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By Nicole Bunyan on May 18, 2024

Calgary 20k Tournament Recap - Nicole Bunyan

In this article, we have another exciting tournament recap from Team CT's Nicole Bunyan, she's certainly been on a roll!

If you read her previous blog post about Nicole's 15k tournament in Vancouver, you already have the backstory as to how up and down her past month of prep has been (due to injuries, life, and more getting in the way).

Coming off of a 2nd round loss (and her only match) in that tournament Vancouver, Nicole wanted to push on and make the most of her experience at a 20k tournament located in Calgary.

I always love reading these...

Just a note, this article was written just over a month ago, however, we haven't had the chance to share it with you all until now, anyway, let's dive in...

Yes, I was the #4 seed and highest-ranked Canadian, but I put all expectations and pressures out of my mind. I originally decided to play these two 'smaller' Challenger tournaments back to back so that I could accumulate matches- something which I did not do enough of in the first half of the season. 

Backing up wins is important to build confidence and learn more about your game (and yourself!). It's all fun and breezy to show up to the big events and play without any "pressure" but I've realized that to get to the next level (both for my squash level and ranking), I need to become a lot more solid in my game.

This only comes through testing under pressure; ie. winning close matches you "should" win...

Round 2 Match: Sarah Cardwell

My first match was against Australian, Sarah Cardwell. I believe Sarah and I have only played each other once on tour, back in 2018 where I came through in 5 games after being 2-0 in qualifying of the Windy City Open.

It was one of my biggest wins (both because I beat someone higher ranked, and because of the size of the tournament).

My game has improved lots since then (I mean, it's been 6 years!), and now I am the higher ranked player, but I was still nervous going in.

I rarely look forward to the first match in a tournament when I am expected to win.

It's more of a relief to get through than anything. This mindset might be something to work on, but I know not to overthink these emotions and feelings.

I had a couple of key objectives I wanted to nail, and was confident that if I executed those, the result would come and give me a basis to build from for the rest of the tournament.

If I'm being honest- it wasn't my finest or sharpest performance. Sarah attacked and moved the ball around the court well, and I felt I was mainly responding to her while trying to keep a high pace and put her under pressure.

After winning the first 13-11, I managed to take the sting out of my opponent by putting some harder rallies in and just making myself tough to beat.

Screenshot 2024-05-03 114147

Quarter-Final Match: Alina Bushma

I had also played Alina once before- back in 2021 in a 10k in Houston in the quarterfinals. We had a really physical and testing match which I came through in 4 games.

I have been on court several times with Alina since then, and rate her as a player and an athlete. She is much better than her ranking, and is physical, quick, and aggressive.

I knew it would take consistent work to break her down. When we've played practice games in the past, I've been quick to become frustrated when Alina would take her space, get in my space, or make great retrievals.

I mentally prepared for this by expecting this contact and was aware to not let it rattle me.

Sometimes, bracing yourself for the 'worst' (whether it's a hard workout, physical opponent, or another challenge), is helpful because then you don't have to waste time or mental energy getting over the shock of this obstacle. 

My game plan against Alina was simple. Make myself tough to beat, break her down in the back corners, and take away the middle. I won 3-0 in about 35 minutes, and it was a very solid performance.

What I'm most proud of is closing out 2 of the games after being down in the business end (I think about 9-7 in both), and staying steady enough to come through and win.

I didn't worry about the score or about dropping a game- I knew this was a possibility, and as soon as I acknowledged that, I put it out of my mind and instead focused on the point ahead.

I forced some crucial errors out of her, took my opportunities, and played a very professional match. Could my squash have been better? Yes. But the mental performance is certainly one to be proud of. 


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

Semi-Final Match: Georgia Adderley

Despite a TERRIBLE night's sleep (seriously- I didn't fall asleep until 5 am!!!), I felt more relaxed going into my semi-final against Georgia. She is fiery, but I knew it would be a tough, fair battle with no cheating or blocking nonsense, which always adds extra nerves and edginess.

My body was a little sore from compensating from a couple of lingering injuries, but after a couple of anti-inflammatories, a little practice hit, a solid 90-minute nap, some coffee, and a solid warmup, I felt ready to go. 

The match started off well, with some long testing rallies (to be expected), and I gathered a sizeable lead. I nearly squandered it, but managed to close out the first game 12-10. It was a hard game- about 15 minutes- but I felt ok.

At the beginning of the 2nd, I felt something twinge in my left glute. I tried to ignore it, but I realized I needed to find a way to either play around it, push through and ignore it, or retire.

It wasn't bad enough that I couldn't keep going, so I played on. Unfortunately, this internal mental dialogue took some time, and distracted me from the task at hand- beating my opponent! 

The 2nd and 3rd games were both long and physically hard, but I lost them more convincingly (11-4, 11-7 or so). 

A big push was needed coming into the 4th, at a point where we were both feeling it physically.

I found myself trailing in the 4th, feeling fatigued. I'd been here before- feeling down and out, only to regret afterward not having been able to give it a little something extra.

As they say on SquashTV, it was Last Chance Saloon for me, so I threw everything at Georgia, despite my physical state.

I managed to convince myself I had a second wind in me, and proceeded to inject more pace into my movement and hitting, which forced some errors from Georgia. It was hard, but I had something to stick to every rally.

It didn't need to be perfect or outright winners (which was difficult to do because Georgia is so fast and the altitude makes it brutal to put balls away), but I told myself I just needed to pressurize her and see what happened.

I got to 12-11 and earned myself a game ball. We had a massive rally where Georgia threw out an insane dive, and I must have been experiencing a lack of oxygen to the brain, because I assumed it was down (it wasn't) and thumped the tin with half an open court.

It was a hard battle to the end, but Georgia got the better of me and closed out the match 14-12 in 4 games. The match lasted 62 minutes- a solid duration for a 5 gamer, let alone 4! 


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

Post-Match/Tournament Takeaways

Was I disappointed to lose? Of course. But there are so many things I am proud of and learned throughout this tournament and match:

1. I hung on and found another gear in the 4th against Georgia when I thought I was down and out, and could have given up. I learned that I need to push the pace to make my golden-retriever-like opponent uncomfortable and force them to give me errors or better opportunities. I wouldn't have learned this if I had just thrown in the towel. 

2. I am really proud of my professional performance against Alina in the 1/4's. That could have easily gone more than 3 games, or been a loss if I'd been a bit off, so I'm happy to have come through that. A very good experience under my belt. 

3. I managed my body well, despite a few niggles (before and during matches). I realize you are rarely going to be 100% physically on tour, and told myself I needed to get 100% out of whatever I had that day, whether it be 60%, 70%, or 80%. I did that on every occasion.

Final Thoughts:

First off- if you're still reading this, thank you! This has been a massive recap (and very cathartic, might I add), and I hope you gain something from reading. I am often asked for mental tips, and I feel these reports give much better insight than general info and advice. 

There's a lot more travel until the end of the season, however, you've surely read enough now, so I'll save that for my next email.

Thanks again for reading!

- Nicole

This article was taken from our 'Control the Kitchen' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!

Published by Nicole Bunyan May 18, 2024