When I arrived at the MacArthur squash center this morning and went to the locker room I ran into Michael Gough, the world 75+ champion who had just won the US 75+ championship. His match, like mine would be, was on the all-glass court, and it is a very, very difficult court to play on. The lighting is tough, the white ball plays a bit differently, and the glass and floor really slow down the ball. It is very, very different from the other courts where all our other matches were held. Michael barely won his first two games and came off complaining about all the difficulties of playing on this court. His wife said – no more excuses – just go out and play your game. So Michael said to me – John – no excuses. Just go out and play your game.
Steve is a strong player and came out taking the ball early and putting a lot of pace on the ball. I stuck to my game and responded with a lot of volleying deep and attacking short. We both were having challenges with the court but we both just kept pushing as hard as we could. I squeaked out the first game coming back from 8-10. Second game Steve really picked it up and I started overly-focusing on sticking the ball to the wall to induce errors. Steve handled my shots well and took the initiative and took the second. Game three I went back to good squash and played perhaps the best game I have played all year: 11-1. I knew Steve would fight back, and fight back he did. We had furious points throughout the 4th and I stuck to my guns picking my opportunities to attack. At 10-9 (match ball) he left a ball short and set me up perfectly for my favorite shot – backhand crosscourt drop. I felt it leave my racquet and knew I had it. Steve lunged but came up short. Game, match, National Championship.
I want to thank several people for helping me to get to this win. First, my coach Willie Hosey who worked so hard with me and transformed me as a player. Second, my drilling and playing partners: Anders Wahlstedt, Caleb Garza, Will Cheng, Valentin Quan and Rob Endleman. Third, my students who cheer me on, send me texts and e-mails, and make my job as a teaching pro not feel like a job. And finally my girlfriend Laura who travels with me when she can and makes traveling to tournaments a fun adventure.
Next stop Toronto for the Canadian Championships.