If his first two visits to the Great White North are any indication, maybe Australian Cameron Pilley should play pro squash events in Canada more often.
"I've got a 100% record," said the 22-year-old, who beat Edmonton's Matthew Giuffre 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6 in the pro event final at the ADL Optical/Rodenstock Manitoba Open squash tournament yesterday at the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club.
"You guys should hold more tournaments," he added. "I'd almost be living here."
With the victory, Pilley is a perfect 2-0 in Canadian tournaments. Last January, he won the Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Club Open in Calgary. It was the Aussie's first success in the northern hemisphere after winning five PSA titles in his home country and neighbouring New Zealand.
"It's always good to come to a place where you feel comfortable and you play well," said Pilley, ranked 41st on the Professional Squash Association international rankings and the tournament's second seed.
With a total prize purse of $12,000 US, Pilley won $1,800 US, with Giuffre taking the second-place prize of $1,235 US. As well, Pilley captured 175 world ranking points for winning the event. With its purse, the Manitoba Open is the second-largest tournament in Canada and the biggest in Western Canada. It is second only to the $50,000 US Canadian Classic in Toronto.
Although this is the first time Pilley has played at the Manitoba Open, it might not be his last, considering his reaction to the support and enthusiasm of the spectators who jammed the viewing area of the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club for all four days of the pro event.
"It's much better than in front of a crowd that doesn't know what is happening," said Pilley, a two-time Australian under-19 junior champion.
For Giuffre, it was his second recent appearance in a final after finishing second in the PSA Vancouver Evergreen Open last month. His performance was an improvement over last year's Manitoba Open, where he reached the semifinals.
"I'm always working to improve, and it happened this year," said the 2000 Canadian junior champion, who is ranked 58th internationally and was the tournament's fourth seed. "But it isn't as sweet as winning the big prize."
The final ended on a sour note. Trailing 10-6 at match point, Giuffre thought he had scored to close the gap and keep his title hopes alive. But the referee called his shot out and the point and the win was awarded to Pilley.
"I was pretty sure it was good," said Giuffre, who is still looking for his first PSA tournament victory at this level. "There were a couple of calls that were questionable. But that's part of the game."
Giuffre advanced to the final by knocking off Switzerland's Lars Harms in the semifinals Saturday.
Harms stunned top seed and defending champion Shahier Razik of Toronto in the first round and eliminated Ian Power of Montreal in the quarter-finals.
Pilley, though, was not surprised by the play of Harms, who has been ranked as high as 41st before injuries slowed his progress.
"Taking out (the top seed) in the first round, you know that he's playing well," said Pilley, who beat Harms in the final round of qualifying for last year's British Open.