Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Chu/Shikoku Open Squash Tournament

It doesn't seem like too long ago since I wrote about cottage pie, but here we are and the summer is drawing to a close. This also means that another eagerly awaited annual trip has come and gone. Yes, another squash tournament, but this time a little closer to home - the Chu/Shikoku Open in Kurashiki - and this time with Kayo and the children.

This tournament is a favourite because of the venue - great courts, great showers, and a wonderful place for the children to play - and a hotel I have stayed at so often that I'm definitely a regular. This picture was taken in the adventure playground - Tadashi and I on the "ferry", and Muscat Stadium, the venue, in the background. We've always done this tournament as "a family", and until this year I think Kayo has had a harder job looking after the children than I have had playing squash!
This year, though, because they are older, they pretty much just got on with things themselves. There seemed to be no end of other children to play with, and they had a great time. Here is Aimi "risking" a ducking on whatever this kind of slide is called.

The format of the tournament is actually a little different to the other regional events I go to, inasmuch as I play in both the Open event and the Masters event. The Masters is a handicap tournament for players over 30 - I just qualify! My targets for this tournament were to reach the main draw of the Open event, then hopefully beat Taro Sakamaki (remember him from the Kyushu Open?) which would put me in the Best 16 round, AND to win the Masters.

Greg and Richard also entered the Open. Greg with an eye on playing and improving his result of last year against the three times and current All Japan champion, Yuta Fukui, in one semi-final, and Richard, I think, hoping to have a good time and make it to the other semi-final.

Neither Greg or Richard had to qualify for the main draw as their rankings are high enough to ensure they were seeded. For me, there was a nice warm-up early on Friday afternoon, and then later on the qualifying final against one of the rapidly improving Hiroshima Shudo University students, Horino. He is very fast around the court, and I had to be very patient to finally win through 2:1 (the qualifying rounds and the Masters are both best of three games matches). I'm usually nervous early in tournaments, but I'm glad to say that I felt I played OK, and kept the nerves under control.

On to Saturday, then, and a much better, if rather tempestuous (on my part) match with Taro. I'm afraid that I had a couple of quite loud outbursts directed at the referee. In point of fact I think the frustration I show is actually because of how I am playing, but I think I would look even more ridiculous shouting at myself! Having seen the match again on video, I rather reluctantly have to agree with Greg and Richard when they pointed out that when I was ranting, I looked less like John McEnroe and more like Basil Fawlty! Ah, well, best just put a stop to that silliness... The match ended in a 3:1 loss, but I really felt as if I lost it rather than Taro winning it. Next time!

Greg and Richard both progressed smoothly to the quarter-finals which, along with the Masters, took place on Sunday. Richard played very well against Japan's number 6, Kimihiko Sano, and was actually 2 games to love ahead. Sano then increased the pace of the game a little, and put Richard under a lot more pressure. I think the match could have gone either way, but sadly Richard had to bow out with a 3:2 loss. Greg meantime was getting ready for his big encounter with Fukui. Although I haven't seen all of the match yet - I was getting ready for my own match - from what I saw of it Greg certainly gave Fukui more to think about this year. He wasn't able to win a game, but if he can spend more time practicing with players nearer his own level (than me!), I'm sure he will do even better next time.

As for me, after a very close semi-final I made it to the final of the Masters where I played against Masahiko Hasunaka, a practice partner from Hiroshima. The handicap system meant that he had to give me 2 points in each game, but as he played one less match than me that day, I didn't feel too bad about that. This is an "action" shot from the final, and that's me in green almost looking like I know what I am doing! Again, it was a very close match, but I'm delighted to say that I clinched it 2:1 in the end.

Greg, Richard and I just after the Masters final. If you think I look tired, you should have seen the other guy!

Receiving my prize from the other finalist, Masahiko Hasunaka, who also happens to be the chairman of the Japan Squash Association Chugoku-Shikoku Branch.

The "real" winners. Yuta Fukui in red with the trophy, and Greg doubtless thinking about their next encounter...

After the prize-giving.

Final photo before heading for home. This time with Sachi, a good friend, and former Japan number one.

I'm still pretty much elated after the success of the weekend, but as Greg pointed out, there is a lot of training and practising to do before we head off to Wakayama for the Kansai Open which begins on September 17th. I can't in all honesty say I'm looking forward to the training, but I can't wait for the tournament!

If you are interested in seeing the full results of the Chu/Shikoku tournament you will find them here