Christmas and New Years had passed, 2015 was upon us and my first tournament of the year would take me back to China The country where I have gone many times to train as well have spent a considerable amount of time away from home there. The 2015 China International challenge would be in Lingshui which was in Hinan province, a tropical island in southern China. The tournament was the end of January so this wouldn't give me much time to get everything in order (Visa, tournament arrangements, etc.) but I did get it all done. This being an International Challenge there was big points in even just 1st round because it was a 32 size draw and not a 64 size. This being a 32 size and my world ranking being rather low at the time close to the 300’s I was unsure If I would make it into the main draw if a lot of people had entered the tournament. To my luck and surprise there was only 32 entries into the singles draw and every player had made it into the main rounds. I saw some familiar names in the draw, two players from Australia who I had just seen in Korea about 2 months earlier. There was also a very familiar Netherlands player who I had met many times before and talked to a lot in Tahiti amongst a few others. I drew a player from Japan so that would make things interesting but I was up for the challenge.
The time came for me to make the trip out to China, one would think it is awesome to travel and compete but let me break it down for you. It would take me almost 24 hours to get there and the same to get back, going I lose an entire day leaving Canada Saturday afternoon and arriving around 11pm Sunday night. Then leaving China early Friday afternoon of that same week and arriving back in Canada a few hours after I had originally left China. That would give me 4 in the country itself, the tournament would start on Wednesday with first rounds meaning Monday and Tuesday would be devoted to recovering from the trip and practice, Wednesday would be playing my match. So that left Wednesday after my match and Thursday to do whatever I wanted to if I didn't win my match and advance to play Wednesday. But I had to travel there first, after coaching for 4 and a half hours early Saturday morning I made my way to the airport to head to Vancouver and catch my connecting flight to Beijing which was a whopping 12 hours on its own. From Beijing I would have a quick layover and have to catch my flight from there to Senya a capital city in Hinan and from there drive over an hour to the city of Lingshui. Finally arriving at my destination at around 1:30am Monday morning I was rather tired and happy to get into a real bed as opposed to trying to sleep in an airplane seat.
After sleeping through half the day to fight off jet lag I made it out to practice at 2 different places. The first was the practice venue at a high school which was a huge campus and then the 2nd place was at the main hall which was one of the larger stadiums that I have played in. It was nice but the downside was the lights on both side were directly angled so that it was in your eyes if you looked up. Other than that the venue was set up very professionally and a pleasure to play in. Being the only player from Trinidad and not traveling with a coach gets hard at times, it’s usually just me and that doesn't give me a partner to practice with. Another player that I knew in the draw pulled out as well as some other players had yet to arrive when I was there to possibly have a hit with. So I was assigned a volunteer when I checked into the hotel and he was amazing organizing for some of the local players to come out a spar with me. That was great to have so I got lots of practice in the first day before the tournament something that I don’t always have the opportunity to do. There were lots of volunteers in the venue and they had never seen a foreigner before or somebody like me so they would line up after I finished practicing to get pictures with me. Heading back to the hotel I went out for a night walk and saw the area as it was hustling and bustling which was nice I like how busy it gets at night. Finding food I retired back to the hotel and hunkered down for the night getting ready for what would come the next day.
Tuesday rolled around and because there were no qualification matches that meant that we could us the main venue for practice. Once again I didn't have anybody to practice with but was fortunate enough once again to meet some players from Malaysia and got to practice with them for a good hour and a half, playing mostly games with them which was a huge benefit. That was a lot later in the day so when I finished it was night almost which left me little time to really do anything else in the city or see anything. I went to the grocery store and bought some groceries which would last me the week as well as dinner at one of the local shops and my favorite bubble tea with pearls, I could buy 2-3 of those a day easily. Game day was right around the corner, quite literally, my match was the following morning and I was going to make sure that I got enough rest for that so an early night was in order. Wednesday rolled around, the weather was nice and good breakfast I had. Making my way over the venue early (it was within walking distance) was a little nerve-wracking as I knew that I was up for a hard game against the Japanese player and I would be on the TV court yet again.
The match started and I was feeling decent I was moving good and was able to push the Japanese player around the court. Simple mistakes were what cost me the most points in the match but overall I felt the best at the net and was able to win my points there. But in the end I was unable to push the match to 3 or keep it a close 2 but I was happy with the results in ways.
Just like that the match was done and my tournament had come to an end, yet another first round exit at an international but the amount of points I got was worth it. So it was still early in the morning, noon had just passed which meant I still had half the day left to go out and see whatever I could around the city/hotel. Stretching and watching a few matches in the venue I headed back to the hotel and grabbed lunch while my volunteer asked me what sights I would like to see outside of the city and started to arrange for it. After checking out things in the immediate area I came back to the hotel with food ate in the room and met up with the volunteer to discuss my plans. The two possible places that I could go was a place called Monkey Island or to one of the beautiful beaches, the downside though each location was about 1-2 hours away and just getting there would be a pain in the ass. Because of this I decided not to go and would just spend my last full day bumming around Lingshui before heading back home. The rest would do me good as it was something that I wouldn't get back home for a while. Looking around the city I was able to see some of the statues and public art that was around my hotel as well as take a dip in the amazing pool that the hotel had. Thursday had come to an end and I don’t know where the day went at all. I picked up some last minute snacks at the grocery store that I wanted to bring back to Canada with me and then started packing for the long…and I mean long journey back to Canada.
Leaving the hotel in Lingshui early Friday morning we drove straight for the almost 2 hours to get to Sanya and the international airport there where I would catch my flight back to Beijing. The fight back to Beijing was rather full and upon arrival the plane did not park at the terminal to exit directly into the airport we parked on the tarmac and had to exit there taking a shuttle to the airport. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy because it was “cold” in Beijing and all I was wearing was a t-shirt but it was only +5 which to me in Canada is warm so it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. After waiting what seemed like an eternity for my bag I rushed to check in for my flight back home through Vancouver which I made and just got to the gate as they started to board the flight. As much as I love china I didn't want to have to spend another night and miss my flight because I was to work the following day (Saturday) at 8:30am. The flight home was just as long as going but I slept and was able to watch a good amount of movies that was where everything went smooth and then in Vancouver waiting to go back to Calgary a wrench got thrown into the system. They boarded us on the flight to Calgary but there was a mechanical issue so with us still on the plane they tried to fix the problem, I had long since passed out at this point in my seat. An hour later I woke up and realized we were still on the ground, hadn't even left that’s when they deplaned us and arranged for another flight that would depart an hour later. I was dead tired at this point and when we boarded the new flight I passed out as I sat down and woke up as we landed in Calgary so that was a good was to pass the time.
That was the trip to China in a nutshell. It was weird for me because every previous time I would go to china to train and would be there 3-4 months if not longer so to only got for 4 days and a bit was foreign to me. I did not know how to feel about it, I was happy to be back in China after so long but was sad to only be in the country so short. The tournament was the tournament I can’t comment much on that, I needed the points and getting 920 from an international challenge in main draw isn't bad at all. Coming off the win in Puerto Rico a month earlier was giving me some confidence but I still wasn't able to get a win in Asia. I have had wins in every other region that I have played in but have yet to get one in the Asia continent. Next up after this would be Trinidad nationals which I got 2nd place at the previous year so this year I would be going for the title.