Thursday, 28 November 2013

NT Selection Event #1

With a new season of Canadian racquetball upon us, it seems only fitting that I keep with the tradition of last year in making some predictions as well as odds-setting for the upcoming event. The draws were posted earlier this week, but with Pedro Castro pulling out last minute due to concussion-like symptoms sustained in a recent car accident, it has changed the layout slightly. Because he had recently beaten fellow Quebec player Vincent Gagnon, he had jumped ahead of Nathaniel Husulak in the rankings and would have come into this tournament seeded 4th and sent strong contender and national bronze medalist Coby Iwaasa to the bottom half of the draw with 2nd seeded Gagnon and 3rd seeded me! The last-minute shake up though, keeps him on the top half with 4th seeded Nathaniel Husulak and 1st seed and National Champion Mike Green. Anything can happen at the first selection event of the season, as is evidenced by the early exits of the top seeds in years past, and this one definitely provides some interesting early round match ups to keep us entertained. Without further ado though, here are the odds on this year's Selection Event #1:

#1 Mike Green / 3:2 - with another national title in the bag to close of the 2012/13 season, Green showed once again that his rigorous training regimen and consistency on the court are unrivalled in Canada. He comes into this national tournament, once again, as the heavy favourite.

#3 Tim Landeryou / 2:1 - even with a second place finish at the National Championships, Landeryou is coming off an extremely successful season in 2012/13. Look for him to ride this confidence into a place in the finals, if not first place!

#2/5 Vincent Gagnon/Coby Iwaasa / 4:1 - out for most of last season and absent in all the national tournaments, Gagnon comes into the tournament as a bit of a wildcard even with his #2 national rank. Losing to provincial rival Pedro Castro earlier this month is either in indicator that the time off last season left him a little rusty, or will leave him with a desire to prove himself this weekend.

Perhaps the equal, but opposite side of the coin is Iwaasa, who comes into the event on the heels of an extremely successful season in 2012/13 nationally, but a bit of a mixed bag internationally in the last few months. Making the round of 16 at the US Open but then losing in the semi-finals at Junior Worlds perhaps illustrates best that the youngster has an extremely bright future ahead, but may still have work to do where consistency is concerned.

#4/6/7 Nathaniel Husulak/Samuel Murray/Eric Desrochers / 8:1
All talented players and all seeded to make it to the quarters, the difficulty these players face is stiff competition not only to make the semifinals, but the finals as well. With Desrochers the only one of the 3 to make a national tournament final, it will be an uphill battle for all these players but they all have the game to make it there if they can bring it at the right time.

#7/10 Kurtis Cullen/Lee Connell / 10:1 - my wildcard picks for this draw. Cullen has had Lee's number in their last couple of meetings but I believe the slow courts this week will even the playing field for Connell. With Kurtis now training in Green's camp and Lee having taken games off of Green in past matches, either of these players have the potential for an upset in that quarterfinal matchup if things go their way.

I'm extremely excited for this year's tournament and especially so with my change in sponsor to ProKennex for the next 2 seasons. I know I have a great team supporting me and can't wait to see where things go from here! Be sure to swing by the Duckworth Centre at the University of Winnipeg to check out the matches all weekend or if you can't be here in beautiful Manitoba, keep posted with the draws HERE, or keep checking the blog! I'll do my best to keep the updates coming :)


Sunday, 28 July 2013

World Games 2013 Competition

Apologies for not updating sooner. There was a lot of disappointment in the Team Canada camp (read: Jen and I) after the first round. Both our matches played out in a similar way and with similar results.

Team Canada, post match
Jen was in trouble from the get go, as Christina was moving and shooting well, while putting pressure on Jen with solid serving and forcing Jen to go for more aggressive shots. In contrast, Jen struggled to find her range and with bad luck on all fronts. From bad bounces, unfortunate mishits from her opponent, and no help from the officials she was fighting an uphill battle all match. Christina took the first game handily but to her credit, Jen regrouped and played with more desire in the second but still struggled with her shot making. Things remained quite even until the tail end of the second game when Jen pulled ahead to 14-12. She served for the game a couple of times unsuccessfully before Christina was able to score 2 points to tie at 14 all. Jen confidently took the serve back though and the rally that ensued ended with a mishit skip from Amaya. Unfortunately for Jen the ref saw it differently and the call was held up under appeal, much to the surprise of everyone watching who thought it was a fairly clear skip. A clearly deflated Saunders surrendered the next point to Amaya, who would move onto the quarter finals.

With Alejandro after the match
My match ended up with a similar result albeit a slightly different dynamic. I knew the match would be tough as I'd played Alejandro several times in pro stops over the years and we always seems to have close battles. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself playing solid out of the gate and opening up a lead of 7-2. Alejandro responded, but I was able to retain my lead to 12-6. After a timeout by the Colombian and a few loose points that saw me miss shots I should have made, Alejandro went on a serving spree. There were a few aces in the mix but mostly just funny bounces off the already hard to read glass walls which made the serves nearly impossible to return. I was deflated but not out of the running as I stabilized with him now nearly caught up at 11-13. There were a few changes of serve at this score and even though I had opportunities, for some reason I just couldn't find my focus on my set up opportunities and helplessly watched my lead slip away. He would take the first 15-13. Unfortunately for me he would ride this momentum through the second as well. Relying heavily on inconsistent bounces in the back glass corners that for some twisted reason always seemed to work out in his favour. I struggled with my own shot making as well, completely taken aback by how I had been robbed of the first game and this allowed him to sail through, winning the second easily 15-6.

SUMO!!!
So it was an unfortunate day for Canada but good for Colombia. We skipped the racquetball club yesterday in favour of checking out some of the other sports! We decided on Sumo (as it was close by) and in-line hockey, as Canada was playing the Czech Republic which we were told would be a competitive game. The sumo was actually very interesting and surprisingly entertaining to watch. I was quite taken aback by how many times c
In-line hockey! GO CANADA!
ompetitors would fall out of the ring and off the raised platform. I think I would hurt myself doing that, let alone if I weighed 300lbs and had another person fall on top of me. We caught the last bit of the women's (some large ladies there...) and all of the men's open preliminaries. This was extremely interesting to watch because there is no weight restriction in the open category. They had every shape and size from small ex-wrestlers to 400lb sumo champions and seeing how size is used as an advantage like that is something you don't often get to see.

After the men's prelims concluded, we caught a taxi to the in-line hockey venue which was about 15 minutes away. With about 40minutes before the game started, we decided to grab some food and drinks at the mall nearby. The helpful volunteers walked with us there and back, pointing out things along the way in case we were interested in sampling any local cuisine or purchasing souvenirs. After a quick bite, it was back to the arena, where the first period had just begun. In-line hockey is an interesting game as well. They play 4 on 4 and there are no blue lines so the game is extremely open and prone to breakaways and odd man rushes. This made for many exciting plays at both ends of the ice but our boys looked solid, carrying a 3-1 lead into the second period. Our passes allowed us access to the VIP seating, and since these weren't as full, we were able to switch ends for the second period, thinking that most of the action would again be in the Czech end. Unfortunately for our boys, this was not the case. The Czechs pressed hard in the second, playing with desperation that for whatever reason the Canadians didn't have, and with less than 2 minutes to play the Czechs (now within one goal at 2-3) pulled their goalie. This confused Jen and I as we had (mistakenly) assumed there would be 3 periods of play. To their credit the Czechs were able to score with just over a minute left and tie the game, but they left their goalie on the bench. The only explanation that Jen and I could come up with was that they needed to win the game outright for seeding purposes. This theory was given credibility when the game ended in a tie and the Czech team showed visible frustration while the Canadians seemed happy to have the tie. All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable way to spend our day and after taking another taxi back to the hotel, retired with cervezas and dinner.

