Three matches, three countries, two days

So far we only managed to play one match per trip. But the idea of the Squash World Tour had always been – like the name suggests – to go on tour and play several matches in a short period of time. Because Joel and myself both have tight schedules, that’s always been a challenge. We are lucky to announce that we found a date and that it will be our greatest trip so far! 

The ambition: the greatest trip 

We will be visiting three cities in three different countries, play three matches of squash, and all this in only two days! Together with a best-of-three combat at every location, we will check out the cities and act as ambassadors for the great game of squash.

Squash World Tour in Action
Squash World Tour Action

The plan

The trip will take place on April 7 and 8 2018. As we have so far not made it to a country that does not border Austria, and our ambition is to see the world’s squash courts, our first stop will be Croatia. We are going to drive to Zagreb on day one, do our Squash Ambassador Business, and then play match one. The same night we will drive on to Maribor in Slovenia, where the loser of match one pays for Burgers. The next morning, the people of Maribor will be introduced to the Squash World Tour before we head on to play match number two. Later we will move on to our home country of Austria. Close to the Slovenian border in Graz we will face each other for the third time in only two days on court. Hopefully after all this action we will still be able to make our way back home to Vienna. 

The winner of the Squash World Tour 2017

It took us some time to get back to writing an article for our blog – but here we are. What will it be about? First of all we are announcing the winner of the Squash World Tour 2017: #teamyellow Peter! With twice the number of matches won against #teamorange Joel it was not even close. Peter won by a total score of 2:1 and got this beautiful trophy (at least in Photoshop).

The show will go on!

What are our plans? First of all we are meeting for an unofficial training match soon where we will discuss the details of our next trip. What we know already: we want to go south… Stay tuned for more information!

It’s also time to recap what I have learned on the Squash World Tour so far:

  • Online court reservation is not very common in Slovakia. So if you want to play squash there, you better call the club before you attend – even if there are plenty courts available. Great experience at the FanatiX Sports Center in Bratislava.
  • When you go by bike for more than 90 kilometers and later play a match of squash, don’t cycle back the way. The way from Vienna to Bratislava was not a problem at all – but on the way back I had a very, very hard time.  
  • A squash glass court is much slower than a regular court, so make sure you are in top physical shape when you enter the court. Playing in a glass court was nevertheless a great experience.
  • Don’t do social media postings during a match – it distracts! I was too focused on postings and less on the match, especially after I won the first game.
  • Some airlines do not allow squash rackets in the cabin! Probably they know that my backhand is a weapon!? So if you are planning to travel by plane with hand luggage only, check beforehand whether this is possible with a squash racket. We flew with Air Berlin – maybe that’s a reason why they went bankrupt!?
  • In Germany, you can bring your own sports drinks – backed up by law! On the website of Airport Squash & Fitness in Berlin the following is explained: “Legally we cannot forbid you from bringing your own sports drinks, but nevertheless we don’t like it! Soft drinks and of course alcoholic drinks are no sports drinks and therefore forbidden!”

 

I’m looking forward to a new season with new experiences!

No chance for #teamorange in Berlin

So we decided that the third stop of the Squash World Tour should be Berlin – Germany, since our media team for the first stop (Peter’s girlfriend) had some Roller Derby business there and Peter decided to join her.
I had never been to Berlin before and only heard good things – so it was an easy choice.

After leaving work in the early afternoon with beautiful sunshine I hopped on the plane for an easy 1:30h flight to rainy Berlin. Forgot my jacket. Damn.

#teamyellow kept me busy

Already being a little sick and having some muscle ache after dragon-boat racing the prior evening resulted in me getting sick that evening.
Peter had been in Berlin since the morning and I had to find them at some obscure place on the other end of Berlin,  dragging  my luggage on a rainy day with only my shirt on.

But I couldn’t show any weakness. So we went from one place to another, having some original Asian food, taking pictures of the television tower in the rain, shopping in a futuristic sports outlet (btw, if the guy working there reads this: Thanks for telling the girls the store closes in 2 minutes! Best bro ever!).

On Saturday the weather remained bad and I bought a jacket and tried to save energy during sight seeing. I had to be at my best to get the lead on the Squash World Tour.

Peter and the media team seemed to sense this weakness and carried us from one obscure place to another. This continued on Sunday when I already felt better after a good 9 hours of sleep.

Somehow they found the coffee shops farthest away from any station one can imagine – passing a lot of nice other coffee shops on the way just to end up at a “special” one – where the coffee tasted just like in any other place I have been.

