Friday, January 29, 2010


Like a slave being thrown into the coliseum and watching the lions be released, you know that no matter what the slave does, in the end he’s toast – or in this case, kitty food. That is more or less how I felt stepping on court for my first round qualifying match against Matthew Karwalski in the this year’s Motor City open (MCO) at the BAC. Karwalski is ranked 74 in the world and a fellow Australian, but this was the first time we had crossed paths which isn’t a surprise since he was just weaning himself out of diapers by the time I was finishing up my junior career.

The BAC has done a wonderful job – as they do every year – in setting up and running a first class pro event. The players are front and center, the audience is extremely appreciative and generous and if any of the players go away without a positively flattering experience, then they better see their physician to get better meds.

My match went pretty much as I expected it would. With virtually no preparation leading up to the match (which came from lack of time and not from lack of ‘want’), expecting to be able to compete with much younger competition who do nothing else but play matches and train, would be like the slave in the coliseum standing up to the lion and expecting to survive a hand-to-paw/jaws combat. I did not feel out matched skill-wise, but it became apparent rather early on that my fitness would be somewhat lagging. My resistance was fair, and I did try as hard as I could, ran as much as my legs and lungs would allow, and picked up a good handful of points, albeit not enough to win any of the games. The anticipated 3-0 result lasted between 30-40 minutes.

Like anyone else, I felt the loss was disappointing. (I can’t believe that lion ate me!) I think – know – I could have done better. The ‘what-ifs’ and ‘should-haves’ come thick and fast, and maybe next year I’ll make more time to train, but either way I am thankful to the BAC for giving me the opportunity to get out and play ‘properly’ again. I am also very grateful to all the DAC members that made the effort to come and cheer me on; it does mean an awful lot to me.

The main draw for the MCO starts tonight and features a couple of top 10 players. For the record, Karwalski did not win his next match and failed to qualify. I guess I made him too tired… (!)

Photos courtesy of Henry Payne (BAC)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Seriously, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I had inkling that we were set to receive a lot of registrations this year, and my tingling spider-sense didn’t let me down. We had so many in fact, that I had to stop taking in entries before the advertised deadline and actually turn people away. That is of course something I dread doing – but in the end, I really had no choice. As it is, matches will be extending into the late hours of Thursday, and into midnight of Friday.

When my tears (of joy?) evaporated I was left with 143 registrations. WOW! Many of which were playing in 2 categories. Now the problem lay in the scheduling which in all honesty, I did lose sleep over. It was like solving a 143-sided Rubik’s Cube. How to a) squeeze in all those matches and b) avoid time conflicts. Consider a player that has entered the 3.0 and 3.5 brackets. There are 10 possible times that player can play over the course of the weekend in the 3.0 level – if you take into account the path they take in the main draw and consolation. Add on another 10 possible times in the 3.5 draw and try to organize it so that none of the times in the 3.0 or the 3.5 clash. Now, do that for the 60 odd players that are playing in 2 levels and you start to understand the complexity of the dilemma… and the pain in my head… and the cross-eyed and glazed look on my face… and my search for a bus to throw myself under…

But, like any other dauntingly impossible task, the draws and schedules come together and hopefully what is left is a tournament that will appear to run smoothly and all mistakes / disasters / tsunamis / stress are kept hidden behind the scenes and the players are none the wiser.

Yes, the work is tough. Yes, the hours are long. Yes, the stress is high. But whose job isn’t from time to time? If all I did was look at it from that angle, I think I’d be finding that bus pretty quickly. But I look at it from the other perspective: Yes, the tournament is best value for money event around. Yes, the DAC do a phenomenal job on the service. Yes, the reward for running an exceptional event is reflected in the support you – the entrant – have shown. And yes, I get tremendous pride in running it.

The event kicks off on Thursday, February 4. I would like to extend a special thank you to the major sponsors of the tournament, and the incredible support from the London Squash Racquets Club and Windsor Squash. We also have players from our friends in Toledo, and one from Madison, Wisconsin. So get ready for the best weekend of squash you will ever experience. Love-All… play.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Boasters League Round 3-

The ‘Reach Arounds’ made a significant jump this week in the standings at the expense of the ‘Defending Champs’. Sitting in 6th place last week, the ‘Reach Arounds’ are now 3rd, just 7 points off the leaders – ‘Duck or Bleed’ who have managed to hold onto that position by the slimmest of margins. The ‘Defending Champs’ drop to 4th place, losing 4 of their 6 matches so far completed in week three 3-0.

The captain of the ‘Angry Dragons’ Paul Ward – sent out an ‘angry’ e-mail to his team this week to fire them up. Leading by example, Paul used his anger and won his match this week 3-0, as did Bruce Shaw. He angered four other of his team mates to play their matches as well but they all lost 2-1, and to avoid making Paul any angrier, the team also picked up a healthy 7 bonus points. They are still the cellar dwellers, but have made up a lot ground. Hopefully, the anger will motivate them to continue on this path and finally start making a move up the ladder!

