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.