In racquetball news, Christina Amaya played well, upsetting both the 7th and 3rd seeds in the quarter and semi finals to find herself guaranteed a medal! She will play current world champion Paola Longoria for Gold today. There was an upset on the men's side as well, as fourth seeded Gil Mejia took out first seed and current world champion Rocky Carson in a tiebreaker. The second seed, Polo Gutierrez, was also victorious over his american opponent, third seeded Jose Rojas, although it was an extremely tight tiebreaker win. Gutierrez actually trailed 9-5 in the tiebreaker before a skipped setup from Rojas gave him the serve back and he was able to pull out the win 11-9. The finals are set for today and we will be taking them in so I'll report on them later.

video
A short sumo video for your enjoyment!

Friday, 26 July 2013

World Games 2013 - Opening Ceremonies

Our bus departed the hotel at 5pm, which everyone thought was a little early as the Opening Ceremonies weren't scheduled to start until 8pm, but there was a rumour going around that they were going to feed us beforehand; deception always digests easier in those who want to believe it.

The full bus took us directly to the muster point a short distance from the stadium where we were to march in. This was the first sign of trouble as some of the rumour spreaders mentioned a potential stop at another destination where we would eat. More buses showed up as time passed and after about an hour the area was full of athletes, coaches, other support staff, and volunteers. Flats of water bottles were being circulated and shortly after that, apples and juice. At only 90 minutes prior to the scheduled beginning, this was our second sign that this would be the only sustenance we would receive before marching in.

With this knowledge in hand I defeatedly took and apple and a bottle of fruit punch (even my initial assumption we would receive juice was mistaken) and tried to enjoy them. About an hour before we were scheduled to march in, the volunteers began to mobilize us, separating us alphabetically by country and lining us up 3 abreast in preparation for our entrance. As we exited the segregated muster area, we were greeted by police officers and walls of civilians cheering loudly as each country marched out. It was clear that the passions of the athletes competing in these games would more than be equalled by the passions of the local spectators. Too late I realized it would have been an excellent opportunity to hand out some small tokens of our country or sport to these enamoured fans but alas we had none. Luckily for them, the roller hockey team had been equipped with wrist bands which they joyously shot into the crowd as we passed and, much to the spectators' delight, even ran across the barricaded street to get a few photos.

As we approached the stadium entrance, Jen and I also took the opportunity to get a photo with the riot police, who wore much heavier protective gear which made them look almost robotic. As we passed them and Jen referred to them as "robocops" I realized the moniker was an apt fit.

Our entrance onto the stadium floor was quite similar to the format of the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, where each country entered alphabetically after the other, with a brief space in between to allow for appropriate individual fan appreciation. As we walked out I was again overwhelmed by the sense of joy and passion of the local community. It was apparent on all the faces I saw as I walked the track that they were extremely happy to host us, and extremely proud of their country's work on securing these games. It was heartwarming, and I found the smiles on these faces contagious as I was unable to stop myself from smiling back, holding the gazes of and waving to as many in the crowd as I could.

After one lap we were seated and we were in the unlucky minority that were seated at the back of the lower level. This meant our view of the top of the stadium (and above - where the fireworks would go off) was completely obstructed. The silver lining was being right near the corridor at the back of the section, which meant we could duck out to the bathroom or simply to walk around if we liked. This became a blessing when about halfway through the ceremonies the hunger pangs Jen and I had been fighting for the last several hours became too much to bear and we ducked out to find food. With our options limited (being in a stadium), we unfortunately had to settle for something less than healthy and I won't go into details about that.

The entertainment was actually quite enjoyable, although we were also in the unenviable position of being seated at the side of the field so much of the performance was extremely difficult to see. A description would not do the performances justice, there were several dance numbers which included fire, acrobatics, and a live brass band! The fireworks topped the night off and while it was thoroughly enjoyable, by the end all we were craving was sleep.

In the anarchy that followed the conclusion of the fireworks, we were gradually sifted, organized and guided by helpful volunteers towards areas where our respective buses would pass. They finally took this opportunity to offer us some "real" food - which consisted of an extremely dry sandwich, another apple, and small bottles of pepsi. While this was far from anything substantial, after several hours of nothing but processed crap from a stadium vendor, it was a godsend. As one might expect though, with all those people there were of course not enough buses for everyone to leave immediately and the mob mentality surfaced, ensuring the loudest and rudest an immediate ride and the rest of us were left waiting for subsequent transportation. We did eventually find another bus with our route and were able to finally relax after boarding. After arriving back at the hotel my only desire was sleep but it had been almost 2 days since my last post so I was able to summon enough guilt and willpower to throw up a quick post before going to bed.

Jen and I both play our first matches later this afternoon! I will update with results tonight.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

World Games 2013 - Part 2

Upon arriving in Panama, my body again felt the need for sustenance and as luck would have it, there was a Subway near my gate to I took the opportunity to have a familiar meal in a somewhat unfamiliar place. While I ate, I began my second movie of the trip; Bullet to the Head. A shoot 'em up with Sylvester Stallone about a hitman whose partner gets killed when they are double-crossed after a job. Stallone's character of course decides to get to the bottom of this while exacting his own brand of vengeance along the way. It was ok for an hour and a half of somewhat senseless violence but overall wouldn't be a movie I recommend. I didn't quite finish it before we had to board so I got on the plane and, my hunger satisfied by subway, promptly fell asleep for the entire flight.

I awoke at 5pm, just before touchdown in Cali and before arriving at the luggage carousel after deplaning, was greeted by volunteers of the host committee that instructed me where to go once I had collected my baggage. Several more volunteers along the way ensured I couldn't get lost even if I tried, so I found the appropriate bus shortly after leaving the terminal and immediately boarded. I must have either been quick to get my luggage, or other flights arrived around the same time, because the bus sat outside the terminal for over half an hour before departing for the accreditation center where we would receive our ID badges to access food, transportation, and venues throughout the week. Since there were about 50 people on the bus, getting the badges took a bit of time, and since there were more volunteers milling about we toured the building for awhile to see what was there. Several volunteers were manning booths offering a plethora of goods. Everything from local candy to hygiene packs (that included tooth paste, deodorant, and soap) were there and all free so of course I took one of everything!

Shortly after this, our bus began boarding which I was thankful for. Regardless of how much sleep I had that day, I still felt as if I was playing catch up and was in serious need of a bed. Unfortunately for me, there were 4 hotels worth of athletes on our bus and as luck would have it, our hotel was the last stop. This meant a 2 hour bus ride to get to a hotel that shouldn't have taken more than 15 minutes. Had I known this I could have had a bit more sleep but alas my anticipation of a bed around the next corner kept my mind from finding sweet slumber. We did eventually arrive at the hotel though and thankfully the checkin process was quick. I got up to my room at 930pm (for those of you keeping track that's more than 4 hours after the plane landed - I was told by other athletes that 4hours was an average time to hotel from the airport which I have to admit is a bit disgusting) and was hungry so instead of going right to bed I ordered some food from the room service menu and finished my Stallone movie. I was in bed before midnight though and would be up for breakfast the next morning at 9am. Plenty of time to get some serious shut eye and start fresh in Cali.

