Nash Cup - September 18-20
The day didn’t start well. I was very disappointed when I looked up the results of the PSA draw on Friday morning of the $15,000 Nash Cup event. One of the reasons I was looking forward to going this year was because I had the chance to see the current world junior champion Diego Elias from Peru perform. By all reports, he is rather good. However, in a huge upset, he had lost his quarter final the day before in 5 games. It seemed I was stuck having to watch the others... who, as it turned out (unsurprisingly), are also well above average.
Maybe it’s that I am getting older and it takes longer for my synapses to send those messages to my brain, but the professional men’s game appears to be getting faster. And the depth of competition is increasing. The top 3 seeds did not get past the second round, and the final was between 2 players ranked outside the top 50, but played as if they should have been well inside it.
Declan James is from England, ranked 51, and a short 6 foot 4 but carries himself a lot taller than that. He has to bend his knees in order to hit an overhead volley. Abdullah Al Tamimi is from Qatar, looked half the size of James, and is ranked 78, and probably auditioned for the part of “Flash” in the Hollywood movie. ‘Quick’ doesn’t describe him. ‘Breakneck’?
It was so enjoyable to watch the final, James’ reach more than making up for Abdullah’s zippiness. It was also apparent that James was - on this particular day - the smarter player. At times, Abdullah’s shot choices were very questionable, none more dubious than the return-of-serve volley cross-court drop that clipped the tin - at game ball down. That error put him in a 2 games to zero hole, a hole that with the way James was hitting, looked monumental to climb out of. And it was. The 11-7 third game was really never in doubt, and I’m sure everybody was hoping for one or two more, but the crowd adored every second.
The women’s final was played the previous evening between the 2013 winner, Pakistani Maria Toorpakay (ranked 51) and Brit Millie Tomlinson (ranked 55). The best women’s final to date, the 2 lasses went at each other for 68 brutal minutes. Each game was won by a 3 point margin or less. Exciting all the way to the end, Millie, I feel, could have been more successful if she used the front 2 corners more regularly. Many times she was set-up to take the ball short but constantly chose to pound the ball to length instead. Maria was happy not to have to cover the front more, and ended up pinching the 5th game 11-9. Maria is now the first player (men or woman) to win the Nash Cup more than once.
The amateur draws were not as populated as previous years. The largest draw actually happened to be mine in the Open, and all my opponents were less than half my age (again!). But, score one for the veterans, I held off the youthful challenges to win the event. I played David Mill in the final. He did very well to get there, taking out his Windsor counterpart Stefan Houbtchev 3-1 in the semi. Even though I won 3-0, David is clearly improving and now that he resides in Toronto and is training at Jon Power’s center, that improvement will come on even quicker.
|Me, Geoff Hunt and Josh Slominski.|
Josh Slominski made the trip as well and played in the Men’s C. It was not a triumphant weekend for him, and he was understandably disgruntled with his results. Luck played a little part here as well (or un-luck), as Josh lost most of his games 11-9, or in the tie-break. With a little fortune, he could have easily have won a couple of matches. It’s important to see the silver lining and this event was a valuable learning experience. Josh will be tougher for it.
As is customary, the London Club social life was in full swing, the beer pong competition was another grueling battle, and we all bonded well into the wee hours of the morning. On a side note, it was a thrill for me meet up with an old coach of mine. Geoff Hunt is one of the greatest squash players of all time. He won 4 World Opens and 8 British Opens back in the 70’s and 80’s and he was my mentor way, way back in 1988-89. Geoff coaches Abdullah Al Tamimi and often travels from Australia to help him on the tour. The Qatari is in good hands. Josh and I naturally took the photo opportunity!