2014 in Review: World and German Champion!

Now that 2014 is almost over and there are only some league matches left, let’s have a look at my past year in Ringtennis. All in all, it was a way better year than 2013. First, my fellow teammates of TSV Neubiberg-Ottobrunn and I came in second place in the German premier league (Bundesliga), only losing to the defending champions of SG Suderwich. This was my best result in the national league since 2011, when I myself played for Suderwich and we beat PSG Mannheim in the final.

World Champion!

In March, I participated in the 3rd World Championships as one of the team captains of the German national team. That awesome event was held in Vereeniging, South Africa. After an 11th place in 2006 and a 4th place in 2010, I finally managed to win a medal in the men’s singles competition, beating German champion Timo Hufnagel in the match for 3rd place. Yet, the highlight was of course our victory in the team competition, securing a 10–10 against South Africa after losing the first four games of the match. I guess I’ve posted enough about that previously 😉

After the World Cup, I played the open Ringtennis tournament in Siegen (Krönchenturnier), where I came in first place in men’s singles, beating my teammate and good friend Alexej Ermak in the final. Together, we also won the men’s doubles competition. These victories mean a lot to me, as the Siegen tournament was the first Ringtennis tournament I ever participated in (back in 1999) and until this year, I could never manage to win it.

German Champion!

German ranking at the end of 2014Finally, Alexej and I also won the German Championships in men’s doubles (free style) in September in Kieselbronn. This was the only discipline I had never won before at German championships, so my record is now more or less complete. Actually, 2014 was the first year in which I became both, a world and German champion. At the end of this year I will also be the number 1 in the German singles ranking for the first time in … well, I honestly don’t know how many years, but it has been some time. This also means that I’m somehow at the same time the Philipp Lahm and the Novak Đoković of Ringtennis1 😉

To bring this article to a conclusion, an interesting figure at the end: This year, I’ve travelled at least 97 hours (lower bound estimate) to play Ringtennis at the national league finals, one training camp, two open tournaments, two national championships and one World Championship. Let’s see what will happen next year …

1Disclaimer: Please don’t take seriously!

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Test Match vs. Belarus and Bodensee Tournament

2014 Bodensee tournamentThe past weekend, I participated in the Bodensee tournament, which was held right next to Lake Constance in the south of Germany. The tournament wasn’t overly successful for me, with a third place in mixed doubles being my best result that I secured together with Lydia Schidelko. In the quarter-final of the men’s singles competition, I had to play my teammate Alexej Ermak, to whom I lost by two points. Alexej went on to win the tournament, thus taking successful revenge for his defeat in the previous tournament in Siegen. Congrats, mate! 🙂

Incorporated into the tournament was an international test match against Belarus—the current number 4 in the World—, who unfortunately couldn’t play at full strength. Particularly, their men’s number 1 Andrej Konan wasn’t able to participate. Like at the World Cup four months ago, Belarus had no real chance of winning, so the match ended with a score of 22–0 for Germany. However, the Belorussian players are constantly improving. Most notably, Igor Yaruta was my doubles partner in the tournament. We came in third place in the group stage, thus not advancing to the knockout round, but it was a very close fight. We lost to Jürgen Öttel and Thomas Bleile—who later made it to the final—by only three points, and to Timo and Rainer Hufnagel—German champions of 2012—by only two points!

All in all, I think my performance wasn’t that bad. It’s always possible to lose against Alexej, especially when it’s such a tight game. If I would’ve been able to get through that quarter-final, I could’ve won the tournament as well. By the way, this was the first time since 2006 that I didn’t participate in the singles final of the Bodensee tournament. Now it’s time to prepare for the German championships, which are to be held in Kieselbronn in six weeks, and where I’ll be trying hard to win a championship title again after three years.

Back at the Top

Timo Hufnagel (back) vs. myself
Timo Hufnagel (back) vs. myself

Following my victories at the Siegen Tournament and the South German Championships, I’m back at the top of the German ranking after almost two years. All five men that played for Germany at the World Team Championships (which are also the top 5 of the ranking) participated in the men’s singles competition at the South German Championships, which were held in Karlsruhe (the “birthplace of German Ringtennis”). I beat the reigning world champion Fabian Ziegler in the group stage before winning against 6-time German champion Timo Hufnagel (43–41) in a very close semifinal. In the final, I beat Fabian again with a score of 41–28. The top four players of the competition (myself, Fabian, my doubles partner Alexej Ermak, and Timo) qualify for the German Championships.

