2016 Christmas tournament Jüri debrief

Saturday, December 10th I participated in the Jüri Christmas tournament and got what are so far my best results in a tournament in Estonia. With 165 participants (biggest event I ever played), it was a long day (played 10 matches) with lots of emotions.

Let’s go through the matches.

Game 1, Tõnu KANNE, Win 3–0

It was the first match of the day, so as often I was nervous. My level was not great, but I stayed calm and didn’t make too many mistakes, so it turned out to be a easy win. It also always helps that I can count on some cheap points on my serve in such games.

Game 2, Liina TOMING, Win 3–0

Liina is a training partner. She has a strong forehand drive, but is much weaker on the backhand, so I was careful to remain on her backhand and only put on her forehand balls with good backspin. With that, I made an easy victory what could have been a trap.

Game 3, Peeter SUMRE, Win 3–2

This was The Game! I won’t forget this one. I had never played Peeter before, so Allan gave me following summary before the match: Older player, very experience, trainer in Pärnu, ranked 184 in Estonia, and Allan added “he thinks I will loose but I should play relaxed”.

Did a bit of chat with Peeter, learned he had a French girlfriend a long time ago, and pips out on both sides. During the couple of minutes of warm up, I notice the pips out don’t disturb me, so I decide to just forget about them and play my normal game. Set 1, started well. I vary my serves well, don’t return too badly and I’m up 9–5. But I tense up, he comes back and I loose the set. Second set I’m not playing badly, but loose it too. So 0–2. I think let’s relax, focus on each point and try to come out of this match with at least the feeling of having played well.

So I did. I pushed him on several points in defense and he was defending very well, with very high balls. Earlier in the match I missed some smash, but now I put them on the table and win these points. I won the third set. And then the fourth.

2–2. Fifth decisive set about to start. That’s when I so often have fallen apart in the past, when close to a big win I start to think at the result and tense up. But not today. I kept being focused on each point, remain very calm. On the other hand, he starts to get angry on some mistakes he did. I’m up 3–1 in this set, and he makes two net balls in a row, which I couldn’t reach to get us 3–3. I don’t let those deconcentrate me, and win the next 6 points. At 9–3, now it gets hard not to think at the result, but I get to 10–6 and finally 11–6. I got my great victory against a much more experience player ranked 250 places above me! Teamates congratulate me. It feels great.

Game 4, Allar VELLNER, Loss 1–3

Gets even harder now, he is ranked 62. Allan warned me that he had a very good backhand and that was true. He was able to loop pretty much anything that came to his backhand. I lost the first two set quite quickly. In the third set however, I served differently, using only by backhand serve and putting quite a few of those serves with back or side spin on his forehand. He had more trouble with those, so I could get in the point and managed to win that set. I haven’t won many set against a player ranked less than 100, so that’s quite strong. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to maintain the same level and lost the fourth. Probably I started to think “why not a second big performance?”, and that’s a mistake.

Still a solid match. Had I been able to block better in this match, maybe I would have had a small chance.

Game 5, Tiia MÜÜRISEPP, Win 3–2

First time I met her I think. Internet tells me she has won several veteran Estonian champion titles, so this explain how tough this match was. This match was going to be very important for my final place in this tournament, so it wasn’t easy to relax. I trailed almost during the whole match, lost the first set, won the second, lost the third, won the fourth. In the fifth set I didn’t start well, trailing by a few points but managed to come back to 8–8. Then we had a huge point, I was pushed away from the table and her shot misses the table by millimeters. And then I won.

What made this so difficult is that she is a good hitter, on both sides, and didn’t make many mistakes. I couldn’t get easy points with long balls that I could then attack, neither on my server nor on hers, since any long or higher ball she would hit very strong. So I had to be patient and construct my points. I was very happy I came out winner of this tricky match.

Game 6, Kristina ANDREJEVA, Loss 1–3

She is a younger with a very solid technique, ranked 40 among women in Estonia. I have regrets on this one. I won a first set that was very tight, and this was probably a poisoned gift. Winning that set made (again) think a bit at the result, so my level dropped a bit and she raised hers. I didn’t manage to attack well, and couldn’t block her solid loops. But while she was very good, I feel this match wasn’t that far from my reach. Too bad.

