Canadian visit with friendly matches

written by Joerg Baertges from VfR Eintracht Koblenz

“The Canadians are coming back…”. Like a wildfire the news spread through our club that this year our Canadian friends from Nova Scotia would visit us again as part of a Germany trip, for the third year running!
A delegation of 14 people (2 coaches and 12 players), set out under the organizational leadership of Marijke Nel, Technical Director for Tennis Nova Scotia, a German-speaking South African who has been living and working in Canada for several years and comes to Germany every year to play for local league teams.
From the 12th to the 22nd of September, the group was introduced, on the one hand, to red clay tennis – something completely new to Canadian players – and on the other hand to a multidimensional tourist itinerary. Whether it was wine tasting on the Moselle, cruising on a boat on the Rhine, visiting castles, riding bicycles or Segways, or attending a Bundesliga soccer match at Dortmund, nothing was omitted. The guests were accommodated again this year at the beautiful and centrally located Sportschule Oberwerth, right on the banks of the Rhine River.

The group engaged in training sessions with different drills on our courts. They also played friendly matches against our club members, 6 men’s and 6 ladie’s singles, which we won 12:2 in the end, despite some of the matches being closely fought.
Afterwards, it was our pleasure to treat our guests to Toli and Costa’s catering. The fact that the evening was prolonged with guitar sounds from Gunter Hombach and many more songs shared in togetherness, could partially be attributed to the great atmosphere between Canadia and German friends, but certainly also to one or two glasses of wine, yeast beer and “Aperol Spritz”. As the evening progressed, the use of English by the Germans improved significantly and they rediscovered some long-forgotten vocabulary.
In the social spirit of the moment, we decided to organize a re-match with a different format. The men played 6 singles and 2 doubles in 12-game sets. Despite us winning the number of matches by 5:3, since each game was counted, our Canadian friends pipped us in the end by 53:50!

The Canadian ladies, in turn, participated for the first time this year in the “Ladies Doubles Fun” tournament, organized by Jan Graevendieck. A great time was had by all and more personal interaction and friendship was enabled through the format of the event, as well as the subsequent prize giving ceremony. The tournament was won by our own club champion, Conny Kalchthaler, closely followed by a Canadian friend (Laura Simko).

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our club members, even if they were not directly involved with the Canadians’ visit, for their understanding with court times that were restricted for friendly matches and our visitors’ training sessions. This is how club life works, it always includes some give and take…

As a crowning end to the tour, some of our club members accompanied our Canadian friends for a meal to the “alte Muehle Hoereth” in Kobern-Gondorf. In a memorable and rustic setting, Marijke Nel thanked our club for its hospitality, a brand of generosity which she says is yet to find its equal. She expressed the Canadians’ wish to be able to return this kindness by hosting a visit for a German group to Nova Scotia in the future.

In my capacity as junior development officer, I represented our department leader, Harry Burkhardt as the lead coordinator of this initiative. It was my pleasure to address our guests in English and to distribute gifts to all of them, which included a reminder of our time together, a framed photograph for each person, as well as a package of the local praline specialty, “Koblenz Kisses”.
When I surprised the group with a last visit at Sportschule Oberwerth on the eve of their departure, there was unanimous agreement:
It was an unforgettable experience, underscored by a German hospitality which exceeded all expectations – and which the Canadians would do anything to be able to repay.
We raised a glass together for a last toast, some of us with lumps in our throats, to a hopefully swift reunion.
“Goodbye Canadians, we hope to see you again as soon as possible!”

Joerg Baertges