The Most Important Game of my Life

Do you remember that post in which I talk about how nervous I was when I had to play the last men’s double at the 2010 world team championship? Forget about that story! This one is far better.

Vereeniging, South Africa, 5th of April 2014. We had lost the first four games of the team competition final—two men’s and two women’s singles—against South Africa. All four games were pretty close and partly unlucky for us. I had played against Richter van Tonder, the vice world champion in singles, and lost although I was in front at half-time. Nevertheless, we were 0–8 behind and everyone was really shocked at first because we hadn’t expected a start like this one. The head coach spoke to us before the match continued and all of the players were rather quiet. To be honest, only a very few made an optimistic impression. 0–8 behind, this meant there were 6 games left and we had to win 5 of them. Sounds pretty tough? Believe me, it was pretty tough!

Next came the mixed doubles, both of which we won quite safely. 4–8. After that the first round of doubles: Alexej Ermak/Julian Sauck vs. Richter van Tonder/Craig Ogilvy and Vera Vollhase/Michaela Güthling vs. Lenize Potgieter/Monique Reyneke, the world champions in women’s doubles. If there are games that deserve the predicate “heart-pounding”, it’s these two! Both of our doubles were behind in the second half and then won by 1(!) point. 8–8, and suddenly everyone was enthusiastic again. Then, the last round of doubles. Naemi Singrün and Alexandra Boelsen had to play against Melicia Sauer and Bronwin Ogilvy while Fabian Ziegler and I played Justin Kokott and Theunis de Bruin, the world champions in men’s doubles. Since the South Africans lost two points more against India than us, one win in this last round was enough to become the new world champion.

What the South Africans didn’t know: Fabian and I had never played together before, except for our appearance against India one day earlier. So we entered the court to play against the current world champions and we knew: if we win, we make Germany the new world team champions! This was a completely different feeling compared to 2010, when we had to win both games in the last round. But that doesn’t make you less nervous! The game started and went good for us but was very close all the time. The lead alternated frequently and was never by more than one or two points. It was only towards the end of the second half that we managed to go in front with more than two points for the first time. Finally, we indeed beat the world champions by four points—also because we didn’t produce a single unforced error in the second half—and after the whistle blew, there was no holding back.

I would really like to describe what I felt at that point, but I’m afraid it’s not possible. The very moment that you realize you’ve decided a world championship is absolutely incredible and only very few know how it feels. You get such an intense rush of adrenaline … I guess most people can’t even imagine. In the video above (which is the complete second half of the deciding doubles game) that exact moment is at 10:13 min. Watch and try to understand!

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