Anyways, after 50 kilometers of walking through Berlin, we finally made it to the Squash center near the airport – it’s called Airport Squash & Fitness.
We played a game to warm up and I felt good. Peter seemed a little bit slow and I took the unfortunately unofficial game 11-6.

No mistakes

But it was not all he had in him. He immediately changed when we started our competition and Peter’s strokes became more powerful. I managed a small lead at 3-2 in the first game, and then he began with a furious serve-series where I made easy errors and never could get the lead in a rally. #teamyellow took advantage of the situation masterfully – not making a single mistake. I had no chance. He took the game 11-3.

I knew I had to risk more at the return of serve. So I tried. But today seemed not to be my day. 5 easy mistakes gave Peter a 5-0 lead in the beginning of game two – crucial for that game, as it turned out. I began to get some feeling for the ball and managed to keep up with Peter at the time, but the lead turned out too high and he took the game 11-6.

Being down 2-0 is not easy mentally, but I had to try my best. Still having trouble with Peter’s service he now also had some lucky strokes, where the ball hit the corner exactly and bounced off unpredictably,  or he hit it with the edge resulting in a perfect drop. And again – this made all the difference and in a (for me) frustrating manner, Peter also took the third game 11-6.

It was time to go home. I have to acknowledge that his serve and backhand were too strong for me today and on the fast court, my running performance was not enough to compensate for my weak strokes. I know what I have to work on – so be prepared for a beating next time #teamyellow.

Revenge for #teamorange in Vienna

The 2nd FIR European Racketlon Championships where held from August 25 to September 3, 2017 and featured the best players in the four-racket-sport consisting of Table Tennis, Badminton, Squash and Tennis. A unique Centre Court Arena with the only squash-glass-court in Austria was temporarily installed at the City & Country Club Wienerberg. For me it was clear, that this was the only suitable venue for a match of the Squash World Tour in our hometown of Vienna. I made it real: On Sunday, August 27 at 4pm the second match of the Squash World Tour was scheduled.

Everything was set for the perfect squash match in Vienna

Because of my position as the public relations officer of the European Championships, I managed to arrange a shuttle service for the two of us and the media team covering the second Squash World Tour match. Joel #teamorange abandoned the ride and chose to walk to the venue, while we were waiting at the meeting point. Only 15 minutes before the scheduled start of our match, I realized that #teamorange had played me. Quickly we drove to the venue, while Joel laughed up his sleeve.

I spared neither expense nor effort to make it a better organized match than the first in Bratislava where we went by bike and were lucky that we got a squash court at all. Everything was set: I bought the white ball for glass-courts only, I took care of the adequate entrance, I even brought sports drinks for #teamorange and #teamyelllow in matching colors.

While warming up, #teamorange fired the ball several times out of the glass-court and was already complaining about the „stupid construction“. I kept calm and when the match started I was ready! I took the first point and never lost the lead in game one: 10:6 for #teamyellow. I even took care of our Instagram account during the break, while Joel was sitting there focusing on the match.

Giving away a big lead

In game two I had two game points at 10:8, but somehow managed to lose the game 10:12. Now the momentum had changed. Dirty talk by Joel on our Instagram Story, „Team Yellow is finished, he cannot move anymore!“ described exactly how I felt. I threw everything I had at #teamorange, but the powerful strokes of my opponent and the fact that I had been working more than twelve hours a day for over a week, while sleeping an average of four hours led to a 5:11 loss of game three. For the first time I was 1:2 games down on the Squash World Tour – a new experience for me! I felt like Vladimir Klitschko in his last fight against Anthony Joshua: I started strong, I could have decided the match early (in game two), but I could not keep it up.

Not all of the seats were taken.
Not all of the seats were taken.

I was pretty sure that it was still possible to turn the match around. But at 7:10, after saving two match points, the show was over. Joel had his revenge. Long after I left the court, #teamorange was still celebrating his victory, posing for Insta-shots and enjoying the moment.

#teamorange savering victory
#teamorange savouring victory

Losing in your hometown hurts. When the shuttle took us home after the match, I made an affirmation: I will come back stronger in Berlin!

First Squash World Tour match in Bratislava [2/2]

So after letting Peter suffer on the bike for 3 hours and making the first point in the first match on the Squash World Tour, things deteriorated quickly: 1:0 became 3:11 quickly due to a well moving Peter and me not getting the touch on the ball.

