It was back to team squash two weekends back for the annual European Team Championships Division One, played in the eastern Italian seaside town of Riccione, a pleasant backdrop at this time of year, and a familiar venue nowadays for squash events. Riccione hosted the European Club Championships in September and this same event in 2007.
The weather was atrocious, and the violent thunderstorms and rain put paid to any ideas about beach side relaxation, which was a shame considering the time of year; not that there would have been time for such jollities but it's not everyday you get to play a tournament by the sea.
The week of squash lived up to expectations. England played France in both the men's and women's finals on the all glass court and World Champion Laura Massaro lost 3-1 to the French world number 5, Camille Serme, who showed how strong the top of the women's game is. Sarah Jane Perry levelled matters, beating Cyrielle Peltier 3-0 and Alison Waters beat Laura Pomportes 3-0 in the deciding rubber of the three match tie to retain the title.
The men's final, played over four ties, was drawn out. At two string, against Mathieu Castagnet, I clawed back a 2-1 deficit to win a physical match. World numbers one and two Greg Gaultier and Nick Matthew then went head to head, the Englishman winning 3-1 in convincing fashion, to give England a 2-0 lead. This left Peter Barker needing to win to regain the title for the 20th consecutive time, which he did, 3-2, leaving Daryl Selby free to relax.
We've been building up to the British Open at the Hull KC Stadium nicely over the last week. After the European Teams many of us were back home for a week of training. There was plenty of squash action though: the Premier Squash League Final was played last Tuesday at Surrey Sports Park, and won by Surrey Health and Rackets after they beat Duffield, and the German League Finals were retained by my team Paderborn last weekend.
Myself and training partner Saurav Ghosal were invited to play an exhibition at the Northumberland Club in Jesmond in Newcastle on Friday. We received a warm welcome from the crowd, who showed their endearing and very northern sense of humour during the QandA session after the match. The evening raised cash for the Butterwick Hospice; thanks must go to all who organised the event and turned out to watch us play. Encouraging it was to see such interest in the sport in a part of the country not known as a squash hotbed.
Last preparations for the Wimbledon of squash came in the form of the final performance of the run of La Boheme at the Grand Theatre on Saturday, and there was much intensity in the performance to inspire going in to this week's squash.
The British Open is the last tournament of the season before the summer break and is the most recognisable and known event on the squash calendar. Dr.Assem Allam is the man behind it and has been for the last three years. He is a little snookered as his beloved Hull City have an interesting date at Wembley on Saturday and so he may miss the semi finals of the squash. It is a strange but happy predicament for him, and a funny coincidence that the two sporting institutions that he has such vested interest hit their apogee simultaneously.
Tickets are available from www.britishopensquash.net