As I finish this post, it's 12:32am and while I'd like to get some of the opening ceremonies and my first day in Cali down I'm completely wiped so it's going to have to wait until tomorrow. Jen and I also play our first matches, both against players from the host country: Colombia! Both will be tough matches (Christina Amaya and Alejandro Herrera are both extremely talented players) but I know that if we play well we will have a good shot to be in the quarters on day 2. Wish us luck, I'll keep you posted :)

World Games 2013 in Cali, Colombia

It is with many emotions running through me that I write this post, although anticipation is definitely in the pole position. We had a hit this morning, followed by lunch and due to an odd choice of scheduling, about an hour wait for the shuttle bus to return. I'll post up some pics of the club a bit later, I wanted to briefly talk about my trip down here which, while fairly uneventful, was longer and more arduous than I'm used to.

It began monday evening, as there was no way to get from Saskatoon to Cali in one day, I would have to overnight somewhere, and I thought, of my options, Toronto was probably the best bet. So instead of the late night frantic packing adventure I'm used to, I was able to have somewhat of a leisurely afternoon (after a hit in the morning) of laundry and packing before heading to the Saskatoon airport at 615pm. A smooth checkin followed by a somewhat lengthly goodbye with Kailtyn and I was onto the plane and destined for Toronto!

You'll recall I mentioned that an overnight was required during my journey and an arrival in Toronto at almost 1am should probably make it obvious where this would occur. So after leisurely making my way to baggage claim and collecting my luggage, I asked the baggage person where a nice spot to chill for a few hours would be. He informed me there was a "lounge" on the departure level (2 floors up) and near aisle "Q". As I made my way there I was curious as to what the cost of the lounge access would be. I had mistakenly assumed this was a Maple Leaf lounge. My arrival at aisle P brought the "lounge" into view and promptly shattered any delusions of luxury I had previously been entertaining. While the area was somewhat closed off from foot traffic (a door was required to travel in and out), that's where the similarities with any other lounge ended. Other than an entrance, high windows barely passing for walls, and the absence of an aircraft gate, the space was no different than any other waiting area in the airport. The one difference (and of particular importance to me) was the absence of arm rests on the chair benches. This meant that one could lay down on them instead of being forced to sit. It was a silver lining at best, but it was all I needed. I promptly curled up with my bags surrounding me, Kaitlyns travel pillow and my hoodie for a blanket and fell asleep.

Now as you might imagine, sleeping on a bed of several chairs, even lightly cushioned chairs, is not an ideal destination for comfortable slumbering. This made for an extremely light sleep, and in an airport (even one as barren of people as this one was in the wee hours of the morning) the semi-constant noises became a bane to the comforts of dreaming. Even so, I was able to piece a few hours together and while my wakened state at 730am when my alarm went off was far from rested, I didn't feel the unbearable urge to gouge my eyes out (as one can feel after an extended period of insomnia). I was a bit worried when I saw the extremely long line at the checkin kiosk, but was relieved when I realized that they were all waiting for boarding passes, which I had received in Saskatoon, so I promptly and happily waded through the retractable barriers of the empty bag check section and was quickly greeted by a checkin agent. I was worried again when the agent greeted me in spanish (as mine is extremely limited) but when I groggily asked him if he spoke english I was again relieved when his answer was "Of course sir! How can I help you?". The checkin went very smoothly, and while getting through security took a bit longer, I was through with plenty of time to grab some breakfast before boarding began. Fortunately, there was a Tim Horton's right beside my gate! Unfortunately for me, there was another extremely long line of people waiting, but with lots of time to kill, I thought I'd take the opportunity. Only after waiting 25mins to get to the front of the line was I told that they were out of eggs for breakfast sandwiches. As this would have been the last Timmy's I had before leaving the country, and it was 845am (how could they have run out of eggs already???) I was more than a little peeved. Fortunately for the foreign woman working the Timmy's counter, I was also extremely tired so I grumpily ordered a coffee, telling her that would be all. She apologetically offered other sandwiches but it was too late, my hopes had been dashed, my heart broken. Before I left completely dejected though, she mentioned the place next door did make breakfast sandwiches so I could try there. I took this opportunity although I was still left disappointed (check my twitter for that - @TLanderyou). In the end I did get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee so it wasn't a complete loss.

The flight to Panama City from Toronto was just under 5 hours, and after the small caffeine buzz provided by my morning beverage, I was able to stay up for the first couple of hours and take in a movie. Paranorman is an animated movie about a child in a small town that can see and talk to dead people. After some events are put in motion that cause zombies to begin terrorizing the town, Norman must use his "gift" to speak with the intruders and solve the mystery of why they are here and more importantly, how to get them back in the ground where they belong. I didn't enjoy the movie, it was extremely odd both in the story it told and the way it told it. But it was somewhat original in many of these aspects so I do have respect for the filmmakers ingenuity and originality. That was as far as my morning coffee would take me though, as I promptly fell asleep and remained that way until touchdown in Panama.

I'll keep the story going later tonight when I post the rest of my journey that includes my flight into Cali and my unusually long journey to the hotel once arriving. I'll also update this post with pictures from that leg of my journey. Stay tuned!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Nationals Recap

I realize this post is long overdue, truthfully I've been putting it off as I had extremely high expectations of myself at this year's National Championships and I unequivocally fell short of them. While I try to take solace in the realization that as far as results are concerned, I've had by far my best year yet, simply put, it was frustrating to have the results not really mean anything. With both Kris Odegard and Vincent Gagnon out for almost the entire season, it's difficult to say that I have really proven myself when I simply beat the players ranked below me, and went 1-1 with the only player above me that I played this season.

This is not to say I'm not happy with my results, especially in Kelowna, where I was able to beat some great young drive servers on some extremely fast courts. There are just other things going on with Racquetball Canada that make the accomplishments this season a bit hollow. I definitely think these things were on my mind leading up to Nationals, and during the tournament as well. I had an extremely flat start in doubles, and honestly didn't play that much better in singles. I was lucky to scrape by Kurtis Cullen, who served extremely well and took advantage of my loose play in the second and third games, and I'm still unsure as to how I beat Nate with as little difficulty as I did. The real indicator of my level of play was in the final against Mike.

I had a solid strategy developed from our match in Brossard, and through the midpoint of the first game, I was getting the opportunities I wanted, I just wasn't capitalizing on them. Even now I'm not really sure what it was that I didn't have with me that day, something was just missing. This wasn't a big piece of the puzzle either, at this level the differences in the outcome of a match are generally the little things. It just seemed like I didn't have any of the little things I needed that day to win, which was extremely disappointing, but it also taught me that I need to try and find a way to win (like I did in the quarters against Kurtis) that is more fundamental. I think I need more guts in my game. Anyway, this lack of the "little things" translated into always being a few points behind, and being closed out in two marginally close games.

