In the next part of a series taking a look back at the 2019-20 season to date, we spoke to Danielle Letourneau about her season and her plans to make the most of lockdown.
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Canada’s World No.33 Danielle Letourneau was riding high in 2020, with three titles under her belt on the PSA Challenger Tour and reaching her highest World Ranking to date in April, before the tour was suspended due to COVID-19.
The Seattle Open at the end of January this year was to be the tournament that would end the 27-year-old’s three-year spell without a title and set her on an impressive run in 2020.
And Letourneau credits spending time training in Egypt in helping her improve her game and make the changes she needed.
“After my last title in 2017, I focused my attention on larger tournaments with the goal of trying to get more experience against top players,” said Letourneau.
“Over time, I noticed the inconsistency of results at these events took its toll on my confidence. I felt that I didn’t have a clear direction that I wanted to go with my game. This season, I decided to make a change in my training and also in my mindset, so I took a risk and spent a few months in Egypt. It gave me the chance to break down my game and make some big changes, and also to get more match experience. It was important to prove to myself that I had actually improved after putting in this hard work. Without having had any significant results, I was hungrier than ever to win.
“I felt both relieved and determined [winning in Seattle]. It was such a large hurdle to overcome mentally, especially since I had a disappointing performance the week before in New York.
“In addition, I was also felt extra pressure to win as the first seed in the event. This tournament meant a lot to me, and it was hard to not get too excited or anxious about the result, and to instead stick to my game plan. After winning that title, I wanted more. The result validated the hard work I had put in, so I felt confident I could do it again.”
Two more titles were to come for Letourneau with her enjoying back-to-back wins at the Calgary CFO Consulting Services PSA Women’s Squash Week and the Queen City Open, beating the top seed in England’s Julianne Courtice in Calgary and Egypt’s Menna Hamed, respectively.
Letourneau at the Queen City Open
Those wins also led to the Canadian picking up the award for PSA Challenger Tour Player of the Month and Letourneau was pleased with her consistency and admitted playing on home soil in Canada held a strong advantage.
“I’ve been working on my mental game for a while, but in recent months I’ve been extra aware of both my on court and off court habits and thought processes, especially after a loss.
“Between Seattle and the two 20k events in Canada, I had a very disappointing performance in the Windy City Open. In hindsight, I am very grateful for this loss because I learned a lot of valuable lessons from it that I think were essential to my solid performance in the following tournaments. At the time, it felt that I lost all the momentum I had gained, but the things I learned from my win in Seattle coupled with those from the loss in Chicago set me up to succeed.
“These two tournaments meant the world to me. It was so special to share the experience with my family, friends, and team. It always helps having the crowd on your side, but I truly felt that they were able to push me through in both events.
“In the past, I’ve struggled to play at home because I put extra pressure on myself to play well. Going into this event, I worked on finding a solution that would help me overcome this challenge. It was special and rewarding to overcome this challenge and to truly enjoy the whole experience.”
Just seven places now separate Letourneau from compatriot and Canadian No.1 Hollie Naughton in the World Rankings. However, the 27-year-old admits she has set her eyes on becoming her country’s top ranked player with her claiming this season as her best so far.
“Hollie and I have always had very close, intense matches- most of them going five games. This year she has been more consistent than me and has had some great results, but I feel that the changes I’m making are starting to pay off. I feel that it’s definitely within reach so long as I keep sticking to my process.
“My season started off strong in China and Hong Kong, but after those two events I felt pretty lost on court. I had some matches where I didn’t play well, but more importantly, didn’t feel myself. I was acting out, getting angry, or crumbling quickly mentally. I’m very proud of myself for turning my season around and ending it on a positive note. Despite the downs, this has been my best season.”
With the tour currently suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak all the players on the PSA Tour have been having to find new ways to train in lockdown and also new hobbies to occupy their time and Letourneau talked us through her plans for the unexpected break and her intentions to return to Egypt when she can for training.
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“During this break, I really want to maintain my fitness and get creative with my training, so I’ve been doing workouts provided by my trainer Richard Gibney, as well as court movement and fun racket drills in my basement.
“I’m also spending more time working on my education. I recently signed up for the Level 1 exam of the Chartered Financial Analyst charter, so I’m spending my time studying for the test in December. Once travel and training facilities open up, I plan on going back to Egypt to train before the season starts.
“I love to go for hikes, snowshoes or bikes in the mountains when I get the chance. I always feel happiest when I’m out in nature or walking my dog. I also love to spend time with my friends or playing cards or board games. Good luck to anyone who wants to challenge me to a game of bananagrams or crib!”
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