My recent trip to the Latvian International was my first venture to any of the Balkan states but it's definitely a tournament I'd recommend! I was over there for the BE course, meaning arriving a day early, and so it was that I sleepwalked to Leeds Bradford Airport for the 6.20am Tuesday flight via Schipol to Riga.
Four of us arriving about the same time were collected and taken to Jelgava, about 50km from Riga, which was hosting the event. Our driver turned out to be the local deputy referee who also showed himself to be something of a mine of information about Latvia generally and our journey took a detour around some of the sights of the capital before we finally landed at our accommodation.
Jelgava is a student town and so it was perhaps fitting that we were staying in a student hall - basic but perfectly pleasant and the lack of any breakfast provision was not a problem for our hospitable hosts who ensured one of the student kitchens was opened and a range of breakfast options were on hand each morning.
The venue for the tournament was the Jelgava Olympic Centre, which we reached either as a 35 minute walk or on one of the public buses (the latter worked fine until the last day when the bus decided to terminate after one more stop, leading to a 2km speed walk for those unfortunate enough to have been on said bus). We were well looked after and food selection refreshingly included a wide selection of salads and similar greens.
After an afternoon of theory on Wednesday, I was well ready to get on court when the qualifiers started on Thursday and we ten candidates, plus various others from home and overseas were kept pretty busy. We were using the service height devices - this is my third tournament with them and I have to say it feels quite comfortable now.
On the eve of the finals a social gathering was arranged so that those who wanted to could watch the Champions League final. As a Spurs supporter, I was obviously delighted to spend the evening with a group of gleeful Liverpool sympathisers... My disappointment over the football result was however eased somewhat the following day when I was told that I had passed the course and also would be up for the mixed doubles final.
So overall, it was worth the 8+ hours hanging around in Amsterdam on the way back.
I'll leave you with the most debated incident of the week (fortunately not on my court). A very sweaty mens singles player with particularly sweaty legs decided at one point during the match to drop his shorts round his ankles and use them effectively as a towel. Discussions over what if any sanction should have been handed out for this piece of tomfoolery (which given the exchange between him and his coach, it clearly was) occupied considerable airtime at the technical meetings. Suggestions on a postcard...