As with most important losses though, I learned a few things and will take away a renewed desire to train and improve. Also, with the World Games happening this summer in Cali, Colombia I will have more than enough excuses to make training hard this summer a priority. I'm extremely excited about what I'll be able to do to my game over the next several months, and what next season holds. With it being a World Championship year and a test event for the 2015 Pan Am Games, I'm sure everyone will be bringing their A games and I hope this raises the level of Canadian racquetball. I know I will do my part :)

Friday, 24 May 2013

Nationals: Semifinals

Well after yesterday's drama-filled quarter final match (mine anyway) today was almost a let down. I'll get to that right away, but let's recap the women's results first...

The womens' semis were before the men's and Christine Richardson, looking to make her second national event final of the season, had a great start against 2nd seeded veteran Josee Grand Maitre, winning the first game 15-5. The Quebec native would battle back to win the second 15-10 though and seemed to put Christine off her game as she rode that momentum to a decisive 11-3 victory in the tiebreaker. The second womens' semifinal was much more one-sided, as reigning canadian champion Jennifer Saunders put away former canadian champion Linda Ellerington in straight games 15-4, 15-2.

I was expecting a battle in my match, as by all accounts Nate had played well thus far in the tournament. I was able to take an early lead as Nate seemed to still be tuning his serve in. Fortunately for me he wasn't tuned in yet when he broke the strings on his racquet and the one he replaced it with was not the same model. I thought I had an opportunity to capitalize on this, whether it would actually play different or he just thought it might, it was a change when he wasn't looking for one so I would have the advantage. I extended my lead and while Nate was able to find his serving rhythm near the end of the game, he was only able to close within 4 points and I would take the game 15-10. The second played out very much like the first, with the exception being that Nate scored his points in smaller, separated bunches. I grabbed my lead again early and held on to take the second 15-8, securing my spot in the final. Relieved, I shook Nate's hand and got ready to watch what I thought would be an amazing semifinal between Coby and Mike.

I thought this might have match of the tournament potential, especially since they had faced each other in the Montreal selection event earlier this season and had one extremely tight game. Mike won that contest 15-13, 15-2, taking the second game in decisive fashion on the back of some great serving. It looked as if he might take this match in the same way, serving exceptionally well and keeping Coby completely off balance to take the first game 15-3. Mike didn't serve quite as hot in the second, but Coby appeared nervous and the reigning mens' champion took advantage to open up a lead again. To his credit, Coby kept it close, but at 13-10, Mike looked poised to take the game and the match. It was at this time though, that the veteran showed some signs of nerves, leaving up passes and not capitalizing on Coby's errors like he did earlier. Coby was able to take advantage of this loose play and not only close the gap, but after several changes of serve and a multitude of exciting rallies, take the game! It appeared the young gun would make a match of this yet! But alas it was not to be. Mike refocussed and tightened up not only his serving in the tiebreaker, but also his rally play. He jumped out to a commanding lead and never looked back, taking the tiebreaker 11-2.

So for the second time this season it will come down to me and Mike! With not only the national championship on the line but also the #1 ranking there will be a lot to play for. As always I will try to bring my best game to the court and hope that is enough. I can't wait :)

Tim


Nationals: Day 4

With everyone being able to check the draws online here, I'll keep this recap to the things that may have surprised people about the second round and quarter final play that took place yesterday.

There was a lone upset in the second round, as 10th seeded Kurtis Cullen upset 7th seeded Eric Desrochers to secure a spot in his second national event quarter final of the season. The Brandon native relied heavily on a superb mix of drive serves and took advantage of some loose play from Desrochers to capture the match in 2 games.

This set up quarter final matchups with all the top 8 seeds (save Desrochers) for the evening matches. With some history between some opponents and the relative closeness in seeding, I thought for sure we might see some upsets, or at least tiebreakers! Alas, there were no upsets and only one tiebreaker in all four matches and unfortunately for me, the tiebreaker (and almost scare upset) came in my own match.

Having played Kurtis several times over the last few years I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going into the match. He was going to lean heavily on his drive serve and if it was on it would be a battle, if he was inconsistent then it should be relatively straightforward. Somewhat to my surprise, Kurtis began the match serving fairly well, but since the courts weren't especially fast I was able to at least neutralize on serve return consistently. This allowed me to experiment with serves and begin to score. By mid-game, I had a solid lead which I held onto to take the first 15-5.

The second started in a similar fashion, although he was mixing his serves better by this time, throwing some into the short crack and into the body. This caused my serve return to be less consistent but I nevertheless build up a lead of 9-4. He called a timeout and I think in my mind (and a huge mistake) was that I imagined the finish line. I could see the end of the game (and match) and allowed myself to dwell on that instead of sticking to the task at hand. This would almost be my undoing as Kurtis (I'm sure who could see the end coming as well) elevated his game both on serve and serve return. It was now me who was struggling on serve return and when I was able to get into the box, to score points as well. He closed my lead and after several more failed attempts in the box, took a lead of his own, he closed out the second game 15-11.

My head was spinning. What just happened? Had I actually just let him back in the match? Given him the momentum and one chance in a game to 11 to take my spot in the semis? No. This was just a hiccup. Take a few minutes to refocus and get back in there and play like you did for the first 3/4 of the match thus far. I'm reminded of the scene in "The Replacements" where Keanu Reeves' character describes his biggest fear on the field: quicksand.

"You're playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can't move... you can't breathe... because you're in over your head. Like quicksand." - Shane Falco

It seemed I was still quagmired in my loss of focus as I proceeded to go down 6-1 in the tiebreaker. I finally got the serve back and called a timeout. After a brief exchange with my coach, my sense of hopelessness had lifted, albeit only slightly. Yes I was in a hole, yes I was not playing especially well, but I was not playing poorly enough that I should be losing like this. Get back on the court and just do everything a tiny bit better. That is the only difference right now. So I stepped back on the court and put it all out there. I fought for every rally, I focussed a little bit more on each of my serves, and positioned myself as best I could for each shot. With a little help from Kurtis (who I'm sure must have been feeling something similar to what I had felt late in game 2) I clawed back slowly and closed the lead. Like a true athlete though, Kurtis refocussed himself, and responded to regain the lead and after that it was extremely tense. I was the first to get to match point and led at 10-9. Full of nerves and wanting the roller coaster to simply be over, I promptly dropped my focus and blew 3 set ups in one rally to give Kurtis the serve back. At the tail end of a fairly solid rally, Kurtis' flailing frame-shot found the front court to kill out and tie the game at 10. I held on though and was able to get the serve back and close out the match 12-10.

Extremely happy to have won, as well as both physically and mentally exhausted after the contest, I didn't get to writing this until today. I'm looking forward to the semifinals against my training partner Nathaniel Husulak and am optimistic about my chances for a spot in the final. Not only that but watching the other semifinal as well. With Coby playing as well as he is, it should be a great test for Mike and a fantastic display of racquetball.

Cheers for now,

Tim

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Nationals: Day 3

Well after a lacklustre doubles result, I was ready to put that portion of the competition behind me and get into singles. The only issue with doing that was in the tournament structure. In the drawmaster's infinite wisdom, the decision was made to play only the round of 32 today and leave the round of 16 as well as the quarter finals until tomorrow. This meant I had the day off.

Not being one to waste days away, I did go for a leisurely walk after breakfast, and went over to the club in the afternoon both to watch some of the matches and partake of a light hit on the courts when time permitted. There are some odd seams on the back wall but for the most part the courts bounce true and while they are fast for panel courts, they are definitely slower than those in Kelowna that I played on earlier in the season. The first round matches all went according to seed as well, save for 2 home town boys who were able to step up their games and secure spots in the top 16.