The next tournament will be held at Lake Constance the coming weekend. The event will also include an international test match against the national Ringtennis team of Belarus.

Rank before +/- Name Club Points
1 (2) +1 Maximilian Speicher VfL 1901 e.V. Wehbach 1629
2 (1) -1 Timo Hufnagel TV Pforzheim 1379
3 (3) 0 Fabian Ziegler ESG Karlsruhe 913
4 (5) +1 Alexej Ermak TSV Neubiberg 910
5 (4) -1 Julian Sauck SG Suderwich 754
6 (6) 0 Sascha Schneider TV Heddesdorf 385
7 (8) +1 Michael Kaiser RTG Weidenau 317
8 (7) -1 Christian Kämpfer RTG Weidenau 266
9 (16) +7 Thomas Tregel SKG Roßdorf 147
10 (9) -1 Fabio Spagnino TuS Rodenbach 147
11 (10) -1 Andre Katzberg RTG Weidenau 146
12 (11) -1 Tobias Höfelmayr SKG Roßdorf 144
13 (12) -1 Jürgen Öttel TSV Mimmenhausen 143
14 (13) -1 Christian Herzog ESG Karlsruhe 143
15 (14) -1 Walter Amon SKG Roßdorf 143
16 (18) +2 Marcel Rockenfeller TuS Rodenbach 91
17 (25) +8 Volker Herrmann TuS Rodenbach 71
18 (17) -1 Sebastian Weber RTG Weidenau 61
19 (19) +1 Tim Flender RTG Weidenau 57
20 (20) 0 Udo Heger DJK St. Ingbert 44

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!

Playing Ringtennis in a South African Township

If I had to choose the two most amazing moments of our trip to the world cup in South Africa, the first one would be for sure when we played ringtennis at a primary school in the township of Wattville. We went there together with Abrie Pienaar and Johan Ferreira, who are involved in projects to promote our wonderful sport in central Gauteng. First, we played with the schoolkids, just a bit of throwing and catching the ring, and after that gave some demonstration matches. Half of the kids were told to cheer for the one side and the rest to cheer for the other—and believe me, they were incredibly loud. I guess I had not played in front of such an amazing crowd since the 2006 World Cup in Chennai (India). The video above shows a short snippet of my match against Fabian Ziegler. Funny enough, I kind of “won” that match, but just half a week after that, Fabian beat me in the semifinal and later became the new world champion in men’s singles.

Interestingly, when you return from a trip having experienced something like this, all your everyday (first world) problems suddenly seem very ridiculous. Compared to Germany, those kids live in squalor. Wattville lies in an area with an unemployment rate of 85% and some kids did not even wear a pair of matching shoes. But still, they were incredibly joyful and so grateful that we came to play ringtennis with them. In fact, when the demonstration matches were over and I gave six rings to the school principal as a present, we had problems getting back to our cars because the kids did not want us to leave. Also, I’ve never seen so many people being so happy just because I gave them a high five. Just after we left, everyone was totally—and I mean absolutely totally—overwhelmed. I just notice that it’s really, really difficult to describe what we experienced. But two of our coaches have summarized the day in a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfUToERc-b8) that should make it easier to understand what I’m talking about. And if you still feel you don’t know what I mean, I strongly suggest to enter a plane and play ringtennis with some kids in a South African township 😉

31 days later … #Ringtennis #worldCup

It’s been one month since the 2014 Ringtennis World Cup in South Africa now and I really needed those four weeks to digest all the experiences—the ones with the national team but also rather personal ones. However, before writing about the world cup in one or two separate posts, I’m gonna talk about the open tournament I played in Siegen last weekend.

