St Petersburg, 01-03 Feb
Russian champions crowned in St Petersburg
No other national title holders can claim to hold sway over such an area as the winners of the Russian Nationals just concluded in St Petersburg.
The second staging saw sixteen player men's finals after qualification, and eight players contesting the women's at the five court Hypersquash Centre.
Men came not only from Moscow, but Krasnoyarsk, several hours away in Siberia.
One semi final saw 22 year old Dimitri Grishanin, an ex professional tennis player from Siberia wear down St Petersburg's Pavel Sezgeev 4/9 1/9 9/1 9/4 9/1 to book his place in the final. Grishanin screams like a wounded lion, but is as ferocious as a roused one. He runs and runs, will not accept a rally is over and has seemingly endless energy. Now coaching squash, he simply outlasted languid Sezgeev, a player who likes to caress the ball and would lose much of his potency on a court with a low ceiling. He lobbed, Grishanin smashed and so it went on for 67 minutes.
In the last four match-up Alexei Severenov, the first Russian to join PSA, showed a clean pair of heels to Serguei Kosteykia, the Russian number six with a 9/3 9/0 9/5 scoreline. Kosteykia is 38, fearsomely strong and with only eighteen months of serious squash behind him. If only the Muscovite businessman had found the sport a little earlier.
Although Grishanin was playing his sixth match in two days, he was as willing to cover the court as he had been in the first. This time though, 23 year old Severenov, coach at Hypersquash, had too great a weight of shot. Not only had he competed in the World Open in Antwerp, but had watched and learned too. If it hadn't been for lapses in concentration in the third he would have held on to his national title with an even more comprehensive scoreline than the 9/1 9/0 9/6 twenty four minute demolition he managed.
Moscow's national two, Vlada Ozolina gave up her weekend working on film production to beat local bodybuilding coach Olga Petzuchina 9/3 9/5 9/4 in a competitive women's semi encounter where the 27 year old who has only been playing for eight months just made too many mistakes.
In the other last four match-up the two young St Petersburg Katyas clashed. Top seed 19 year old Katya Glintchikova, a student engineer beat Katya Moiseeva a year younger and an economics student 9/3 5/9 10/8 9/3 in a match that was in the balance until Glintchikova managed to find a more regular length.
The finals saw Glintchikova beat Ozolina 9/5 9/4 9/6 in a competitive but friendly encounter, then bemoan her difficulty in travelling overseas to improve as she has no passport having moved away from her Russian home town.
Russian squash on the move
Russia Squash Federation President Vasily Borisov proclaimed the event a great success. ''The young players are steadily improving and we have several now who are very close to each other'' he said.
Hypersquash owner Irina Podubnaya also enthused about the championship. ''We are very pleased to make a show here, and are wanting to have local and national events at our centre regularly'' she said.
With Russia having signed up a team for the Men's Team championships in both the Europeans and Worlds this year there is great impetus to the sport which now boasts 60 courts in five cities from a starting point only twelve years ago.