My latest event has just finished in Doha, Qatar where I played in the QSF PSA Challenger.
The venue was the Khaleifa Sports Centre, where they host the Qatar Classic and its also where the big tennis event in January is staged. The tennis stadium is literally 5 feet away from the entrance to the squash complex. Format was pretty tough. 2 matches per day, qualifying and first 2 rounds on the traditional courts with semi and final to be moved into the glass!
Qualifying was pretty straight forward, playing a local junior first followed by Englishman Phil Bull coming through both in 3. Going into the main draw i drew Indias Mahesh Mangoankar and this proved to be a little trickier than I expected. I was a little passive to start with and with the conditions being very hot and bouncy it made it difficult to put the ball away. I lost the first 2 games 14-12 11-7 lasting over 50 minutes and even though id lost them he had used alot of energy and going into the 3rd I didnt panic, tweaked my tactic a little and focused on executing that as best I could. From here I pretty much dominated the rest of the match and won the next 3 games 11/7 11/7 11/3 in just over 100 mins.
With 5 hours to recover I had Syed Hamza of Pakistan in the 1/4s. In that space of time it was very important to rehydrate and refuel as best I could, however, stomaching all the fluids was easier said than done! Syed was very quick and skillfull at the front but was terrible for calling lets and breaking up the play. Mentally this was a good challenge and in the end, although physically not at my best I managed to dictate most of the play and work him hard enough till he could hardly walk. Winning 3-1.
Semis was like going into a new tournament. Totally different conditions playing on the glass and one which I was excited about! Here I met Number 1 seed Amair Al Tamini of Kuwait. It was a good clean and fair match! I was pretty sharp though and won quite comfortably in the end 11-6 11-6 11-4.
Leading up to the final the body was feeling the effects of 5 matches in such a short space of time but I had a game plan and knew exactly what I needed to do against Ali Bhukari of Pakistan. A frantic 1st from him and slow start from me gave him the 1st set quite easily. Returning the favour in the second the 3rd was crucial. A tense set that had Bhukari outdoing anyone (and probably T’ing himself up for an acting role with potential for an oscar!) with the most dramatic facial expressions and silly let calling! In one rally, 8-9 down, as I was playing a forehand drop he grabbed my right arm and then totally denied it!!! (thankfully the ref saw it!) 10-8 down in the 3rd i played 4 outright winners giving me that crucial 3rd and knocking the sting out of him. 4th was quite tight all the way through, again he pulled away to a 9-7 lead. Squeezing an error and a stroke followed by a drop in the nick and a crosscourt flick that sent him the wrong way, I threw my hands in the air. Partly relief but also stoked to have won the event having lost in 2 semi finals..
Big thanks to all my family and friends for their support, my coaches Eoin Ryan for his input in my game through the years and National coach Hadrian Stiff whos been coaching me alot in recent times and has taken me under his wing at Bristol helping my squash improve.
Next up is the Irish Open in 10 days. This will be the toughest field I’ll have competed in for a few years and provides a great challenge that Im really looking forward too…
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