After playing five tournaments in a row—Meadowood Pharmacy Open, the Flying Pig, the London Open, Qatar Classic, and the Sharm El Sheikh Open I am happy to be home. Upon reflection of my trip I want to recognize the efforts of the squash communities that worked so hard to host the events. Their efforts are appreciated by the players who usually have traveled great distances to battle it out on the squash court.
At the Meadowood Pharmacy Open, one that I helped organize, the effort of the committee members was outstanding. Even though most details were ironed out in meetings, last minute additions improved the tournament. One of my favorite examples were the Halloween creepy finger dainties that were home baked by a sponsor’s wife. Another addition that created a nice atmosphere were fresh flowers present in the players lounge and later moved to the back of court for the finals. These small personal touches make the tournament more enjoyable for the players.
At the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, my billets—the Johnson family, went beyond expectations to make sure Thaisa Serafini and I were comfortable. We were driven to and from the club even though the distance was walkable, had fresh flowers in our room to lighten the atmosphere, and were provided with a full fridge of our favorite foods. In fact, there was so much food in the house that there was overflow from the cupboards to the counter space. I am sure the treatment Thaisa and I experienced over the week contributed to our better than expected results in the tournament.
At the London Open, I am thankful to Zubair for hosting the tournament and to Leonie Holt who got me from the Heathrow airport safely to the Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club in an hour and a half. Thankfully, Leonie printed a Google Map on how to get to the club using the tube. After following Leonie through three transfers and a fifteen minute walk with our heavy luggage, we arrived. The club was located in a funky area of town with quaint shops. Manuela and I especially enjoyed the Banana Leaf restaurant. Both of us are creatures of habit and we ate there every night—same dish too, a Vietnamese Pho soup. I had the chicken and Manuela the pork and prawns.
The tournament organizers at the Qatar Classic take pride in the way players are treated. On the night of the first round we enjoyed a gourmet buffet in a five star hotel. The brand new ‘W’ was rumored to be the highest rated hotel in Doha. And throughout the event, the players were provided with drivers. These drivers drove us to the club, to the Villagio mall, to the Laundromat, and anywhere else we wanted to visit. As a qualifier, I was not provided with hotel during the first two days but the qualifying tournament hotel allowed us to squeeze five players into one $150US room. At $30 per person we each had a bed, access to a kitchen and a washer and dryer; all players got value for their dollar.
When traveling to the Sharm El Sheikh Open from Doha I thought that this was one tournament too many. But when creating my fall tournament schedule I was desperate for ranking points to make up for the five months I was injured in the summer. And since I had better than expected results in the last three tournaments it was not difficult to stay motivated for one more. It was made even easier once I arrived at Laguna Vista resort. I shared a room with Lisa Camilleri and our room was huge with a balcony that looked out onto the main swimming pool. The resort was all inclusive so it was a challenge to not over indulge in the buffet meals. Dr Ahmed Said and his tournament staff ran an amazing event. The staff was available all day to provide services to the players. Kylie Lindsay’s bag didn’t arrive in Sharm and she and a staff member made six trips to the airport, without complaint, until finally the bag arrived from Amsterdam two days later.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time at my last five tournaments, there is no better feeling than being home. I had no trouble transitioning into holiday mode looking for Christmas gifts for my family and baking goodies.
My next tournaments will be in January in the US, until then happy holidays everyone!