Uber Cup 2014: A player’s view

England’s Fontaine Chapman, who left the 2014 Uber Cup finals having been beaten only by the Olympic champion, shares with Badzine readers a very personal account of her experiences at […]

England’s Fontaine Chapman, who left the 2014 Uber Cup finals having been beaten only by the Olympic champion, shares with Badzine readers a very personal account of her experiences at this unique event.

By Fontaine Chapman, Badzine Special Contributor.  Photos: Fontaine Chapman and Badmintonphoto

My Uber Cup experience was one that I will never forget.  There were many first times for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better tournament.

As it was my first trip to India, I was slightly apprehensive about what to expect, however, I was extremely excited about playing in India, as it would not only be my first time to the country but also my first Uber Cup.

When we arrived in Delhi, the heat instantly hit me and it felt like I had just walked into an oven, but as I’m half Caribbean I adjusted quickly! The time zone between England and India is only 4 and a half hours but I struggled to sleep for the first few nights, maybe it was more excitement about playing rather than jet lag.

Before we started competing, both the England Thomas and Uber Cup teams were able to hit in the arena a few times before our first group matches.  After a few miss hits (and one or two air shots!) I soon found the strings in my racket and the arena felt great to play in.  I did my first interview for an Indian television broadcast, the journalists were great to talk to and while I was talking to them it hit me…  I was actually in India at the Uber Cup finals, ready and raring to play!

The night before our first group match, the England girls had a team meeting before enjoying a team meal together.  I had recently moved up to the highest ranked English singles player which meant I was the first match on against Chinese Taipei.  I was nervous, excited and a whole lot of other feelings mixed in.  By the time I came to step on court the adrenaline was pumping and it was more excitement that I felt.

My first match was great, I loved every minute of being on court and I was so proud to have got the first win of the tournament for Team England.  We knew we had a chance against Chinese Taipei and with every match that went on the girls kept fighting for a win.  Team England exceeded all expectations that day and we won our opening match of the tournament.  This was a great feeling for the team and for me personally, I couldn’t wait to get back on court.

Our next match was against China and my first opportunity to play against Olympic champion and World #1 Li Xuerui (pictured).  As always, I was nervous but looking forward to the challenge.  I had never played anyone in the world top 10 before, let alone the world’s best, so I knew it was going to be extremely tough.

The team’s expectations against China weren’t to win but to step our level up and compete with some of the best players in the world.  At first it was slightly daunting being on court with a player that I have watched and admired at many events but once we got started I forgot all of her winning titles and just went for it.

It felt incredible to hit winners and battle it out during rallies with the world number one.  After I came off court, I wished I could have stayed on for longer and it only confirmed that this is the level I want to be at.  The rest of the team also upped their level and played some great matches against China but little did we know we’d have a second chance to play them again later that week.

Our final group stage match was against Russia.  We needed to win this match in order for us to reach the quarter-finals.  As with every tie, I was first on.  I had previously played Perminova so I knew it was going to be a very tough match to win but if I did the things that the coaches and I had discussed, then we knew it was conceivable.  I wanted to put the team in the best possible position for qualifying and I personally wanted to play again so I was ready to go.

Winning that first match against Russia was so electrifying, it doesn’t get much better than having my team mates cheering and shouting as I won for them and even some of the crowd cheering me on.  All of the team fought so hard against the Russian girls.  They don’t give up so easily and they weren’t about to give us the win so it was an amazing achievement for us all and we were excited to see who we’d play in the quarter-finals.

Drawing China again in the quarter-finals was slightly frustrating as you never want to play the same matches in the same tournament but the team saw it as a chance to better our scores from last time and get stuck in again.

Walking out for the quarter-finals was incredible, Lee Chong Wei had just gone on before my match had been called so the crowd was going wild.  I could hardly hear anything.  Even though the cheers weren’t for me, it gave me such a buzz, as I have never experienced anything like it before.

Although we lost to China again, from a team perspective, we exceeded all expectations and made history by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in 30 years.  I am so proud to be part of the team and to have given it my all for England.  For me personally, it has been an invaluable experience getting to compete against the world’s best and to have won such crucial matches for my team really has helped build my confidence.  I can take all that I have learnt from this incredible week in India and use it to push me on further up the world rankings and hopefully get selected to represent England in many more events to come.

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