Me and my friend Matthew Abela from Malta came third in the Egypt International in mixed doubles in October 2018. We had never played mixed doubles before. Egypt was our debut and it went pretty well, even though we had no expectations to win a medal. But see, sometimes life sucks and you get what you don’t deserve. We are working so hard on court every day to get better in singles and then we go and do amazing job in a discipline we have never practiced.
So yeah, it was an amazing success for both Armenia and Malta and while the word “Badminton” went on to hover in media in both our countries, Matthew and I didn’t find time to go sightseeing in Egypt.
How it all started
(We won the first two rounds before coming to the scene that I am going to describe now)
It’s last 16 and we are supposed to play at 22:00, however the matches are delayed and… guess what? We go on court at 23:30. At that time I am usually asleep. We are extremely sleepy and tired (well, at least I am extremely bored standing at the net and trying to find ways not to interrupt Abela’s amazing attacking play).
The opponents are from Egypt. We win the first set. Second set, nothing is working for us (yeah, of course we had to fuck it up and play a third set in the middle of the night…). I even remember yawning in between the points dreaming of my bed.
So it’s the third set and it’s past midnight already. All the matches are finished on the other courts, the whole stadium is watching us (don’t imagine a scene where there are lots of people. Nah, just maybe 20-30 players left). Oh my God, and all of these people are waiting for us to finish the match to be able to go back to the hotel and sleep! The official transport wasn’t going to leave without us.
We win eventually, and I get to my hotel at probably 1:30 in the morning. Well, well, it’s not over. I put my alarm at 6:30 because I will have breakfast at 7:00…
I found myself crying and hating my badminton career early in the morning. Suddenly I thought I wanted to stop playing this sport and just go home, become a journalist… then I woke up, cleared my head from all those bullshit thoughts and went to have my lovely breakfast… which wasn’t lovely at all as I was having stomachaches and heartburn all the time. Even now, thinking about Egypt, I always recall that unpleasant feeling of wanting to throw up three days in a row because of the food that I was not used to.
Quarterfinals for us in mixed doubles. That sounded so cool! I had already lost my singles in the last 16 the day before, so it was all in for XD.
Our opponents are the second seeded pair from Mauritius. We know they are good. But we don’t care (because we know we are amazing haha! And mostly because at that very same time I am reading Mark Manson’s “The subtle art of not giving a fuck”). It’s the first set, I am trying to get my head into the game and understand what’s going on, when I see that we lose it 21-13. No doubt, they are strong but we have nothing to lose. At that very moment, when we had a small interval in between the sets, I had this energy boost hitting me and I started to feel extremely energetic and ready to play and win that second set. The idea of us having nothing to lose and having no pressure at all made me feel confident enough to go on and play the best game I have ever played in terms of the never-give-up attitude.
So we somehow win the second set 21-19 and we are completely dead. But playing that match was fun for both me and Mat, so why not go for another win? In the third set we literally gave it all, had some really good rallies. We were shouting, laughing and getting angry, falling and getting up, losing points and then getting them back… I have no idea how we made it but we won the match 21-19.
At the last point we celebrated the victory in a way as if we have won an Olympic gold or something. But emotions…they just happen. We were in the semifinals for the first time in our first collaboration in mixed doubles.
But then the problem was – we had put all of the energy on this match and we are playing the semifinals later in the evening. I went back to the hotel with a severe heartburn after my match. I didn’t know what to eat because every time I put something in my mouth, I wanted to throw up. So with not enough energy I was completely dead.
The dressing room
I probably had like an hour to rest and then had to go back to the hall for the semis. We had to be on court after four matches. Yet, I am feeling like a zombie. I am tired and hungry and I want to throw up… You know, in this kind of moments you just don’t care where you sleep.
Dressing room it is! Yay! I was supposed to go change my clothes and slowly start my warm-up routine but I didn’t care. I needed my sleep. At that moment the long chair in the dressing room seemed so comfortable and soft…
[Amazing celebrations, we are extremely happy, we win the semifinals]… and then I wake up to understand that I actually need to get ready for the semis. Probably Matthew is looking for me, I have to get up and go.
We go on court. We play nothing compared to the match before. We lose, they were better, though we had been amazing all along the way to the semis.
Every time I lose a match in the tournaments, the first thing that comes to mind is: “Now I can rest, no more pressure.” And for a second I thought I can relax and enjoy the last few days in Egypt, go see the pyramids and feel the breath of the history blah-blah-blah… but then it clicked, I came back to reality to realize I have to be at the airport in five hours to catch my flight back to Denmark…