It is the last day of the championship. For the first time in 6 days it had rained and dark clouds were hanging over the city of Melilla. Our boys had to wake up very early. Their matches were scheduled for 9:30 am at the Club de Padel de El Real. As the Italian team had overslept the bus left the “residencia” with a 15 minute delay. Arriving the courts the opponents were already on court and warming up. It was a big finishing day for the UK team. Today it would be determined if they were to come in 5th or 6th place in the competition. The boys were nervous and excited at the same time. Were they going to be able to beat the Portuguese for a second time this week ? Two days ago they had beaten them 2:1. Everyone prayed that today they would be just as successful.
The under 14´s were the first match up. Alex Tom and Tom Lynk were to play Xavier Fernandez and Joao Sousa, the same couple they had lost to in the 3rd set just the other day. Our boys were determined to win this time. They started very strong in the first game everything seemed to be working. Then the Portuguese got stronger and more confident which led to lack of concentration and more unforced errors on our side. The set went to the Portuguese with a score of 6/1 . In the second set Alex and Tom were down 4/1 when they regained their true game and confidence to win 3 games in a row. Would they be able to pull the match around? They had the will but this time that just wasn´t enough. They lost 6/1 6/4. Their final match at the World Championships was over but they knew that they had given their all throughout the tournament and German told them just how proud he of them. ( It actually cannot be said in words just how proud their parents were … some had been so nervous during the matches they could not even keep scores…!!!)
On court 2 Andy Lynk and Danny Bristow had it much easier . They were were up against the same couple as last time, Joao Fernandez and Joaquim Campos,which they had beaten 6/0 6/1 two days ago. The situation on court turned out to be extremely similar to last time´s. Andy and Danny were more than confident than ever and demonstrated great play right from the first point. As always they were calm , played clever and were extremely fair with each other as well as with their opponents. After less than an hour of play these UK boys had brought home yet another fantastic victory winning 6/0 6/2. Fantastic work guys ! You really deserved it ! It is this couple that has, without any doubt, improved the most during this week. They had become one during the matches and a good example on and off court for everyone.
Now it was 1 to 1 after the first two matches. Everyone went over to the center court to support their 3rd couple, Charly Ferguson and Franky Langan. On Thursday these two UK lads had won 3/6 6/4 6/3 in a really tight and nerve wrecking match. As it turned out , this one would be very similar but with a different ending. In the first set Charly and Frank did not really seem comfortable nor confident on court. The opponents took advantage of that and took the set 6/2. There was a definite need for a change in tactics in the second set. German knew what they needed to change and Charly and Franky listened attentively as he talked to them during the change over , then got back on court and to win the second set 7/5. Now the pressure was on both sides of the court , the adrenaline was flowing and everyone was more than nervous. The crowds were cheering loudly for both teams trying to motivate their players. It was a good last set filled with lots of emotions both on and off court . At the end the Portuguese were stronger and took the match 6/2 .
So this time Portugal had beaten the UK 2 to 1 which left them in 5th place overall. It was the 6th for our UK team. Achieving a 6th place in the World Championships was an achievement they could all be very proud of . Not only had they been the first UK junior team ever to play in World Padel Championship but they were also taking home their two team victories, against Portugal and Uruguay . On top of that their padel had improved throughout the matches and everyone would return home with lots of fine memories. New friendships had developed with kids from all around the world . All our boys were now also more motivated than ever to train even harder back home in order to be able to participate in the next World Championships in two years time.
To finish off the day and the championship the whole team and those parents who had not yet left Melilla headed over to the “El Fuerte Club” to have lunch and watch some of the finals which were to be played that afternoon. Incredible matches were already watched before it came to the boys´ finals in the team competition. It was between Argentina and Spain, as everyone had predicted right from the beginning. Without any doubt those two nations have by far the strongest teams and were play in a level of their own . At the end of the first set of the under 16´s it suddenly started pouring down with rain and the match had to be stopped. The Argentinian and Brasilian teams used this opportunity to perform some amazing rain dances. They were jumping and dancing around like crazy and singing songs while getting completely soaked ( what no one seemed to care about…) It was such a happy scene !
When the downpour stopped after about an hour officials and many voluntary helpers got onto center court to try to dry it with brooms , towels and sponges and , in record time, the match was able to be continued. There were hundreds of spectators cheering and the atmosphere seemed that of a Davis Cup final, just unbelievable. After an spectacular 3 set match the Spanish team were World Champions !!! Emotions were high and within seconds the center court was filled up with hundreds of Spaniards celebrating their champions.
At the prize giving some speeches were held before the players were awarded their trophies and medals . The minute it finished various teams, including the UK , were rushed off by bus to catch the ship at 11pm back to Malaga . There were also some team members who were taking the plane back.
It has been an exciting week for all. Thanks to coach German the team felt safe and comfortable in Melilla on and off court . Many thanks for all he has done for the kids. One must also give him lots of credit for his hard work over the past months with the preparations for this event . At this point he is now completely exhausted but has enjoyed this week tremendously… and, yet but not least, he is soooo proud of his team´s achievement and good behavior throughout the tournament.
Well, the Junior World Championships have come to an end… The autonomous city of Melilla had been a perfect host and the organization had left nothing to be desired for. What a great experience for all !
Our UK junior padel team members are now safe at home and surely dreaming of representing their country in many future tournaments.
… And as for me … it has been a real pleasure having had the chance to be part of all of this. Thanks for such a fun time with everyone and for so many amazing padel moments.