May 1, 2023: German Labor Day, USA May Day
Today I played my first team match in Germany. The team matches take up the entire day!
Dagmar, Desiree, Gabi, Carolyn, Reinhilde
We played PSV Gelsenkirchen in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, a city of just over a quarter million people. It is an ancient city dating back to before Roman times, then a coal mining city but now has the largest solar plant in Germany.
The club is a small one, with just four (slow red clay) courts and 80 members (apparently this is super small and 50 members per court would be more normal), many of whom came out to watch the match and enjoy the nice weather outside. A barbecue was going, churning out wursts, beer was flowing and tennis was being played. Today is a holiday in Germany, (German Labor Day and also May Day).
The format is four singles followed by 2 doubles, sort of like a Cup team match, but with twice as many matches. The match began at 11am. #2 and #4 lines played first followed by #1 and #3. Our #2, Gabi, won efficiently and so I got on around noon. I played a woman who had some interesting strokes but was pretty fast and had a tricky backhand, but I also won pretty efficiently, as did everyone on the team, so we won all the singles. You can tell singles is a big deal in Germany…the courts were all set up with singles sticks! The Gelsenkirchen team is one that is playing at the top level for the first time, a big accomplishment for such a small club (and all the players were from this club I was told).
After a short break (line #3 had to finish) we played doubles. I played with Dagmar, who I know from tournaments and Cup teams. She’s a good player, nice volleys and very steady and we won 2,1 and #2 doubles won as well…so it was a clean sweep.
After the doubles, the Gelsenkirchen team set up a big table on the porch with plates and utensils and the food started appearing…salads (pasta, cucumber, green salad, and more) and of course wursts, along with chicken skewers and pork slices, all barbecued to perfection. Everyone was talking and having a nice time. It was about 5pm by the time I left to drive back to Essen (a 30 minute drive).
This competition is quite different from leagues in the USA…more club based, not level based except as a team and more singles. There are I believe 4 leagues at the top level, and this one has 7 or 8 teams. The winners of each league have a playoff in September. The bottom team in the league each year is demoted and the top team in the league just below is promoted to the top league at the end of each season. The season is short, just over a month.
The ancillary benefits of the teams: players (or sometimes entire teams) go off to play tournaments or to train for a week or two before the season starts, so they are ready for outdoor clay play. The outdoor clay courts at Etuf Essen for example only opened a couple of weeks ago.
Our next match is Saturday, in Essen. Tomorrow is a training day!