Hard work paying off

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

When Shahier Razik was bounced in the first round of last year's ADL/Rosenstock Manitoba Open Squash Championships, he made a point of getting back home as fast as he could.

As much as he wanted to stick around to catch up with the many friends he has made in the eight years he's been coming to the tournament, he needed to go back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong.

Yesterday, he showed how he put that experience to good use. Currently ranked a career-best 24th in the world, Razik thrashed France's Jean-Michel Arcucci 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-9 to win his second Manitoba Open pro event title in the last three years at the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club.

BACK-TO-BACK WINS

"As much as I wanted to stay last year, it was too hard for me to stay around," said Razik, the 28-year-old from Toronto. "It was just so disappointing, I had to get back (home) and sort of go back to the drawing board and figure out why."

Following the setback at last year's Manitoba Open, he won back-to-back Professional Squash Association tournaments in Switzerland and reached the final of another PSA event in Malaysia. He then made the final of the Canadian Open and followed that up with PSA tournament wins in Santa Barbara, Calif., Baltimore and San Francisco before helping Canada finish fourth at the World Men's Team Championships in December in Pakistan.

Razik took the $2,346 US top prize for winning the $15,000 US tournament and earned very important PSA ranking points.

"It's going to definitely push me up a bit (in the rankings)," said Razik, who had to call time in the first game when Arcucci accidentally caught him with an elbow, opening a small cut over his left eye. "I have another tournament in Malaysia next week, and if I do well at that one I might push top 20. That's the goal."

For Arcucci, the match turned into a contest to see who would run out of gas first. Unfortunately, it was the 30-year-old from Aix-en-Provence, France, near Marseille.

"There was a lot of pressure to win that first game because he's a fit guy, so it's going to be difficult for me to come back," said Arcucci, who reached the Manitoba Open quarter-finals in his previous visit two years ago. "That was a key game, so maybe I wasted a little bit of mental energy (winning the first game). In the second game, I was happy to (stay with him), and I was trying to go too quick."

Meanwhile, provincial coach Trevor Borland rallied to down Manitoba's top-ranked player, Josh Struthers, 9-6, 2-9, 3-9, 9-3, 9-0 to win the men's A final. The match was a replay of last year's A final but with quite a different result, as Struthers won last year in three games straight.

"I knew that if I wanted to start beating him again I was going to have to get fitter, and I've definitely done that this year," said Borland. "I think that had a big part in how I was able to hang in there and take it in the fifth."

"He was firing on all cylinders today, and he just didn't miss a thing," said Struthers, who is ranked 15th in Canada. "I just couldn't keep up with him."

EXHIBITION MATCH: The No.1-ranked player in the world, Jonathon Power of Montreal, will take on world champion and No. 2-ranked player Amr Shabana of Egypt in an exhibition match on Feb. 20 at the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club. Tickets are available at the club.


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