18th seeded Tanner Mattson outlasted 15th seeded Hugo Laprise 11-7 tiebreaker to secure his spot in the round of 16 tomorrow. He will have his work cut out for him against 2nd seeded me haha! The other surprise entry into the second round is former Junior National Champion and 22nd seed Eric Urteaga, who was able to take advantage of some inconsistent play from 11th seed Lee Connell to secure his spot. Lee seemed to be in control of the match, taking the first game 15-5 and leading in the second 13-9 before Urteaga elevated his play to take the second 15-13. The BC resident rode this momentum to an early lead in the tiebreaker which he never relinquished. A controversial call at 10-6 was held up under appeal that gave him the game and the match. I can't imagine how tough this is for Connell, after coming off of such a fantastic doubles result. Having had to play for 17th after losing first round when I shouldn't have I can tell you it's a brutal feeling but it does teach you about mental presence so I hope that Lee at least took that lesson away from the match.

With the 16's and quarter finals tomorrow it will be a jam packed day of racquetball and hopefully after it's all said and done, I'll have secured a spot in the semis. Until then!

Cheers,

Tim

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Nationals: Day 2

Well doubles play wrapped up today and was unfortunately anticlimactic in most respects. We began the day playing in the blue semi final against the Quebec team of Hugo Laprise and Sebastien Juteau. With the pressure they were able to put on 2nd seeds Green and Iwasaa in the quarter finals, we were ready for a scappy and tough team. What we found was a lot of inconsistency. We were able to control play from the beginning and didn't let up. I commented to Jamie that this must have been how the Murray's felt against us yesterday, to which he chuckled ruefully. In the other semifinal, the Husulak brothers came out on top of Kurtis Cullen and Tanner Mattson in a somewhat deflated tiebreaker so it was the Landeryou and Husulak brothers battling it out for 5th place. The match later that afternoon that decided it was yet again not as tense as I thought it was going to be. We played a smart game and where they were a little off we were on from the start. Every left up pass we were able to finish and we were able to neutralize well and force them to try and be offensive from deep court. They played a bit better to make things tight at the beginning of the second but we were able to get back to our game plan and finish it off two straight.

Ours weren't the only matches that went fairly routinely either. In the 3/4 playoff, 1st seeds Eric Desrochers and Pedro Castro easily defeated the 6th seeded Murray brothers and the final saw 2nd seeds Mike Green and Coby Iwasaa easily beat surprise finalists Lee Connell and Francis Guillemette 2 straight as well.

On the women's side, reigning champions Jen Saunders and Josee Grand Maitre won their 9th National Doubles Championship, beating Christine Richardson and Brigitte Richard in a much more contested match than any on the men's side 11-5 tiebreaker. This was the last women's match in a round robin draw and Richardson/Richard finished 3rd due to an earlier loss.

That wraps up doubles! I'm excited for singles now :)

Nationals: Day 1

It was quite a mixed bag of emotions (at least for me) following the first day of competition at the National Championships. There is something about this tournament that gets you excited about racquetball. I'm not sure if it's all the familiar faces that you might see only once per year, or the high quality of racquetball that everyone brings at the end of a season, or simply the desire to play your best because you know this is it until the fall; it's always been my favourite tournament to play.

When you start on a sour note, as with most anticipatory experiences, something is lost that changes the entire affair. This is unfortunately how my National Championships began this year. We received a bye into the quarter finals and were set to face Samuel and Tommy Murray in our first match. Having seen both these players compete through juniors, as well as in the senior ranks over the last few seasons, James and I both knew this would be a tough match. We were prepared, and felt good at the beginning as we won the toss and scored 3 quick points on our first service. Unfortunately it went downhill from there...

In my experience there is always a short period at the start of a match that is a little bit off. Whether it's nerves, not being warm enough, or simply making the adjustment to a court you haven't played on much, there is a period of time where small errors are made that don't cause immediate concern. The thought being that once you settle in, things will get better. Fate had other plans for us in that match. After giving up 4 quick points of our own, we got back in the service box. From that moment on though, points became infinitely more difficult to score. A combination of missing my weight on my serves and Samuel returning extremely well on James', resulted in us being utterly ineffective in staying in the service box. We did return fairly well and keep them from opening up a large lead, but there is only so long that can go on, and after a few changes they began scoring points. Deflated due to our inability to put points on the board, I began to play more aggressively, trying to create something that might act as a catalyst to change the outcome. This only resulted in us hemorrhaging more points, and fairly soon after, the first game was over. The second went much like the first. I tried to play more defensively in an effort to make them earn points as opposed to giving them up freely, but they in turn shot better. It was an extremely frustrating match to play but I give all credit to the Murray's, they outplayed us that day.

The silver lining (if you can call it that) was that when we returned to watch the semis later that evening, we were treated to what will likely be the match of the tournament. Our friend and training partner Lee Connell and partner Francis Guillemette pulled off an extremely tight and controversial win against first seeds Eric Desrochers and Pedro Castro in the semi finals to earn themselves a berth in Lee's first ever National Final. I'm extremely proud of and happy for Lee and I hope that they can play as well in the final today as they did yesterday.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Nationals Preview

With training leading up to Nationals going well I thought it was time to do a little preview. Keep in mind this may prove to be slightly inaccurate. The association hasn't released the draw (for reasons unknown) and it is still unclear as to whether Vincent Gagnon and Corey Osbourne will play, which means the layout could prove to be different than what is being assumed here. With that in mind I thought I'd do something a bit different. Instead of putting up what may or may not be the draw, I'll list the top 8 seeds and give the odds for them winning the singles title! Feel free to comment/sling insults my way. These odds are based on basically nothing :)

Seeds / Odds:

#1 Mike Green / 3:2 - As the most decorated player in Canadian Racquetball History, Green has to come in as the favourite. Add to that statistic that he has only lost one match in Canada in almost 3 years and this is a no-brainer.

#2 Tim Landeryou / 2:1 - Just behind Green in the oddsmakers' eyes is Landeryou, who has had an exceptional season. Winning every selection event so far, unbeaten in Canada since the 2012 National Championships, and the only player to beat Green in the last 2 seasons, Landeryou is also one of the favourites to take the title this year.

#4 Coby Iwassa / 4:1 - Next in line is Alberta prodigy Coby Iwassa. With a Junior World title last season and 2 Junior National titles in April, Coby is flying high and will be full of confidence coming into this year's Nationals. While there is no doubt a national title is in this young athlete's future, having not beaten either Green or Landeryou will work against him as he would likely have to beat both of them to win this year.

#3 Nathaniel Husulak / 6:1 - A perennial quarter-finalist and break-through semi-finalist in Kelowna, Husulak has stepped up his game considerably this season. Inconsistent play will prevent him from making a run to the finals, but if he catches fire he will be dangerous against anyone he faces

#5/6/7 James Landeryou, Corey Osbourne, Eric Desrochers / 8:1 - All dangerous in different ways, Landeryou, Osbourne, and Desrochers all have the potential to go deep into this draw. They will all run into opponents that have had their numbers recently in Iwassa, Husulak, and Landeryou though which means they will have to pull off somewhat unlikely upsets if they are to make it to the finals. All of them have the ability to do this though, so it will be interesting to see how the quarter-finals play out.