“I should have trained more”, was my first thought walking out of the court. But I quickly focused on the task ahead: “Move better. Let him run more. Try to find your touch – without it you can’t win anyways.”

It got a little better in the second game. I was down by 5:9 when I finally hit some strokes like I wanted to and equalized at 10:10 after two game points for Peter. With some magic (luck) #teamyellow took also the second game 12:10 and now led 2:0.

The second game was a tough fight..

 

But my touch was back. I was more confident in my drop shots and I used them to move Peter a lot and forced him to make the mistakes.  He digged deep and with some incredible moves he was able to keep up until 8:8.  Under a lot of pressure #teamorange won the 3rd game with a phenomenal finish 11:8.

It was on. Being down 1:2 is not an easy situation, but I felt confident in my play and knew that I had the stamina for 5 game.

The fourth game started with some lucky points by #teamyellow and easy mistakes from #teamorange and soon I was down 5:7. My memories are somewhat blurry as I couldn’t hold up the focus of the 3rd game and Peter also started to hit some ridiculous drop shots even Usain Bolt couldn’t have reached. My spirit was broken, Peter won the 4th game 11:7 and thus won the match and the first point of the Squash World Tour.

Peter wins the first match on the Squash World Tour

 

I still wanted that burger though. After a short shower and a friendly goodbye from the charming old slovakian receptionist, we headed to the restaurant. The burger compensated for the bitter loss I had suffered just minutes earlier.

Awesome burgers compensated for bitter loss

 

As if loosing the squash match and paying for the meals was not enough, I got a flat tire too. Just my lucky day.

Changing tires in Bratislava

 

It was time to head back home. By bike again of course. It was obvious Peter gave his all in the match as he was suffering from the beginning in the battle against the wind. We moved as fast as a kid walking on the street. It would be a long journey home at this pace. Fortunately Hainburg was not far away and we could take the train from there. And indeed, as we passed the train station Peter stopped and we three had some lack of motivation to continue the long drive back.

For some reason I still don’t understand, we continued. And it became the long journey we had all feared. My only delight was Peter’s face, slowly deteriorating over time. Some revenge after all. But to be fair, he fought like a king and we got to enjoy a wonderful evening in the Donauauen with a beautiful sunset and even a hog at some point. After about 4 exhausting hours, we reached Vienna. What a day. Looking forward to the next stop on the Squash World Tour – this time organized by #teamyellow!

Peter suffering on his way back to Vienna
Beautiful scenery in the Donauauen

First Squash World Tour match in Bratislava [1/2]

It’s 11 am and Peter, his girlfriend Jasmin and I meet in Vienna to begin our trip to Bratislava. I am hung over from last night’s party and have muscle ache from the workout two days before. Getting old is shitty. Good thing I have a plan to humiliate Peter despite his long sleep and better recovery after workouts.

The rules clearly state that the person responsible to organize the trip can do that according to his preferences. Well, I was organizing this trip and really looking forward to a nice burger paid by #teampeter #teamyellow. To make that happen, I just had to make sure he barely can move when we arrive there. A nice 3 hour cycling-tour should do the job.

So there we were. Excited (for a free burger) me, happy Jasmin and not so happy Peter. Rules are rules. We headed to Bratislava and after a few kilometers I already knew my plan was working. While he got slower and slower, Jasmin had a fun time taking pictures of us and I was thinking about which burger I would order later. Cheeseburger. Big. With Jalapenos. Mhmmm…

On the Donauradweg
The first few kilometers Peter did a pretty good job on the bike. This changed after about an hour…

After a quick stop at McDonalds for a strategic energy supply, we arrived at the squash court/ fitness center. It was a nice quiet place, about 3 people in the fitness center, nobody playing squash – perfect conditions. At the counter, a guy who had clearly passed his best age asked us if we had reserved a court. We look at 4 empty squash courts, back to him, “of course we did, we wrote an e-mail”. He clicks around a little bit… “Ahhh yeah. Reservation by e-mail is not possible. You have to call number. Last time e-mail!”. I love the Slovak charm.

FanatiX
Dealing with Slovak charm after 3 hours of cycling

Feeling lucky he accepted our e-mail reservation, we started to warm up and began the first match of the squash world tour. I won the right for the first service.

I made the first point of the Squash World Tour, it was an easy error of Peter. My plan had worked. It was a terrible point, but I knew I could improve and he was playing awful – as expected after 3 hours of cycling. I could already taste the delicious cheeseburger. Medium or medium rare?

[-> read part 2]