Match of the week is given to Anthony Fracchia (Duck or Bleed’) and Shail Arora (Stimulus Package’). Anthony and Shail were deep into their third game after splitting the first two when Shail ran full speed into the wall with his non-playing arm extended, pushing his arm bone back into his elbow. Up until that moment, the match was anyone’s for the taking, but the incident had Shail down for the count. There was unfortunately no possible way for him to continue. A regrettable ending to an excellent contest. I am happy to say that Shail did not break anything, but it appears he may have damaged some ligaments. We hope he is back swinging the racquet soon, and until then we wish him the quickest and fullest of recoveries.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Boasters League Round 2-

The standings remained pretty tight this week. As anticipated the teams remain relatively close together after only 2 weeks of play, with the exception of the 8th placed “The Deconstructors” and 9th placed “Angry Dragons” who have already had their ‘bye’ week. The “Angry Dragons” however, did not play one make-up match from week 1 and will have to careful not to put themselves behind too far too quickly. So far, teams have been quite respectable in regards to collecting bonus points, let’s hope that players become just as motivated to get all their matches done. Although, a lot of the bonus points collected last night were on account of the free booze and sliders for the 2nd dividend rather than ”doing it for the team”!

In one of the more surprising results and the most entertaining match of the evening, Mac Nutter (“Hell’s Kitchen”) (pictured right) shocked the “Defending Champs” captain Pat Petz pulling off a 3-0 win in a match that almost took 45 minutes. As disappointed as Pat was after the match not to at least win one of the games (2 of which ended up 15-14), he did gave full credit to Mac for excellent play, especially on those ‘sudden-death’ points when Mac could not have placed his straight drives any tighter. Mac is still undefeated in the Boasters League this season (including the first half)… hopefully I didn’t just jinx him!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


In comparison to the rest of the US, Michigan is pretty much a squash professional “dead zone”. There are only 2 full time teaching pros in the state (me being one of them) so club players virtually have no opportunities to witness the game played at the highest level first hand. Once a year, the Birmingham Athletic Club runs the Motor City Open. Scheduled for January 27 to February 1, this year, the tournament has a total purse of $40,000 which, although a pretty hefty sum, is around middle of the range as far as prize money goes. To attract a good percentage of the top ten ranked players, tournaments need to offer at least $80,000, and as far as I know, there are only 3 tournaments in North America that achieve that status. Still, the Motor City Open is hardly void of talent.

Leading the pack this year and going in as the number one seeded player is Egyptian Karim Darwish. Darwish is currently ranked 5, although at the time the entries for this event closed in December, he was world number 1. The second seed is Frenchman Thierry Lincou who is currently ranked 9, but also held the number 1 ranking back in 2005. Next on the list is Malaysian Azlan Iskander, ranked 17, and rounding off the top 4, ranked 22, Olli Tuominen from Finland who won the event in 2007. Providing some patriotic interest this year, American Julian Illingworth (ranked 30) comes in as the 5th seeded player and is scheduled to meet Iskander in the quarter-final. This could be the perfect opportunity for Julian to reach a semi final of large event as Iskander can be a little inconsistent at times and Illingworth is poised to start claiming some top 20 scalps.

Every player in the main draw is in the world top 50. (Except for the BAC pro, Julian Wellings, who goes in as the tournament ‘wild card’. Back in the day when Julian was on the tour, he did reach the top 50 himself, so he no slouch!) Every player in the qualifying draw (except the four ‘local’ players) is in the top 100. Top class squash is guaranteed from the first match in the qualifying, all the way to the final.

I will also be playing in the qualifying event on Wednesday, January 27 – although I will not know when or against who until the morning of, when the qualifying draw is done.

Do I have you licking your lips wanting to get a glimpse of these players in action?? Or at least a chance to see me be on the opposite end of a “challenge the pro”? For ticket prices and availability, you must contact the BAC. E-mail Julian at and visit the tournament website at . I do have a couple of special ticket offers for those interested. On the Wednesday night of round 1 qualifying (when I will be playing) if 10 people sign up, we can get the seats for $25 each, including a free beer. Please e-mail me for that special offer. For all other days, please e-mail Julian.

I will be needing your support – and so does the event. Take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity.

Monday, January 11, 2010


The DAC, captained by George Haggarty, successfully defended the Farris Cup on January 9 against the BAC, winning the event for the 5th time in its 6 year history. The 10 match to 5 result was certainly a convincing win, but it really was a lot closer than that on court.

Getting off to a flying start, the DAC won the first four singles matches 3-0, which were not really a surprise. At the lower 2 levels, the BAC has been somewhat “Detroit Lion-esque”. They have only won 3 matches out of 24 in the 6 years of the event, a sure indication that they need to revisit their team selection strategy, since there is no way that we will be sending in a purposely weaker team! On the other side of the coin, the BAC holds the ascendancy in the doubles. Over the 6 six years, They have won a total of 13 matches to our 5, including winning all 3 doubles matches this year dropping only 1 game in the process. It will be up to our guys to pick up their game if they wish to be more competitive on the doubles court.

