Twice runner-up in Estonia

Early in the morning last Thursday we left for Estonia to play the Estonian International in Tallinn. After a long trip with a 3 hour intermediate stop at Frankfurt we arrived at 5 PM local time. After a light meal I went to sleep as Friday morning at 10 the first match was scheduled, a mixed double with my new partner Samantha Barning versus 2 Belgians. It became an easy win. In the early afternoon I played the first men’s doubles. It was a bad match but we still won in 2 games from our French opponents. In round two we also won the two events. In the mixed doubles versus a German pair we lost the first game but after that we set matters straight. And that concluded day one.

At such a tournament Saturday is the most difficult day. If you perform well you again have to play 4 matches. The quarter as well as the semi finals in the men’s doubles were fine. We managed to take control in both matches and we won them in two games. In the mixed doubles it was much more difficult which is understandable given the fact that we are a new pair. Fortunately it worked out well. Although we lost the first game in both matches the following games were ours. An interesting detail was the fact that in the semi finals our teammates Iris Tabeling and Jelle Maas were our opponents. At the end of the day and after eight matches we had qualified for the finals on Sunday.

And then Sunday. Physically as well as mentally I was not in a good shape. I was tired and facing two finals. Quite a challenge considering that I haven’t played in two events for two years. In the men’s doubles we were unable to play like we did in the quarter and semi final. Besides our French opponents played very well. We lost in three games. A bitter pill! An hour and a half later it was our turn again for the mixed doubles final versus Dave and Selena. They controlled the match from the beginning to the end and we had no chance to reverse this situation. So two finals and two lost. Of course that was quite an anticlimax and for me a stain on a tournament which is always very nice. Monday and Tuesday were  resting days to recover a bit and this morning I felt fine again on court. Tomorrow we leave again for the next tournament in Sweden.

Finally I also want to reflect on last weeks Dutch hockey news. Star players Teun de Nooijer and Taeke Taekema saw their Olympic dream end up in smoke. They were removed from the National Team by Coach Paul van Ass as he had concluded that these routinists were hindering the development of the other, much younger, team members. What a terrible disappointment it must be for these three men. For the players because they just belong to the team and are the best of the lot and for the coach having to draw this conclusion and to make this decision. On the other hand I admire the players for their willingness to come back when this intervention fails and I admire the coach who is prepared to bite the dust when his decision proves to be wrong. From the coach it requires guts daring to ask and from the players resilience and a sense of reality to accept. Top sportsmen in heart and soul and an example for many sportsmen and coaches. Despite this the saying “Top sport is hard as nails” proves to be right every time again.

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