This week brought to Sashka a lot of new experiences: gradually she becomes familiar with the best European junior tennis tournaments (outside Grand Slams, of course). One of such events is ITF Juniors Grade 1 tournament in Offenbach, Germany – a 25-years tradition tourney with a lot of future tennis stars earning their ITF Juniors points & titles here.
In the day of qualification matches sign-in, players, coaches & parents watched the Women’s Roland Garros final on the big screen TV at the lobby of the host tennis club. The portrait of that match hero, Jelena Ostapenko, was on the stand dedicated to the tournament history: in 2012 she played quarterfinal singles & final doubles here in Offenbach! Nearby we also found teenage photos of Pablo Carreno Busta, Ana Konjuh and many others.
Please find below our report on Sashka’s travel to Offenbach (which is still in progress!)
Offenbach is a close suburb of Frankfurt. To reach a venue, you need to arrive on Frankfurt Main Station, then take a regional train to Offenbach Marktplaz, and then take Bus #105 to “Rosenhohe Sports Centre”. Another option is to reach regional train station Offenbach Kaiserlei, then check-in to official tournament hotel IBIS STYLES (very good one!) and use an official shuttle “hotel-club-hotel”.
We decided to reach Frankfurt by direct train from Zagreb. Unfortunately, we missed an opportunity to buy cheaper tickets (as we were not sure Sashka would have the chance to play; she was alternate at the moment of departure). So two tickets cost us around 200 EUR – quite expensive!
At the same time, I must admit that a train travel is much more comfortable that bus or plane one; especially if you do not have neighbors in your section and can occupy the whole 6 seats by 2 persons 🙂.
Our train went through Austrian Alps where views are really impressive:
In Frankfurt we bought tickets to regional train (expensive – 10 EUR per two persons!) and reached our first-night-stay hotel in Offenbach.
It is actually our usual practice: if a trip is long & no hospitality on the tournament, we book a hotel close to the train station, or airport, so Sashka can rest immediately upon arrival. Then next morning we have breakfast and start to organize a club trip, official hotel check-in, practices, sparring matches etc.
We got two PayPal donations from Sashka supporters (Maury R. & Stephanie S. – thank you very much, friends!) immediately before this trip. In sum, that money was enough to pay for our first-night stay & part of Sashka tournament fee. Unfortunately, my choice of that first hotel was a complete mistake, they charged us 30 EUR extra for breakfast (!!!), and I was really disappointed in the morning, thinking “if it starts that bad, what’s going to be next?”.
Fortunately, till now, that moment was the worst one of the whole trip. All the rest is going smoothly :).
CLUB & HOTEL
The ITF Juniors Grade 1 tournament in Offenbach takes place in the quiet suburb of Offenbach called Rosenhohe.
The best moment for players & coaches that there are actually three tennis clubs (HTV, Rosenhohe & Weldschwimbad) joined in one tennis megacenter, so you can always find a court for practice having two players on court, or even one player + coach.
Usually on junior tournaments 4 players must share 1 warm-up court.
The tennis center is situated inside a park (or forest?), so it is very comfortable to play & stay there. Inside the center you can find a gym, 3 restaurants, and the outdoor swimming pool is just 5 minutes away.
Actually, the tournament logistics is one of the best we saw this year: from venue, to hotel, to transportation, to on-site meals, to stringers & physio, everything works with solid German quality & reliability!
Sashka entered the tourney as an on-site alternate, so we did not expect any good news from the beginning. The outcome was even worser: she got Maria Manilova (RUS) in the first round of quali, and Kristyna Lavickova (CZ) in the final one. Both girls are appr. 200 positions higher than Sashka, furthermore, she lost to Lavickova 0:6, 1:6 just 4 months ago in Slovakia!
The match vs. Manilova was very tough from the beginning: Sashka led 2:0, that got down 2:3, than led 4:3, than got down 5:6 having set ball against her. Fortunately, she won that ball, than managed to move a set to a tiebreak, and won the set.
In the beginning of the second set there was a situation that could potentially cost Sashka a match. She had only three “active” racquets + 1 broken, which we use mostly to collect balls during the practices. Before the tournament we started to test new strings, and 1 “active” racquet was occupied by new, untested & unplayed strings. Sashka knew this, and went to the match with two freshly-stringed racquets.
In the second set, when Sashka got down 0:1, the second racquet strings got broken (after first one did the same in the middle of the first set)!!! Sashka looked to untested strings, than to an old racquet… took the old, broken racquet and went to continue the match!!!
I run to stringers point as fast as I can. They did their job in 10 minutes. But I was ready that the match is lost, as Maria Manilova is a good, tough hitter, so what you can do with a broken racquet which was re-stringed maybe 6 months ago?!!! You can imagine my feelings when I returned and found 2:2 on the scoreboard!
After having normal racquets on 2:3, Sashka won 3 games in a row, and finally won the second set 6:4.
The second match vs. Kristyna Lavickova was even more dramatic. Lavickova is an excellent player. BTW, she later entered the Main Draw as a lucky loser, and won her first MD match vs. Nika Radisic, who is currently #119 in ITF Juniors ranking.
Girls won 1 set each very close. Then in the beginning of the third set Sashka made an “impulse run”, leading 4:0 and ad. What did she do next? For sure, two double faults! Immediately that match started to go off Sashka’s control: 4:1, 4:2, 4:3… On 5:3 Sashka had a match ball but got 5:4 instead!
Then they reached a deuce on 5:4… Long deuce with matchpoints/gamepoints to both sides, but finally Sashka managed to finished that match with 6:4.
Next step was Anna Loughlan from United Kingdom (MD 1st round). Again – a good girl from top-300, pretty close to Kristyna Lavickova as for game style. Hard hitter, good move, good serve… Unfortunately, this time Sashka did not manage to win though the match itself was not bad. It was a question of several important points which Sashka lost…
What do we have “at the end of the day”? First, Sashka is keep progressing. Her level now is much higher than several months before.
Second, we know that her level is somewhere between #200 & 300 ITF Juniors. This is not a Grand Slams zone, but not that bad as well. Now the next task is to confirm it formally by gaining points in Berlin or Gladbeck.
At last, she is gaining a tournament experience – this tournament Main Draw was actually her first one on Grade 1 level she reached through performance (quali or ranking) not a Wild Card!
We are still in Offenbach, but will depart to Berlin this Saturday, where a next tournament, “Allianz Kundler German Juniors” Grade 1 will take place. Sashka is in quali, so it is should be exciting!
HOW TO HELP
Sashka does not have a hospitality for qualification tournament. We need to pay for accomodation. You can help her by donating some by PayPal or wire transfer. You can also pay directly for the hotel in Berlin or host her (if you are Berlin resident). Thank you in advance for any assistance!