Kneipp (left) and Stefan Castelyn on one of the back courts during
their first round encounter at the Qatar Classic
2002 Dan Kneipp)
are you supposed to deal with a loss? No one likes losing. Qatar isn’t
exactly a short trip away from our base in Amsterdam so if you’re
going to take the trouble to go their for a tournament it’s preferable
to play a number of matches. I’ve had an interesting year if I analyse
who I have lost to and under what circumstances. I have been beaten by Peter
Nicol twice (semi finals Memorial US Open, 2nd round PSA Masters). I have
lost to both Anthony Ricketts and Stewart Boswell (Pittsburgh Open and British
Open). I have had my forehead split open by Dave Palmer’s racquet
at the Tournament of Champions and gone on to lose in four.
My body is either having a bad year
or showing the effects of eight years as a professional player as I’ve
had to withdraw from three tournaments with injuries. In Pakistan against
Thierry Lincou and the recent semi finals of the Milo South Africa Challenge
against John White I suffered the same injury to my glutius. I had a freakish
knee locking incident while playing Nicol in Hong Kong that put a halt
to the match during the fourth set.
Regardless of my injury woes the only
guys that I have lost to this year have been top ten players. I’m
knocking on the door of the top ten myself and reaching that goal remains
our main objective.
So the Qatar Classic was the first big
tournament this year where I was a seeded player and the one expected
to win in the first round. This obviously places some extra pressure on
you as the other guy is already expected to lose, especially if he’s
a qualifier and already has had one or two hard matches. Which was exactly
what happened: I drew the Belgian number 1 player Stefan Castelyn, ranked
24 in the world. I have played Stefan lots of time in league matches and
various invitational tournaments around Europe and won far more matches
than he. I was looking forward to our match with quiet confidence and
a belief in my ability to win.
That didn’t exactly go to plan.
I won the first game comfortably and thought I stuck to the same game
plan and execution in the following games. Winners started flowing from
his racquet and I didn’t really have an answer for them. There was
no real pattern to what part of the court they were coming from, so stopping
the onslaught was difficult. Danny thought we’d just have to weather
the storm as his winners were so close to the tin and therefore low percentage
so that it’s usually inevitable that winners become tins as the
player tires. That didn’t happen. I believe Stefan is the fastest
player on the pro tour which means shots of mine that should be either
winners or have him under lots of pressure don’t have the same effect
as he’s onto the ball so early. He dictated the play from the second
game onwards and didn’t relent. So what could I have done, how do
I deal with this and why has it left me so frustrated and angry with myself?
Everyone has been in this situation.
You’ve played your match, haven’t played badly but are left
with a loss. You’re not certain whether you did anything wrong,
he did something particularly right or a bit of both. I’m certain
I didn’t have a bad game. I wasn’t on fire and it wasn’t
a hum dinger of a match from me, but it wasn’t bad. Daniel and I
both thought that Stefan played a great match and we were grateful to
find that numerous pros said the same thing. The umpire for the match
Jack Allen even came up to us later and said that he hadn’t seen
Stefan play that well since he made the semi finals of the World Open
when it was in Qatar. Stefan is a former #7 in the world and is obviously
a great player. But one of the crucial aspects of being a top player is
being able to have a below par game but still come away with a win.
I wasn’t able to do that and it’s
eating away at me. Twenty different scenarios are going through my head
as to what I could have done better, should have done to avoid the loss
or would do differently given the same circumstance again. It’s
easy to come up with excuses or minor reasons for the loss and it’s
even harder to not constantly berate yourself and feel like a hacker.
Just as victory is a team effort, a loss also leaves Danny wondering if
his instructions and between game tactics should have been different.
If I was simply outplayed it’s crucial to be able to acknowledge
that. Not just to show good sportsmanship but so that we’re not
unnecessarily berating ourselves (too much).
Kneipp on the Doha Championship Course, helping take his mind off
his first round loss
2002 Dan Kneipp)
A lot of players once they exit
a tournament will leave the city on the first available flight. This isn’t
such a bad idea, because otherwise you’re surrounded by the people
who have are in the process of achieving what you came here to do. It acts
as a constant reminder of your recent failure and makes it hard to work
past the loss and try to take something positive and productive from the
event. Part of dealing with the loss includes simply enjoying myself. I
would love to be playing golf every day while I’m in sunny, hot Doha
and away from the cold and wet of Amsterdam, but the heat would leave me
too drained for my squash matches. So losing means I have the opportunity
to get onto the golf course and perhaps see some of the local sites. A poor
substitute for remaining in the tournament but you’ve got to work
with the cards that you’re dealt.
John White is one of my best mates
on the tour so naturally I want him to win his second round encounter against
my victor Stefan. But it’s easy for my pride to sometimes kick in
and secretly hope that Stefan wins comfortably to help emphasise his standard
of play at the tournament partly justifying my loss. (This feeling goes
quickly and my loyalty to my mate’s victory returns.)
Dealing with a loss is never a walk
in the park. But it’s much harder if it’s in the first round,
against someone ranked lower than you, and a match that you’re dying
to win. I think it’s also a driving factor behind most competitive
squash players of all levels. That urge to not deal with a painful loss
contributes to a stronger and more passionate desire to win. I’m
looking forward to Toronto: a chance to try to make amends.
way to avoid the 35°C+ heat of Doha is to play at dusk. Doha Golf
Club has 9 holes that are flood lit for night golf. Dan Kneipp (in
his Payne Stewart-esque plus fours) tries to avoid the rare Arabian
glowing palm tree hazard.
2002 Dan Kneipp)
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