The second round of 4 singles matches were a lot more spirited. And it was truly here where the DAC won the Cup. Scott Adlhoch had his work cut out for him against Andrew Pritchard (pictured left) who took the first game from Scott with his long reach and surprising retrievals. It took a while for Scott to acclimatize to Andrew’s game, but eventually he found his rhythm and his backhand drop shot just in time to win the very close match in 4. Paul Ward played a solid match and had to make sure he kept to a steady game plan to overcome his opponent, Rick Claar. Paul also won in four. Kirk Haggarty was scheduled to play their club champion, Jon Uffelman, but because of a leg injury Jon was forced to give up his spot to youngster Michael Snower – who had just turned 16. Kirk was also carrying an injury into the match and had to stick to a very specific game plan if he were to have any success. Michael is young, fit, quick, fit, steady, fit, motivated… and did I mention ‘fit’? But Kirk has experience which you cannot underestimate and with cleverly paced length and lobs, a few nice deceptive shots, and a little better anticipation, Kirk found himself 2-1 up. Unfortunately, the work he had to do to get there caught up with him and he had to concede the final 2 games. In the comeback of the day, John Rakolta had to fight back from 2-0 down against Mike Beauregard (pictured right) which is a very challenging chore – especially mentally. However, once John grabbed the momentum, some confidence, and started winning some rallies, he took the match by the neck, won the next 2 games, and the rolled over Mike in the 5th. In winning these 4 tough matches, the DAC only needed 1 more victory in the next round of 4 matches to secure the Cup.

We didn’t have to wait long. Mike Eugenio took advantage of Terry Barr’s loose game and cleaned him up 3-0. At the same time, Ryan Bendzinski split the first 2 games against Chad Keesling before lighting a fire under his own behind to come out in the 3rd and 4th and hand the guy a substantial pummeling. Our 10th win came from Paul Doherty who also did well to battle back from a 2-1 deficit over John LaMarche to take the match in a long 5 setter. (If Scott Adlhoch, John Rakolta, and Paul Doherty had lost their matches, we would have lost the Cup!!)

The 2011 Farris Cup is set for January 8 at the DAC. To qualify for selection, you need to be in the final of the 2010 Club Championships which will be held over the month of April. To see the Cup, it will soon be on display in my office with all the names of the DAC team members etched on for all eternity.

Well done, team!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Boasters League Round 1-

New Year’s Resolution? Working of that holiday turkey and stuffing? Maybe flushing out all those cocktails? Whatever the reason, round 1 of the second half of the Boasters League was a busy night as players got into the swing of things quickly. Except for the “Angry Dragons” who already find themselves in familiar territory in 8th position. Not that after one round it’s time to panic, but nothing is worse than having to play catch-up the entire season – plus they have the ‘bye’ week in round 2, so they better get on their horse (dragon?) and make sure matches are played.

We had quite a number of close contests yesterday. Kevin Kennedy (“Duck or Bleed”) was inspired by his new squash shoes - which apparently improved his racquet skills – and was unlucky not to beat Pat Petz (“Defending Champs”). Pat can be happy with his 2-1 win, considering he was nursing a few sore muscles after taking part in the court conditioning training session the day before. Jim Fair (“Hell’s Kitchen”) also took part in that session and e-mailed me to say he was “crippled” for his match against Paul Flanagan (“Stimulus Package”) [pictured left], but the 2 had a great battle, with some entertaining rallies. Paul is a terrific hustler on the court and Jim certainly forced him to do just that. Paul pulled out a 2-1 victory. Special mention goes to Kimberly Farnen (“Duck or Bleed”) who beat Jim Miller (“Defending Champs”) 2-1. Last time Kimberly played Jim she lost 3-0, so it is encouraging and motivating to see her improvement over the season.

It’s promising to see the activity level so far – I just hope that by week 4 and 5, that everybody is still just as inspired!

Monday, January 4, 2010


There is no doubt that at the DAC, the Farris Cup has grown in stature and importance to our members. As soon as the Club Championships are over, many of the winners and finalists are immediately enquiring whether they have now qualified to represent the club for the event. Scheduled for Saturday, January 10 at the Birmingham Athletic Club, the 18 DAC players that are poised to defend the Cup look – on paper - very strong to do just that.

The Farris Cup is an invention of George Haggarty and Walter Oehrlein (BAC) who decided to honor a long-time friend and squash enthusiast John C. Farris who passed away in 2004. This is the 6th running of the event and so far the DAC has dominated the BAC winning the Cup four times in the first five years. As always, though, playing the BAC on their home courts is certainly a challenge and I am sure they will be fired up to take a victory.

Matches start at 9.30am – I encourage everybody who can to come on out, make some noise, and cheer on our team! Can we make it 5 out of 6?

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