My trip to Lievin started early on February 11th with a drenching by hailstones. I’d tried to order a taxi to take me to the local train station but, as there were none available, I’d had to walk instead. Although sunny when I set off, the hailstones soon started, and I looked like a drowned rat by the time I arrived! Despite train delays following storm Ciara, I arrived in London in good time to catch the Eurostar to Lille. After a smooth and trouble-free trip under the Channel, I arrived in Lille, was met at the station and driven to the hotel. There were 40 umpires at the event so there were some familiar faces and some new people to get to know. As well as the EM&WTC, there was also the European U15 tournament, so we had a busy few days ahead of us. In addition, some umpires were there for assessment for BE Accreditation plus some were there for BE or BWF Appraisal.
The group matches were played over the first three days which meant that some of the stronger teams had some easy ties but there were also some close matches between the less fancied teams. The venue was great – there were ten courts in total – but as there were lots of matches to get through, there was a late finish each night. By the end of Thursday, the quarter final line-ups had been decided. England’s men were through but unfortunately the women weren’t.
Friday saw the quarter finals taking place together with the start of the U15 event. Lots of schoolchildren came to watch and, with both of the French teams participating that day, the noise levels were high. Around 140 matches were played on the Friday so again, it was another late finish for us. Unfortunately, England’s men lost to the Netherlands 3-2.
The semi-finals of the team event were played on the Saturday alongside the round of 16 and the quarter finals of the U15 event. Both of the French teams were in the semis, so the noise levels were incredible. It was difficult to hear your own voice let alone project it for the audience. Saturday was also a busy day with around 120 matches completed so it was another long day for us. Saturday was my last day at the event - with quite a few of the other umpires also finishing then - so we met up in the hotel bar for a couple of drinks afterwards. This was the only opportunity we’d had to socialise really during the week thanks to the full schedule of play.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable but busy event. The venue was really impressive with good spectator attendances every day. The general organisation was good but there were few opportunities to eat during the day as every time we were off court, the restaurant was closed. Thank goodness for the van outside that sold pomme frites!!!! It would also have been good to have had more time to socialise with the other technical officials and to have had the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing.
The finals took place on Sunday along with the semis and finals of the U15 event with Denmark winning both team events. My day started rather abruptly when my room mate woke me up in a panic as she had missed her transport. She frantically dashed about our room shouting ‘Nicola do something’ – quite what she thought I was going to do, I’m not really sure! Anyway, I ended up barefoot in the reception wearing a combination of clothes and pyjamas attempting to sort the problem. Between us we ensured that she eventually arrived at the station with ten minutes to spare. Although I didn’t need to be up at that time, I was too awake to go back to sleep. Therefore, I had a much more leisurely time getting ready to travel and I was then on my way to catch the Eurostar. My trains in England were on time - despite the best efforts of storm Dennis – and another enjoyable umpiring trip was complete.