BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Jennifer Saunders eyes up a shot against Kurtis Cullen during the men’s open final at the provincial racquetball finals on Sunday at the Sportsplex.
The final of the Brandon Classic racquetball tournament came down to a battle between two nationally ranked players on Sunday at the Sportsplex.
In the end, Brandon’s Kurtis Cullen edged Winnipeg’s Jen Saunders (15-3, 15-3) in the men’s singles open final.
"I played pretty well this weekend so I’m happy," Cullen said.
Cullen, who is ranked 10th overall in Canada, is ramping up as he prepares for nationals in May in Langley, B.C.
"It’s nice to play people that are competitive and it always helps when there is something on the line," Cullen said. "As long as I’m playing the best racquetball that I can play and keep climbing (up the national rankings) then you can’t get mad at yourself for that."
The 20-year-old Cullen said his game is still evolving. He now works as hard away from the court as he does on the court, giving himself the best chance for success.
"I play my own game against the best players now and I’ve learned how to stay really strong mentally," Cullen said. "On the court is only five per cent of it though, I’ve really focused on physical fitness, diet and the mental aspect."
Pushing him on centre court was Saunders, who is the top-ranked women’s player in the country.
"I felt like a struggled a little bit with my angles and my lines, but with Kurtis it’s tough because he’s so fast and you have to be super precise or he’s going to make you pay for it," Saunders said. "I try not to focus as much on the score against him as much as how I’m hitting the ball and how I’m moving."
The 36-year-old will head to nationals with a metaphorical bull’s eye on her chest as she’s won the last four single’s titles.
"I’m definitely the one every one is gunning for, but at the same time it’s better to be number one than trying to be number one," she said.
She also had high praise for the volunteers with the Brandon Racquetball Association, who hosted the first-class event.
"The volunteer base and the time the coaches here are willing to put in has really built this program," she said. "It’s a testament to the volunteers how strong Brandon is and how this tournament is run."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 4, 2013