First of all, it was really, really good to see most of my teammates from the national team again! After the world cup ended and we returned to Germany, everything went very quick. You say goodbye to everyone and then suddenly you’re not together with the people you’ve spent two incredible and intensive weeks with anymore. That’s actually pretty tough! So it was really cool to meet for a less serious competition and a nice party to look back on and reappraise the time we’ve spent in South Africa. But let’s get on to the tournament …

Urkunden Krönchenturnier 2014I played the mixed doubles together with world singles champion Vera Vollhase. Although we only came in 4th place and our performance was not that glorious, we played a very interesting semifinal against Tatjana Schutte and Sebastian Weber. In fact, I had never before played a match with a half-time standing of 0–0! In words: zero to zero! At half-time! The match itself was not too defensive (at least from our side), but obviously, catching everything and making no mistakes is already half the battle. This was of course incedibly uninteresting for the audience. Yet, although it might not look like that, a match of this kind is very, very exhausting because if you have just a momentary lapse of concentration, you lose. In the end, we lost 3–5 and all of our opponents’ points were unforced errors, which unfortunately proved their tactic right.

In the men’s singles competition, I won all of my group stage matches by far—including the one against national team member Michael Kaiser (who came in 3rd place in the end). This meant that in the semifinal I had to play Julian Sauck, another fellow teammate who came in 3rd place at the German singles championships last year. I won this match by almost 20 points to meet 2010 German singles champion Alexej Ermak in the final. It was a close and tough match, but finally I managed to secure a 29–22 victory. This was actually the first time I won him since 2011 and I consider my performance in the tournament to be my best since 2009. Alexej and me then went on to win the men’s doubles competition in a very unchallenged manner.

To conclude, returning from the Siegen tournament having won two competitions was really, really cool because it was the very first Ringtennis tournament I played (back in 1999) but until now, I could never manage to win it 🙂

2014 Ringtennis World Cup: Staying up-to-date

Dear friends,

the German national team is leaving for South Africa tomorrow. Thus, I wanna provide you with a final compilation of websites that you can refer to for updates and results during the two weeks that we’re going to stay there:

Moreover, I’ll try to post regular updates on Facebook. So please check these channels regularly and cheer for us a bit. We need your support 🙂 !

So long!

Nomination of the German national ringtennis team for the 2014 world cup.
Nomination of the German national team for the 2014 Ringtennis World Cup.

13 Days to Go

OK, so there are only 13 days left until the German national team and I leave for South Africa . Training is going well so far. I’ve been practicing daily for two weeks now and already feel quite well prepared. Actually, I’ve been watching videos of the last world cup all day because I really can’t wait anymore!

The past weekend, we played the finals of the German ringtennis Bundesliga (i.e., the first league). My teammate Alexej Ermak and I played for the club of TSV Neubiberg-Ottobrunn, who participated in the Bundesliga for the first time this season. Thus, we’ve been kind of underdogs from the start. Yet, we managed to beat last year’s finalist Lichtbund Karlsruhe—who lost the 2012–13 championship only after a round of deciding games—and finally secured an overall 2nd place. Regarding the greenness of our team, this is quite an achievement—especially for our ladies! Congrats and thanks to all my fellow teammates: Annika Lemke, Stefanie Beck, Sophia Speicher, Gunther Kaiser and Alexej Ermak. Great job!

Logo of the 2014 Ringtennis World CupConcerning the upcoming world cup, it’s now official that players from seven nations will be participating: Bangladesh, Belarus, Germany, India, Kenya, Nepal and South Africa. It’s going to be great! We’ll be meeting lots of old and make lots of new good friends (and maybe bring some medals home 😉 ). The organizers are also investigating the possibility to provide live streams of important games. Please check wtc2014sa.com regularly to stay updated. There are also official Twitter (@wtc2014sa) and YouTube channels available.

2014 Ringtennis World Cup: The Countdown has Started

Only 30 days left till the German team leaves for South Africa! This stuff is slowly starting to get really serious! Thus, I am now starting my final training phase, which means:

  • no more alcohol from Monday on
  • daily sprint and interval training to preserve agility and quickness on the court
  • daily motivation by watching the above video

Moreover, the official website of the 2014 World Cup is now online and can be found at: http://wtc2014sa.com/