#8 Pedro Castro / 10:1 - Somewhat of a wildcard, Castro is an extremely talented player who has rededicated himself this season, presumably to compete for a spot on the 2015 Pan American Games Team. While he has shown the ability to upset higher ranked players, he has historically had difficulty with Iwassa, Green, and Landeryou, all of whom he would potentially have to defeat on a path to a national title this year.

What do you think of the odds? Agree? Disagree? Think I'm crazy? Post your comments below :)

Monday, 6 May 2013

New Leaves...

So I've realized that I have been horribly neglecting this blog. In an attempt to turn over a new leaf (or more likely several leaves) I have made somewhat of a pact with myself that I will update this more regularly (at least once per week). My sanity has been waning as of late and without an adequate outlet for my daily frustrations I might just snap... Okay so that was a bit dramatic, sometimes we need drama to motivate us to act; at least that's what my therapist tells me... Where was I... Oh right, writing!

My goal is to be more general in my scope but more succinct in my structure. Brief highlights of my daily escapades, frustrations, joys and sorrows will be chronicled to follow my training up to nationals, and the competition there as well. Short updates will be up on my twitter feed (@TLanderyou) and facebook so feel free to follow me there as well. And of course if you enjoy my blog share it with others! I'd love nothing more than for this blog to touch more than just my family, friends, and a few racquetballers.  Look for new posts on Wednesdays or Thursdays going forward, cheers for now!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Keystone Banquet/Sunday Morning

What a weekend! I think I may need to sleep for a week to make up for the past few days but definitely worth it (the Keystone never disappoints).

I gave a rundown of saturday's matches in my previous post, and though the day started late (11:45am first match) we were at the courts for the entire day, not getting back to our hotel room until 6pm. This gave us an hour to relax (and write my post about Saturday's matches) and get ready for the banquet saturday night. I had invited a friend living in Winnipeg to join us as she had never been to a racquetball tournament (or the club Opera we were going to check out later on) so she met us in the lobby at 7:30 and we proceeded to the banquet room.

Dinner was fantastic (as always) and following the meal was another epic period of games. These were somewhat more tame than in past years (I have a feeling that Sue Livingston's lesser involvement this year had something to do with that) but were extremely fun nonetheless. The games being concluded, we took our leave to check out Opera, a swank club in the exchange district housed in an old bank building. I wish I could say we took full advantage of our surroundings and partied the night away but unfortunately I had to play in the Pro Final the next day, and with $350 and my undefeated season on the line, I wanted to make sure I was prepared. Regardless, a good time was still had by all, enjoying friendly company and our own private booth (champagne service included!). We left the club about 1am and dropped our friend off with some of her friends nearby before heading back to the hotel and immediately going to bed.

I was rudely awakened after a paltry 6 hours of sleep by Jamie's alarm. Due to our long day at the club on saturday, he has missed the timing of his pain meds (that he takes for Crohn's Disease) and subsequently had not felt well for most of the evening. The early morning dose was in an effort to get back on track - good for him, bad for Tim's sleep schedule. The icing on the insomnia cake were the kids (I'm just assuming here, what kinds of adults do this) running around in the hallway above our room until 830am. The brief respite allowe me to get back to sleep by 845am, only to be woken by my own alarm 15mins later. Not yet ready for sunday to begin, my frantic slapping motions eventually found the snooze button on my phone and the warm embrace of rest was restored once more... for 10mins... It would be 2 more snoozes before I begrudgingly dragged myself from bed. In my post-somnia haze, my thought patterns were reduced to one-word grumbles...
"Bathroom", "ugh", "coffee", "no", "pants", "ok", "now coffee", "yes".

Needless to say it was a rough start to the day, but as is its custom, caffeine was able to restore a semblance of my humanity, and a small breakfast and half litre of water later I felt almost ready to face the day. This post is getting quite long though so I will break down the final match against Coby in my next post. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Keystone Finals Set!

Well after a long and eventful day of racquetball in Winnipeg the finals for the Men's Pro Singles and Men's Open Doubles are set.

It what will probably end up being the match of the tournament, 2nd seed James Landeryou (SK) took on 3rd seed and rising star Coby Iwasaa (AB). The first two games were extremely tight finishes. Landeryou gave Iwasaa large leads at the beginning of both games only to tighten up and mount comebacks, closing to within one point near the end but running out of time and dropping both games in nail biters 11-9, 11-8. Knowing he needed to have a good start to bring a game home, Landeryou would start strong in the third, building a lead that Iwasaa could not close and finishing strong to take the game 11-4. The fourth saw both players tighten up their games. This game was to and fro all the way to the finish, with James capitalizing on his opportunities late to take the game 11-9 and level the match. Appearing to have the momentum, Landeryou would open up a lead in the 5th game as well 3-1, extending it to 6-3. Several changes of serve ensued, with Iwasaa scoring the only point to make it 4-6. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Coby found his drive serve which had been eluding him for most of the match. Four quick points made it 8-6 and Iwasaa seemed poised to take the match. Landeryou would not be denied though and dug in, getting the serve back and tying the game at 8. It would take several more exchanges before any points were scored, but the match remained level, now at 9. Another few rallies saw Landeryou get opportunities to score his tenth point, but miss his shots but impossibly small margins. This seemed to tire him and Coby was able to take advantage and finish the match on his next service opportunity, taking the final game 11-9.

The second semi final saw #1 seed Tim Landeryou (SK) take on 4th seeded Brandon native Kurtis Cullen (MB). This match saw Landeryou start quickly, jumping out to a large lead in the first. By contrast Cullen seemed to struggle to find a rhythm and unable to take advantage of the few service opportunities he had, allowing Landeryou to take the first 11-3. The second was more of the same, although with more changes of serve it was clear Kurtis was working himself into the match, even if it was more slowly than he'd like. Landeryou would take this game 11-4. The third saw Cullen finally find his serving rhythm, or rather, embrace it like a long lost friend. Multiple aces and a solid mix of lines made returning serve extremely difficult for Landeryou, and to top it off Kurtis returned serve much better as well. The advantage swung heavily to Cullen's favour in this game and he would take the game 11-6. The fourth saw Kurtis' serve lose some of it's heat, and Landeryou tightened up, returning serve better and putting more pressure on Cullen. This swung the advantage back in Landeryou's favour and he would take the fourth game 11-2 and the match.

All four of these players are also in the Open doubles draw and will be competing in the final against each other tomorrow, as well as the Pro Singles final between Tim Landeryou and Coby Iwasaa. It will definitely be a great day of racquetball. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

39th Keystone Classic

Well I'm on the road again for the Keystone Classic, taking place in Winnipeg, Manitoba this weekend. We drove up thursday after work and as a result didn't arrive into the city until late into the morning and thus am just updating on the tournament now. With the first day over, there haven't been any surprises yet.

On the singles side, all 4 of the top seeds are through to the semi finals except for 4th seeded Kurtis Cullen (Brandon) who will play 5th seeded Troy Brooks (Sherwood Park) in the last quarter final match this morning. Troy has an unconventional game style that could give Kurtis some trouble but without some kind of melt down, Kurtis should make it through to the semi finals.

