Canadian Nationals Doubles~~
That was certainly a new experience for me. I am not a doubles player. In Australia, hardball doubles does not exist, nor does it exist (as far as I know) in Europe. I had never even seen it before moving to North America. After 12 plus years here, I understand (more or less) the tactic of the game, recognize that it isn’t quite like singles, and the technique required to be an effective player is a little different. Unfortunately, after 37 years of pure singles, adapting to what was needed proved to be somewhat challenging. My forehand crosscourt roll drop shot wasn’t quite as effective here…
My partner was Rob Doherty from London, Ontario. You may recognize the name since he is a regular at our DAC Classic. A very good left-waller, he has been bugging me for quite a while now to play a doubles tournament with him, and the Canadian Nationals just happened to land on a convenient weekend so thought I’d take the plunge and head to Toronto for the 40+ category with him and see what all the fuss was about. Why not initiate myself with one of the toughest tournaments out there?
The event was hosted by the Granite Club. It’s a massive (beautiful) facility that has 2 doubles courts side by side with a reasonable amount of space for viewing, both from behind the glass back wall and from a mezzanine level. But with over 250 entries for the event, a total of 8 clubs were needed to accommodate the amount of matches. We regrettably did not get to play at the Granite Club, we would have had to have won our first match for that pleasure, and as you can now tell, we did not.
Our rude awakening came at the hands of Chris Deratny and Patrick Ryding. Patrick is the head squash pro at the Toronto Cricket Club – another behemoth of a club with 2 doubles courts and 5 singles. (They are also starting construction of a third doubles court plus another 1 or 2 singles…) Chris and Patrick are doubles experts, were probably strong enough to actually play the Open category rather than the 40+. Chris played the left wall and hit the ball from cannon I’m sure he had hidden under his shirt. Patrick didn’t display the same power, but that didn’t stop him from being just as dangerous with his racquet. Visibly, I was not prepared for what came our way. The two moved around the court smoothly and had little trouble finding the right angles at the right time, taking full advantage of our (my) poor court positioning. On the positive side, Rob and I improved every game against them, and the third was a respectable 15-13 loss, we even had the lead 11-10 at one point. We were not expected to win that match, but overall we were happy with how we performed. On to the consolation draw.
Our first cons match was at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC). They only house 1 doubles court (poor people!) and 5 singles, and admittedly it wasn’t as pristine as the other 2 clubs we’d seen so far. No complaints, of course, but I would have liked the steam room to be working after the match we endured! Rob and I started off like a bull out of the gate. We gained a healthy first game lead and closed it out comfortably. The second game was the reverse. We struggled to keep the ball out of the tin, and our opponents hustled well. Andrew, their left-waller, ran down some balls into the back corner that we thought were 100% winners. Their persistence paid off for them. The ‘real’ battle started in the third. Small momentum runs for both teams, but neither of us could actually establish or assert certain dominance. At 14-all, a Rob Doherty boast winner snagged us the game and the 2-1 lead. The fourth was virtually another snap shot of the third. Back and forth we went – again to 14-all. This time, a Mick Joint boast tin handed them the game to even it up at 2 games apiece. In my (pathetic) defense, if the boast didn’t hit the tin, it would have given us the match. I learnt over the weekend that you simply have to go for your shots. If the angle is open – just hit the darn thing. The fifth game had the same drama – and the same score line. Once again it was 14-all, and once again it was Rob to the rescue with a backhand boast winner for the match! By now, after 2 matches of doubles, my body was getting rather achy.
The cons final saw us back at the Cricket Club. Our opponents didn’t have the power to blast us off the court, and for a lot of the match, they played a basic defensive approach of lobbing soft length and waiting patiently for an opening to slot the angle. That tactic worked as well. Rob and I again fell into to trap of trying a little too hard and too early, and we found the tin all too often. Frustration kicked in when we found ourselves 2-0 down. We knew we could beat these guys. We started to pick it up in the third and fourth – started to find the right angles, moved up the court a little better, started counter dropping a lot of their short attacks. It seemed to unsettle them a little as they too began to catch the dreaded ‘tin’ disease. Taking it to a 5th game, we played tightly to about 9-all and then we got a solid run for a 14-11 match point score. We butchered the first two opportunities, but good ol’ reliable Rob set the record straight with the winner for a 15-13 in the 5th victory! So we ended up winning the consolation – a satisfying result and one we thought we could achieve.
My general thoughts of the event were by and large positive. Everyone we met was extremely friendly and social. It was that portion of the weekend that made the trip worth it. Because I didn’t think the tournament was great value for money. For an entry fee of $175 per person (so that’s $350 per team), I expected more than the one function, 3 drink tickets, and the bath robe entry gift. I realize we are spoilt at the DAC for our Classic, but I have played other Nationals before with a better bang for your buck. A not that it is all that important, but we didn’t receive anything for winning the cons draw either. It’s the small things…
I was surprisingly sore as well. I knew (and expected) my shoulder to be in a lot of pain – it was – but I didn’t expect that pain to extend all the way through my stomach muscles and hips. I guess all that extras effort one provides to crack the ball as hard as you can – very often on overhead volleys – takes its toll. It didn’t help that I dove for a ball on the third rally of the first match and scraped my knee (plus, I missed the shot, so it was a useless dive on top of it!), managed to smack my own ankle with my racquet in the second match and then thwack my own calf in the third! If one’s body is one’s temple, then mine was a pile of decrepit ruins!