Capturing the very first PSA tournament of his career as a squash professional was not all what Sudbury native Mike McCue envisioned - not that he would change anything about his recent triumph at the 2018 Mount Royal University Open in Calgary.
Seeded second to Mexican Eric Galvez entering the event, McCue would face his stiffest test well before the championship encounter. "I got through the first round pretty comfortably, but then I was down 2-0 (best of five) in the quarter-finals (to Edgar Zayas), getting completely outplayed and not feeling great physically," he said.
"Sort of out of nowhere, in the middle of the third game, he hit a physical wall that I didn't see coming. All of a sudden, he was running on fumes, and that kind of energized me a little bit. I managed to zip through the last two and a half games quite comfortably, really."
In fact, after registering his come-from-behind 10-12, 8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-5 victory over Zayas, McCue would really hit his stride, knocking off Charlie Johnson from England in the semis (11-9, 11-8, 11-7) and his countrymate, Kyle Finch, in the final (11-8, 12-10, 11-5).
"It was a weird feeling," acknowledged McCue. "You build up this idea, in your mind, of what it's going to take to win a tournament. When the time came and I was in the final, getting closer and closer to the finish line, it was kind of an anti-climax."
Part of that lie in the manner in which the draw played out in Western Canada. Galvez was upset in the round of eight by Aditya Jagtap of India (10-12, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 8-11), with the latter eliminated the next day by Finch (8-11, 9-11, 12-10, 7-11).
"In the semis and finals, I don't think I played my best squash, by any means," said McCue. "The conditions were pretty tough out there with the altitude. I played well enough to grind down my two opponents physically."
In addition to the $5000 prize money that came with the win, McCue would also see his latest world ranking jump to a career best #81 on a global scale. "In terms of quantifiable benefits, the rankings boost was probably the biggest thing," he admitted.
With the squash season winding down and the Canadian National Championships slated for May, McCue finds himself competing in Winnipeg, then off to a high end event in Macau (China), closing off that stretch with a trek to Ireland for a pair of competitions.
He is anticipating being back in Sudbury in mid-April, on the weekend of the Northern Ontario Open Squash Tournament, though there is talk that the event will bear a different look from the past six to seven years.
"We're looking at making it perhaps a little more laid back than the PSA event," he said. "Make it a little more social, a little more engaging for the local squash community."