After quite some silver medals we finally got the highly coveted Gold one in Spain during the last tournament of this season.
Late Thursday night Dave Khodabux, Jelle Maas and I landed in Madrid. As no transport had been arranged we had to take a taxi to our hotel. A thirty minute drive. The driver spoke as much English as I speak Spanish, rather dramatic. We passed a huge football stadium and Dave thought it was BarnabĂ©u, the home base of Real Madrid. Our driver reacted immediately and rather irritated: he made clear it was not BarnabĂ©u but the Estadio Vicente CalderĂłn of AtlĂ©tico Madrid. Obviously he was a fan and the rest of the journey we kept our mouths shut.
As we were first seeded our first match was Friday evening. We had quite a tough draw so we knew that we had to work hard from the beginning. In the first match we played two Danes and we won this one in two rather easy games because of a well concentrated and varied playing style. Â Â
Saturday would be a busy day with a quarter final and, provided we performed well, also a semi final scheduled. In the quarter final we met two Germans, Niesner and Zander, who played very well at the Dutch International a few weeks ago. This time they didnâ€™t seem to believe in their own abilities and we won this match in 2 games again.
In the semi final the French Labar and Quere were our opponents. Two years ago we had met them at the Czech International and than we lost in 3 games, so we were warned. Apart from a small arrear at the beginning, the first game went very well and we won with 21-16. The second game was more difficult. We arrived at a score of 18-20 and it looked like we had to play a third game but than we managed to score four consecutive points and to secure our third â€śChallenge finalâ€ť this year. The only remaining question was against whom.
Jacco Arends and Jelle Maas played their semi final later that evening and in a thrilling 3 game match they placed themselves for the final. So this meant that we could treat the Spanish public to a Dutch get together on Sunday.
It was a long and nice match with many excellent rallies. As we know each other to the core you never know if it will be a good match but fortunately it was. The first game we won with 21-16 and in the second we took the lead and kept it till 18-14. But then they came back to 21-20. This is a position where Jacco and Jelle often prove to be strong and persistent and with 3 more points in a row they won this game. In the third game we were well matched till the break but after that we managed to score 7 points in a row and we created a gap which couldnâ€™t be bridged anymore. With 21-13 we won the third game and also the title at the Spanish Open. (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish International). A wonderful feeling, especially after having lost the previous 3 finals this year. Winning is GREAT!
The season is not completely over yet because next Monday I leave for PĂ©cs in Hungary where my club Duinwijck will play for the European Club Championships. As we conquered the cup last year we are seeded first and we are meeting clubs from Poland, The Czech Republic and Luxemburg. Quite a tough draw but on the other hand no elite clubs from Denmark and Russia. I am very much looking forward to this tournament.
Finally I like to mentionÂ one of my big examples who played his very final international match today. Unfortunately but understandable Nathan Robertson puts an end to his impressive career. He is almost 35 and he hasnâ€™t qualified for the Games in London. With an Olympic silver medal and with World, European and Common Wealth Games titles on his honours list he is as far as I am concerned one of the best (mixed) double players of all times with a fantastic smart and much admired playing style. For me it was an honour to play him last January at the Swedish Open. I am glad that I still had that opportunity just in time.
For one of the most beautiful moments of his career, the semi final of the Athens Olympic Games you may click here(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxB8zQVVj38). Watch and enjoy! I had goose bumps!