In doubles, my bother James and I will play our first match (quarter final) this morning which shouldn't be too tough of a test, and the semi finals will take place later this afternoon. All the draws can be found on R2 - http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/divisions/listAllDivs.asp?TID=10580&sortBy=defaultOrder

Follow along and check for updates later today!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Champion!!!

Wow what a feeling! It's pretty surreal, especially after getting back home and realizing that practically everyone I know has heard about it. I can't thank my family and friends enough, especially my loving wife Kaitlyn, who I know would love to come to every one of my tournaments if she could.

In case some of you are reading about this for the first time, I won the national team selection event over the weekend, upsetting the top seed and current canadian champion Mike Green in the final. The entire match was a seesaw battle. I went up big in the first game and he came back to make it tight before I was able to close it out 16-14. I took another lead in the second game, albeit a smaller one, before he went on a tear, scoring 13 unanswered points! I recovered a bit of momentum to begin the tiebreaker though and was able to start that game strong with a lead as well. He would recover and take the lead by a few points, then I took it back. The finish was extremely tight, with both of us having to make great shots to win the rally. I made the final one at 10-8 though and fell to my knees, in utter disbelief of what I had accomplished. I've been trying to beat this guy for years with no success. To finally have that goal realized is an incredible feeling and fantastic testament to my training over the last few years. Here's a press release from my local paper on the tournament and a write-up/interview I did for theracquetballblog.

The next tournament for me is this coming weekend where I'll be competing at the Keystone Classic in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is the longest running racquetball tournament in Canada and one of my favourite events of the last few seasons. This year promises to be a quality draw as well, with several top players from Canada competing including up and coming stars Coby Iwasaa and Kurtis Cullen. Look for updates on this blog as well as the tournament website: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=10580.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Selection Event Semi Finals

Only one day remains in the selection event. Let's take a look at how the semi finals shook up and the match ups happening tomorrow...

In his first selection event semi final, young star Coby Iwasaa was looking to pull off what would be the biggest upset of his career. In the first game it looked like he would have an opportunity as he matched the current national champion point for point right up to 13-13. A great drive serve and skipped serve return from Coby gave Green the first game though and he never looked back. Turning up the heat on his serve in the second and taking it easily 15-2. 

In the second semi final, Pedro Castro was looking for his second upset of the tournament against Tim Landeryou after taking out #3 seed Nathaniel Husulak in the quarter finals earlier in the day. The first started fairly evenly, with players trading points up until 4-4. Landeryou would open a lead to 7-4, finding effectiveness in a tight lob serve down the right side wall. Using this serve would allow him to build his lead to 10-5. Castro didn't seem to have an answer for this serve and Landeryou would take the first game 15-7. In the second, the right side lob wasn't working as well, mainly because Landeryou seemed to be having trouble keeping it as tight to the wall as he did in the first. Castro was also being more aggressive on the serve return which paid off as he was trading points and getting back into the service box more frequently. Mixing the serve up scored a few points for Tim, and several long rallies through the midpoint of the game seemed to tire Pedro, and Landeryou would take advantage of some errors as a result. This allowed him to open up another lead, which he would hold for most of the game. At 13-7, Landeryou seemed poised to finish the match but Pedro dug deep and made some excellent shots to get the serve back. Several changes of serve ensued before Castro was able to score a few points and close to within 3 points. This would be as close as he would come though, as Landeryou would regain his former composure and close out the game 15-10 to take the match in 2 games. 

This sets up the final between top seeds Mike Green and Tim Landeryou. The last time these 2 faced off was at the 2012 National Championships on these very courts! Green came out victorious in 2 straight games 15-8, 15-2 so the advantage is definitely with him going into this match. Landeryou has put up decent first games historically though, and if he can steal the first in this contest the match could be an interesting one. Green's biggest weapon will be the drive serve, and if he is putting heat on and keeping the line straight, it will be very difficult to neutralize. I'm looking forward to it though as it should be high quality racquetball if nothing else.

Selection Event Quarter Finals

Well the quarter finals almost all went according to seeding, as 3 of the top 4 move onto the semis. On the top half, Mike Green's photon drive serve and consistent lane shooting were too much for Hugo Laprise and would take the match in 2 fairly easy games 15-2, 15-1. Coby Iwasaa had an extremely close, albeit straight games win over former junior national team mate Samuel Murray. Murray held a small lead late in the second game and looked as if he would force a tiebreaker serving at 13-11, but Coby showed great composure and played disciplined racquetball near the end to capitalize on Murray's errors and come back to take the game and the match 15-13, 16-14.

On the bottom half, I didn't have too tough of a time with Lee. He threatened at times and made some solid shots but I was able to mix my passes and pinches well to keep him off balance and take the match 15-5, 15-8. In the only upset of the quarter finals, Pedro Castro was able to take capitalize on some uncharacteristic and loose play from Nathaniel Husulak as well as having the match on his home courts to secure a win and the last spot in the semi finals. I didn't see very much of this match but Loren Prentice, Nate's coach, said Nate struggled to find a rhythm all match. His drive serve wasn't going in consistently and he was having trouble with his lanes. Passing is difficult on these courts and it is something I will have to establish if I'm to be successful against Pedro where Nate wasn't. There is definitely some intrigue in the semi finals but I won't be surprised if it's Mike and I playing for gold tomorrow.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Selection Event Day 1

Well the first day of the National Team Selection Event in 2013 is in the books and man was it a doozie... With 4 tiebreakers, 2 upsets, and the quarter final match ups all set let's get to the details!

Bottom Half:
While none of the upsets on Day 1 occurred in the bottom half of the draw, 2 of the tiebreakers did. The first of which was Patrick Jauvin's nail-bitingly close first round 12-10 victory over up and comer Mitch Brayley. A very disappointing loss for the youngster but he is improving rapidly and I'm sure will exact revenge the next time these 2 face each other. Both the other first round matches went according to seeding with Tommy Murray, Nicolas Bousquet, and Corey Osbourne moving into the second round. Since I already gave away that no upsets occurred you should already know who made it through to the quarter finals. There was some interesting racquetball though, as Patrick injured himself during our match and had to default, and Pedro seemed to demoralize Nicolas on his way to a steamroll style win. Nathaniel survived a scare in the second game, coming back from 13-7 down to take the second game and the match from wily veteran and former national champion Corey Osbourne. Finally Lee Connell had all he could handle from talented local Tommy Murray, he dug deep though, and narrowly scraped out an 11-8 tiebreaker win.

This sets up a quarter final match between Nathaniel and Pedro in what should be an interesting rematch from Kelowna. In that match Nate was fairly dominant but here, where the courts are slower (and thus drive serving is less effective) and where Pedro has home court advantage, the odds definitely swing in Pedro's favour. Whether this will be enough for Pedro to take the match is debatable but one thing is certain, the match should definitely be more interesting than their contest earlier this season. The second quarter final on the bottom half is between myself and Lee. On the basis of our play today, I'd say I was confident in my ability to impose my will and take the match but Lee showed a lot of grit today against Tommy. If he can bring that level of intensity and focus for our match tomorrow I will have my work cut out for me. If I was a betting man though, I would put money on having a rematch with Nate tomorrow evening.

