The competitors for the much anticipated, Sweatband sponsored Squashmatch tournament awoke to what can only be described as adverse weather conditions. The hardy participants battled through a blizzard that would have made Scott and Amundsen think twice about getting out of bed.
Nonetheless the turnout was good and by 09:30 we had gathered at Walthamstow Squash Club and were champing at the bit to get going. The first round matches were one game to 21, a long time to be playing without a break, and helped to sort out the seeding for the second round which was best of three. The second round produced some excellent squash and some tight matches. Tie of the round was Mike Boot, a seasoned veteran, against Eric Vezinet, a somewhat unknown quantity. The Match went all the way with Mike’s experience just about seeing him through.
It was at this point the decision was made to play best of five for the remaining three games. It was going to be a war of attrition!! By this point a couple of players were starting to emerge as favourites, Tom Platteau, who has become Mr Reliable at number one seed for Walthamstow’s league team and the New Kid on the Block, Nigel Anthony. Nigel had recently relocated from Scotland, and I left the court wishing he had waited a few more weeks before moving South! It was a good game and I was pleased to have taken a game off him but in the end a blend of excellent technique and power was too much for me.
At this stage it seemed Mike and Dante Vilca were the only two who could stop Tom or Nigel. However Tom beat Dante en route to the final and Nigel, in another excellent match beat Mike. This teed up the eagerly anticipated Tom vs. Nigel final, but first of all, we had the third place runners-up battle between Mike and Dante. This was probably the game of the tournament, with Dante using his whippet-like pace around the court to defy gravity’s pull on the squash ball. Four very close games later, we were into a final game decider. It ebbed and flowed until eventually Mike closed out the game to take the runners up prize, which was a trophy and £70 worth of Sweatband vouchers. Seeing as he was playing in shoes that had so many holes they were closer to sandals, I hope he invested his vouchers in a new pair!
The ladies in the tournament were also giving a good account of themselves and ended up with Fatema and Cindy Roy fighting out a ladies final. After a good game, Fatema’s experience and tactical know-how proved to be too much for Cindy as she won 3-0.
Everyone gathered round to watch the men’s final, most now with a beer in hand. Nigel came out of the blocks quickly and roared into a one game lead before Tom had really got into the swing of things. The second game was much closer but still Nigel had the edge so the murmurs in the crowd were all about a three-zero final. However, as he has proven he can do many times before Tom dug deep and found a way to grind out the third game to make it 2-1. In the end though Nigel proved too strong and eased his way to a 3-1 win and the scoop of £100 of vouchers from Sweatband. A fitting conclusion to an excellent day.
It became apparent early in the day that the Squash Gods were real ale drinkers because they saw fit to coincide the tournament with a Real Ale festival at the club. This provided the perfect post-tournament setting for us to relax and reflect on an exhausting but rewarding day!