted summer of training. I tried to cope by visualizing well-played rallies and key points. Thankfully, I was able to positively translate this nervous energy. I forced a very high pace and got to a few more balls than I might normally reach. Tyler was off his game on the day, and these factors combined to a 3-0 win in under 25 minutes. I had a massive sense of relief and validation at achieving my goal.
In the quarterfinals I played Colin West, who ultimately finished second in the event. I continued in the same vein as the previous match, trying to keep the ball relatively tight and playing defense as needed. I was able to steal the first game, but Colin maintained a standard of play I could not match for long. Eventually I lost 3-1 in an hour, but again was pleased with my efforts.
As I thought about the tournament afterwards, I concluded that one of the keys to my win over Tyler was desperation; I brought a life-or-death attitude to the match, because I would not have been able to deal with the consequences of losing in my own mind. Leaving myself with no other options, I was able to perform at my best almost out of necessity. This desperation has been a common theme in many of my good performances in PSA matches, and I am going to try and reach that high level of intensity before all matches from now on.