March 30 – April 14, Liepaja Tennis Sport school student Rebeka Margareta Mertena with her coach Daņils Kozlovs traveled to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, to participate in two adult tournaments “ITF 10000 Sharm El Sheikh” for the first time in Rebeka’s career.
Unfortunately in both tournaments Rebeka lost already in the 1st round. In the first tournament Rebeka competed against Emmanuelle Salas from France and lost with 2:6 3:6, but in the second tournament Rebeka lost to Oleksandra Korashvili from Ukraine with 2:6 2:6. Parallel to Singles tournament, Rebeka as well tried Doubles, where she as well lost both games. We invited 16 years old Rebeka and her coach Daņils to talk about her first international experience in adult competition.
What are your thougths after the participation in these tournaments?
Rebeka: Not all went as we expected. I was thinking, that I will play better. Nevertheless I lost all games, still this participation in these tournaments gave me big experience. However in this tournament participated adult women and they are much more experienced n tennis and the games are faster as well.
After this tournament I understood, that during the games I don’t need to think about previous points, but I have to concentrate to the point which is being played. If I’ll think about the previous points, then all my game will have mistake after mistake. As well I understood, that I shouldn’t express my emotions and I have to be calm on the court.
It was hard to adapt to the heat in Egypt, especially in the first game, when I even had problems to breath at that kind of temperature (+40 degrees Celsium). I needed some time to adapt to that, already in the second tournament it was easier for me to play. As well my couch could manage to prepare me physically for the second tournament.
Participation at these tournaments gave me confidence, that I want to spend my life with tennis. During the tournaments a lot of things in my game didn’t work, and I felt, that the competition is better than me, but now I understand, that it was only the first tournament in adult competition.
Daņils: We gained confidence, new knowledge on how to behave at games. And of course, that we have to practice even more. All this was something new. It was possible to observe, how the professional tennis players are preparing for game. At the tournament participated women ranked around 300th and 400th place, so it was interesting to look how they are playing and how they concentrate. It’s sad, that we couldn’t fulfill our own goal – win in the 1st round. This tournament was good experience for Rebeka.
Did the coach’s presence help?
Rebeka: Yes, of course, coaches presence helps always. I felt myself much more confident and the coach knows how to motivate me.
How often did you practice in Egypt and did you had some practices with other players?
Rebeka: We had practices three times a day. We started our first practice always at 7 in the morning. We had good practices with other players as well. I practiced together with little older girls than me from Japan, Austria and Estonia. At these practices I could manage a lot of things in my game, we had quite tight games when we played on points, I could even win over my opponents.
Daņils: Rebeka had a great opportunity to practice with better players, so we could see our problems and things which we have to work on. The conclusion is that we have to pay more attention to the thinking during the game. At this level the game speed is faster and on the court you have to make fast decisions. During these practices I chatted with other coaches. Some of them wanted to know our experience on how to improve tennis practices. During chat with coach from Japan, he said, that we have to spend more time on the court, but from us he wanted to know how to prepare better tactically for the games for young players.
Would you recommend to other young tennis players to participate in this kind of tournaments?
Rebeka: Of course, during these tournaments it is possible to gain great experience.
Daņils: To participate at this kind of tournaments, quite big funding is needed. Thanks to financial support from Liepaja city Sport department and Liepaja Tennis Sport school, we could participate in these tournaments and have a little training camp. But to start and to get in to the world ranking, with one trip like this it is not enough.
From which tennis players you try to learn?
Rebeka: I really love watching the games of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. On the court they are so calm and they don’t show their emotions during the game, as well, they are changing their tennis style during the game. But I really try to learn something new from a lot of tennis players.
How often do you have practices when you’re home?
Rebeka: I have practices every working day. But at this point I try to pay more attention to my studies in school, because I have to catch up a little bit. Sometimes it’s really hard to combine studies with tennis.
Daņils: I’m planning practices, so that we have harmony in everything and the studies shouldn’t suffer. Speaking about tennis practices in Liepaja, we need to have tennis arena, so that we could practice normally during whole year.
Now you’re studying in 10th grade, have you had thoughts what to do after secondary school?
Rebeka: At this point I plan to apply for scholarship to study in the USA, where I could practice tennis during my studies.
Maybe it’s to soon to ask, but which profession do you plan to learn?
Rebeka: At this point I’m not sure yet. My dad told me that IT technologies are very needed in job market, but I’m more interested in tourism and hotel management. But I still have time to think about that.
What are your plans for this season?
Rebeka: During this summer I plan to participate in few international tournaments in Estonia, Lithuania and of course in Latvia. In practices I have to improve my serve, physical condition, leg movement, generally, I have to improve everything.
Daņils: At this moment it is important to get better results at the tournaments.
What are your conclusion for this interview?
Daņils: At the conclusion I would like to repeat the words of former Liepaja Tennis Sport school student Anastasija Sevastova: “This is only the first tournament, this is experience. Not everyone could show their best game at their first tournament.”. So Rebeka and others have to continue practicing and hope for the best.
Rebeka: I would like to thank Liepaja city Sports department, Liepaja Tennis Sport school and my parents for the financial support, so I could participate at these tournaments. And of course the greatest gratitude i have to express to my parents for the moral and financial support helps me every day.