After two years of waiting since 2013 Bulgaria Deaflympics, flying down to Melbourne for team training camps plus juggling two jobs and training on top, we were finally off to Nottingham for the first ever World Deaf Tennis Championships!
Fast forward 21 hours on a plane and a 45 minute car ride, I arrived in Nottingham. Having been to non-English speaking countries on the last 4 international deaf tennis trips, it was a little surreal to be on the other side of the world and in a country where I could actually understand the language. Silly, I know but…
The level of organization from venue, accommodation, volunteers, transport, players area, to the food, was the best I’ve ever experienced at the international deaf tennis level. Except perhaps the standard of umpiring but hey, I’m a player so of course I’m biased.
We had 3 days of solid practice, just to check all our games were running smoothly, despite an 2 hour episode in the outdoor bubble courts where we felt like we were inside a greenhouse full of dust! It’s always great to see the players arriving from all over the world, and getting reacquainted with your old friends. On the other hand, it’s a real reminder that it’s time to perform.
Once the Opening Ceremony was over and the draw came out, everyone got serious. No more fun and games.
For my singles, after a bye in the first round, courtesy of my seeding, I was drawn to play Reiki Kajishita who reached the final of the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics. The winner would then play Egor Panyushkin who is the new dominant force in Men’s Deaf Tennis. Talk about a tough draw…
On the day of the match, the conditions were very windy and cold so whoever adapted to the conditions best, would stand a better chance of winning. Unfortunately, that person wasn’t me L I had my chances to take the first set and if I had, who knows how the match would have gone from there? Oh well… doubles still to come.
Our first match was against a Great Britain pair – Nicholas Ansell and Esah Hyat, a junior who I think has a bright future in Deaf Tennis. We had a straightforward win 6-2, 6-0.
Next up was an Indian pair, with one player whose name is so long that it needed to be typed in font size 8 on the daily schedule of play compared to font size 12 for everyone else. We got through with a 6-3, 6-3 win and we were in the semifinals against the French featuring World No.2 Mikael Laurent.
Whilst waiting for our match on Centre Court, the real English weather decided to turn up, which meant we were bumped onto the indoor courts. For some reason, I don’t know if it was the change of courts or waiting around all morning, we came out flat in the first set and the French were all over us, taking it 6-1. We tried our best to spark a revival in the second set and had a few chances to possibly capture it but too many errors on our behalf meant we lost 6-1, 6-4.
Thankfully, we were still in with a chance to win a medal in the 3rd/4th place playoff against the losers of the other semifinal, an American pair who earlier knocked out our boys, Stephen and Jamie in the quarterfinals 7-6, 6-4. Had they won, it could very well have been an all-Aussie affair in the 3rd/4th playoff.
Glen and I conferred with our coach and decided that we weren’t aggressive enough against the French so we would be going all-out in our last match. Not to mention we had to get one back against the Yanks for Stephen and Jamie.
As the match began, we were a little tight as we worked our way into the first set. We kept moving ahead a break, only to drop serve again but fortunately we held on long enough to grab the first set. Our plan was working. Once we had the first set, we started to play even better, increasing the pressure on the Americans and I played my best tennis of the week, serving well and hitting some tough returns.
We ended up crushing them 6-3, 6-0 – a great win as the Americans had beaten the Germans who were the 2013 Deaflympic Mens Doubles Gold Medallists, in the second round.
What a surreal but bittersweet moment – my first doubles medal on the world stage with my mother, auntie and uncle in the stands and my father watching from above high.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed playing in the tournament.
Glen (left) & John (right) ready to receive the ball during their doubles match
L-R; Glen Flindell, John Lui, Daniel Norris (Coach) & Stephen Swann