The Sunset Country Squash Club's annual La Place Rendez-Vous tournament held over the weekend marked its 31st year by proving to be one of the most competitive of them all.
More matches went the full five-games this year than ever before.
The men's 'A' Open final differed in that respect, however, as Peter Russel, a top-10 player from Winnipeg, ousted past champion Anniss Seid, who grew up in Fort Frances but now lives in Thunder Bay, 3-0 in an all-out blitz of power strokes.
Russel's forehand was the difference-maker, with his laser-like accuracy at times not allowing Seid to establish the drop shot.
Russel said his game plan heading into Sunday afternoon's final was to play a more relaxed game—something he admitted he struggled with during his earlier matches in the tournament.
“I played a lot calmer that I have been the last couple of days,” he noted after the match.
"So that translated into a lot less errors for me [today].
“That was my game plan going in," Russel added. "To just be not as panicked, not trying to smash the ball all the time but trying to relax and make some good, solid shots, and it paid off.”
Bob Shine of Thunder Bay, an 11-time champion of the tournament, took third place in the division this year.
The men's 'A' division was hotly-contested, meanwhile, with Thunder Bay's Graham Crew taking top honours.
Rick Gauthier, also of Thunder Bay, finished second while local player Chad Faragher secured third spot.
In men's 'B' action, veteran Randy Wilson of Sioux Lookout finally “cracked the egg,” winning the division title after numerous attempts in past years.
Adam Salomon (Thunder Bay) placed second, with 1990 'A' champ Mark Norton (Kenora) taking third place.
Men's 'C' Open champ James Woods finally secured the opportunity to move up to 'B' next year.
Local player Jeff Wright, after having defeating Woods in the annual Boxing Day tourney here, had to settle for second place in their rematch.
Men's 'C' winner Dave Galloway (Sioux Lookout) reeled off four-straight victories to claim the title.
Local Chris Bobczynski, playing in his first La Place Rendez-Vous tournament, performed admirably and finished with second-place honours.
Ex-Fort junior Mike Brady captured third spot.
In ladies' action, the 'B' final was a “run into the ground” type of contest, with Mary-Beth Tkachuk narrowly defeating long-time rival Nikki Bagacki in a very physical five-game match.
Local junior Anna Schwartz worked hard to earn third place in the division.
As for the ladies' 'C' division, it made for an extra engraving square on the plaque as all three finishers tied for first place with identical points and defeats in round-robin play for the first time ever.
Locals Heather Wright and Katie Beninger, as well as ex-local Summer Struve (now of Winnipeg), will share the title.
The junior divisions were represented by 15 players this year, which club organizer Bob Tkachuk called “a great turnout.”
In the junior 'A' Open final, Owen Riches swept to a 3-0 win over Ryley Booth to finish first.
“Owen is looking forward to moving into adult action next year, which is great to hear,” Tkachuk said.
The junior 'A' division may have seen a little bit of an upset, with local Aiden Jean claiming first place and Davis Wielinga finishing second.
In fairness, Davis also took part in the annual Bantam 'A' hockey tournament here this past weekend, which may have affected the outcome.
Junior 'B' action, meanwhile, had many first-time players involved, which Tkachuk said helps to put the club's future on solid ground.
Rookie Evan Wright (Fort Frances) claimed first place by using excellent serving.
Hunter Jean and Alasha Perreault, both of Fort Frances, took second and third, respectively.
Tkachuk said tournament organizers were very happy with the fair play and sportsmanship displayed over the weekend, and would like to thank all the participants and contributors.
Up next for the local club is the “Squash Cancer” tournament to be held Feb. 2-4 in Thunder Bay.
More info is posted on the bulletin board by the squash courts.