Game 7, Urmas SINISALU, Loss 0–3

I knew very well this player despite having never played against him: He is one of those using long pips rubber. These rubbers act like catapult on the ball, inverting the spin. Besides this weird rubber, he is a good defender, making few mistakes.

Having never played against long pips, this was mission impossible. I somehow figured out how to hit them: Something you would normally loop you have to flat hit with a closed bat. But that was too much for my poor brain, requiring too much thinking and the rest of my game suffered.

It’s really no fun playing against this junk rubbers. And I don’t understand what fun those players have using them. You will only by confusing the adversary. Where is the glory in that?

It is clear that it’s not the last time I will meet such rubber. I’m going to have to find someone using them to practice against. And maybe even try them myself for a week or two, to really understand how they work.

Game 8, Martin PENEK, Loss 0–3

That day I was going to have all type of matches, from the amazing performance, the super tense ones, the easy ones, so I also had to have the horrible one. And this was it against this 13 year old teenager, ranked 209. Just everything went wrong in this match.

I started relatively well actually, building a nice lead in the first set. But it was misleading. First already in the first set, I missed a few serves. I would end up missing probably 7 or 8 serves in that only match, while in the whole tournament I served very well and miss maybe 1 per match on average. Second, in the first set he kept making these weird mistakes where when I would give slightly short backspin on his forehand, and he would misjudge the length and miss his loop (even not touching the ball). I started to think I just have to keep exploiting this weakness and it will be easy. Ouch, big mistake. My big lead in the first set started to get smaller and smaller, and I ended up loosing it. From there on, he started to just hit and loop every ball and sadly for me, put a percentage high enough on the table. I was unable to give him balls difficult enough and also unable to block them.

And it got worse. As he was putting his big shots on the table, he became more and more cocky, acting like he was some super player who is unbeatable. In the third set, he ever served with the handle. While I was loosing I think I deserved a bit more respect. These clubs should teach their teenagers to have a sporty attitude, not only how to do big loops.

Why did I play so badly after the middle of the first set? Missing so many servers means that obviously I didn’t manage to concentrate well. His strange mistakes initially and his apparent lack of concentration distracted me. And he had a friend who was cheering for him very loudly, even on my missed serves. Still, I must be able to abstract all this and remain in my game. I hope to get my revenge soon against him.

Game 9, Simon LOOMETS, Win 3–1

As much as I failed the previous match because of my lack of concentration, calm and focus on my game plan, I won this match for the exact opposite reasons. He is a teenager with a very powerful forehand loop. Some of these loops just went past me without having any chance to touch them even. But I stayed remarkably calm during the whole match, serving well, returning well, giving him as few easy balls to loop as possible and attacking myself on good opportunities. Each set was difficult, but I won the first two. The third was very tight, with me having even one match point, but I ended up loosing it. But here I was very happy of my reaction, as I just kept the same game plan, calm and concentration to win relatively easily the fourth.

It’s only after the match that I learnt he is ranked 217, making this the second big performance of that day. This one was especially satisfying as it proved again that when I stay super calm, all my shots start to come, forehand and backhand loops, blocks, etc.

Game 10, Tarmo SENGBUSCH, Loss 0–3

Last match of the day, against a teammate. We often train at the same place, so I knew very well what to expect from Tarmo, ranked 131. I gave everything I had left in this match, and I think I played actually a really good match. All three sets were tight, with some beautiful points. But he was still a bit too strong for me, even on a good day like this. The difference came from a few loops and blocks I’m able to do but I missed, while he didn’t miss his. Still I was happy with my performance in that one too, as it shows I’m not that far from these players anymore.

A price!

At the end, I got the 62th place out of 165 participants, which is a great result. And cherry on the cake, I got a price, since at that place I was the first among all players ranked 300 and above (I’m 434). I got a medal and a few bags with candies and drinks.

But the really best moment of all came next morning, when the children saw the medal. They jumped in my arms and were sincerely so happy for me that I finally brought one home. All this training was completely worth it!