Top Half:
There were no upsets in the first round as Quebec natives Sebastien Juteau, Samuel Murray, and Francis Guillemette advanced past their lower seeded opponents, although Juteau did have a tougher time with 17th seeded Sami Harb than any of the others. The 2 upsets both occurred on the top half of the draw though so let's get to those... The first was one I alluded to in my earlier post as 9th seeded Hugo Laprise upset 8th seeded Troy Brooks in a thrilling 12-10 tiebreaker finish! The second was another thriller as former junior national team mates Samuel Murray and Kurtis Cullen faced off. Kullen took the first game on the back of some blistering drive serves but Murray was able to come back to take the second and another 2 point tiebreaker 11-9. He will face another of his former junior national team mates in the quarter finals as Coby Iwasaa bested Quebec local and former national team member Francis Guillemette in 2 games. The last quarter final will be between Hugo Laprise and #1 seed and current national champion Mike Green.

I don't think Mike will have too much trouble with Hugo to take his spot in the semi finals, but the match between Samuel and Coby definitely has the potential to be tight. Samuel now has some experience with blistering drive serves under his belt at this tournament, and played mentally tough down the stretch against Kurtis. Of all the quarter finals that will be the match to watch. Look for an update tomorrow afternoon with the semi final match ups and predictions!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

February 2013 Selection Event Draw/Preview

EDIT Jan 30: 2 days before the tournament and changes to the draw. Hopefully this will be the last one! Francois Viens has pulled out of the tournament which doesn't change much other than some of the first round match ups but it is worth mentioning. The draw below is the amended version and I have also edited my reviews of first round match ups to reflect the new draw.

With the entry deadline past and the tournament approaching, I thought I'd take a bit of time to release the (unofficial) draw and give a brief preview of the tournament. Again, this is not the official draw, but it is based off of the current racquetball canada rankings and thus should be more or less what we see this upcoming weekend.

One of the most interesting aspects of this draw is the low attendance of top players (similar to the first selection event in Kelowna). With 4 of the top 8 players in Canada not attending (#2 Vincent Gagnon, #3 Kris Odegard, #6 James Landeryou and #7 Eric Desrochers), the draw again becomes very open and full of match ups we don't see that often. Unfortunately, the draw ends up looking very similar to what we saw in Kelowna so while these match ups aren't common, they are happening in back to back tournaments which may make things seem less interesting than they are. The contrast to Kelowna here is the size of the draw. With 23 entrants there is a full extra round (and in some cases 2 rounds) of play which not only ensures more racquetball for everyone, but additional opportunities for upsets. Speaking of upsets, let's take a look at the first round matches!


Top Half:
There will definitely be some hotly contested matches in this bracket. Samuel Murray and Francis Guillemette should both get by their first round opponents and set up what potentially thrilling second round matches with rising stars Kurtis Cullen and Coby Iwasaa. With the #8 and #9 seeds both receiving first round byes, the second round match between Hugo Laprise and aging veteran Troy Brooks also has barn burner possibilities and gives Laprise a chance to move into the quarter finals if he plays well. A great first round match up between youngsters Sami Harb and Sebastien Juteau rounds out the top half and will showcase not only the future of our sport but some exciting and energetic racquetball as well.While this writer believes the top seeds will still advance to the quarter finals, there are definitely some entertaining matches along the way, and several chances for upsets exist in the top half of the draw.

Bottom Half:
From the looks of things the bottom half of the draw will be somewhat more straightforward than the top, as most top seeds should advance without too much trouble. The first round matchup between Albertan junior Mitch Brayley and Quebec veteran Patrick Jauvin could be contentious though, and if nothing else, will provide an interesting contrast in game styles. In the second round, former national team member Corey Osbourne could give some trouble to 3rd seed Nathaniel Husulak if he can impose his style on Nate in that match, and youngsters Nicholas Bousquet and Tommy Murray could also prove to be a handful for their higher ranked (and more experienced opponents) Pedro Castro and Lee Connell.. I will watch the match between Patrick and Mitch with anticipation, looking forward to my match with whomever I face as I've never played Mitch, and it's been years since I've played Patrick. I believe I will be able to move onto the 3rd round though, barring any catastrophically poor play. So while there are less opportunities for upsets in the bottom half, there is still some entertaining racquetball to be had.

Disagree with any of my predictions? Who's your pick to win? Who will be the best match of the 1st/2nd round? Comment below!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Semi Finals

Apologies for the tardiness of these posts, the internet at our hotel was fairly suspect all weekend but now that I have a connection I'll put these last couple of posts up. I apologize for their brevity as I only was able to catch a couple of the matches due to having to play ourselves. Stupid playing always gets in the way of watching! Anyway here we go...

Semi Final #1: Quebec (1) vs. Manitoba (4)
Manitoba fielded a solid team to this tournament but as with PEI in the quarter finals, the Quebec squad was simply too strong. I wish I had caught more of this contest as I'm sure there would have been some great squash but the host province takes the first spot in the final on the back of a solid victory.

Semi Final #2: Alberta (2) vs. Ontario (3)

Tyler Hamilton d. Grayson Witcher (3-1)

A combination of great play from Witcher and a slow start from Hamilton allowed “Gray” to take the first game. After that though Hamilton settled in and you could tell it would only be a matter of time before Witcher ran out of steam. On the 17” tin, Hamilton’s drops were deadly and while his Albertan opponent would track many of them down in the second, the number dwindled in the 3rd and 4th games as Hamilton made them tighter while Gray tired. In the end, the Ontarian player simply controlled where play took place too well for the Albertan and would take the match in 4 games.

Dane Sharp d. Andrew Schnell (3-2)
In what was one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament, the #3 and #5 players in Canada did not disappoint the crowd awaiting their on-court contest. In a thrilling match that saw numerous lead changes, fantastic nicks, and unbelievable retrieving, a down-to-the-wire finish was a perfect way to have it happen. After splitting the first 2 games, Schnell would take the third with extremely consistent and disciplined play. Sharp seemed to be tiring and Schnell was taking advantage, moving him around the court and jumping on loose balls that Dane provided. Despite fatigue setting in Sharp regrouped in the fourth and it was excellent squash to start the game. A nick drop from Andrew, a fantastic counter drop from Dane; both players came out firing and it was something to see! They traded even points to 5-5 before Dane opened up a lead on the back of play that was obviously frustrating Andrew. The Albertan was controlling most of the play but to Dane's credit he dug deep and played a retrieval game until he got his opportunities and while they were few, to Andrew's frustration he was capitalizing on them. A marathon rally at 9-5 saw Schnell give Sharp a scenic tour of the court before a loose length provided a let opportunity. Schnell's frustration was visible at this point and 2 tins in the next 3 rallies illustrated this and give Dane the game and level the match at 2-2. In many ways the 5th game was a snapshot of the match. Schnell played extremely consistent, disciplined, and controlled the majority of the rallies. Sharp scrambled, scratched and clawed his way through to capitalize on the small number of opportunities he had to win rallies. It was extremely tight, but in the end Sharp frustrated Schnell by retrieving well and forced errors at key points. He would take the 5th tight and the match 3-2.

So after winning the first 2 matches Ontario upsets Alberta and moves onto the final to face Quebec! Should be an entertaining contest with some high quality squash.

In the consolation side, Nova Scotia defeated Saskatchewan 3-0 and Quebec #2 defeated PEI 3-0 so they will play for 5th on sunday and Saskatchewan and PEI will play for 7th.