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TABLE TENNIS: The results of Grégoire Jean and Horacio Cifuentes

To complete this new Pro B season, we went to meet the four players of Amiens STT on the eve of their last match for individual assessments. Meet Grégoire Jean and Horacio Cifuentes today.

First of all, what is your assessment of this season individually? And collectively?

Gregory John: He is extremely good, even if there is still one game left. I don’t know how I am at the moment, but I must be three defeats away… So of course we can always do better, but I’m by far on my best season in Pro B, so personally this season was great! Afterwards, if we compare with last season when we won almost all the doubles, this year it worked a little less well. There are a few regrets about that, but that doesn’t take anything away from the balance sheet that’s more than good. Collectively, it’s also ultra positive: we were aiming for the podium, there were three or four teams that were going to fight for the very top of the table. We finished second knowing that we had crazy opportunities in direct confrontations, it could have turned out a little more in our favor, but it was played out on details and on the whole of a season, it is positive.

Horacio Cifuentes: I think it’s been a very positive season. At first, we wanted to stay in the top quartet, but in the end I was the first to say “why settle for that, why not dream higher? » I said it from the first day of competition to Arnaud and Denis and since then, we started to tell ourselves that we were really going to try to do the best possible! Obviously there were two or three other solid teams like Thorigné and Tours, but we were really very close. Obviously it’s a good thing to finish second, but for me it’s a bit difficult too. Collectively, we’re a really good group, we’re all very close friends. I think that was also a big plus when it came to playing: there was a lot of positive energy between us and everyone wanted to bring out the best in the others. We always hoped and wanted everything to go well for the others and it showed in our results. The results were very good in a championship that is really won as a team, you can’t get away with it individually. We were really very, very close so my heart aches when I think about it…

We always hoped and wanted everything to go well for the others and it showed in our results.

Horacio Cifuentes

What do you think has been your strongest point this season? And your weak point?

GG: Not double… But I think I actually stabilized my game, and by stabilizing the general level, I managed to erase the lows I had in previous seasons. It opens up a lot of opportunities in the game, we manage to get into the opponent’s head a little because we are confident. I would say that’s really my strong point this season, having managed to stabilize myself at a good level. The weak point… The double! In truth, there aren’t many negative things to take away from this season on a personal level.

CH: Mentally, I think I was different from last year: last season was quite irregular for me, also because it was my first year here at a new club with new people, and I think I was a little nervous at first, not very confident. This year was really different, I was stronger, calmer and more confident. I played really well and so far it has been my best season professionally, individually speaking. On the other hand, I think that it takes me a long time to adapt when we play outside, sometimes it takes me longer to have confidence in myself and in the elements around me: that often played bad tricks because in these conditions I think too much and I lost a lot of games because of my lack of ability to adapt, I still have to learn to adapt more quickly to new circumstances. I also lack a bit of experience, for example against Issy in the first leg, I lost 3/0 against the player that Jesús beat 3/0 in the second leg, and I was beaten easily because I didn’t I didn’t know how to adapt quickly enough to the room and the atmosphere.

We have to be clear, it’s nonsense like sport anyway…

Gregory John

Individually, what game would you remember this season? And from a collective point of view?

GG: Surely the one on Léo De Nodrest. This season I managed to beat players against whom I had never won, but the one on Leo… I had already played him and he blocked me in almost all areas so I did not expect to be performing on him but I managed to develop my game and that was also a trigger in the season. Collectively, the most successful match was the one I didn’t play, the 3/0 in Tours. At that time, we air-conditioned the championship a little. It was tight, we were a little below because we had lost points, but there we win 3/0 and that puts a blow to Tours and we come back. The three games that are played are won really very very close. Collectively it was the best, and seeing it from the bench was enjoyable! We have to be clear, it’s nonsense like sport anyway…

CH: I don’t know if it was my best played match, but it was the best emotionally experienced, the one against Thorigné. I beat the southpaw and it was an emotionally amazing game, great to watch and with a lot of euphoria. Collectively, I think it would be the very first against Tours: a 3/0 victory in two hours, without suffering… The faster, the better! Finally, we still suffered because in the end I won 3/2, 14-12, and it’s the same for Tomi and Jesus…

The return to a normal season, with its audience and without too many hazards, was an important point after two empty seasons?

GG: It’s fun! It’s quite negative to say, but in the end we got used to matches behind closed doors, and there frankly it was nice. We felt that the supporters were waiting for that too, we have rarely shared so many moments with the public as this year. What happiness!

CH: It’s really good to play with the public, maybe it’s a bit difficult at the beginning, but when you have the public in your favor… I felt really close to the public this year, they are all good people here and I was really happy to be part of this group.

Finally, what would be your biggest regret this season? And your ambitions for next year?

GG: The regret would be not to go up… So my ambition for next season, with Montpellier, remains the climb again. With the new formula, even if Montpellier is also in Pro B, I’m not sure I’ll come back to play in Amiens, but in any case I’ll play a match against them next year!

CH: No regrets! I’m going to change clubs, to play in an even stronger league, the best in France, and I hope it goes well for me. It will be an important step for me, another change of club, new people, new comrades… But at the professional level, if I want to continue to improve and see even higher, it was the best decision to take.

The final word…

GG: It was a pleasure to play here!

CH: I am very grateful to the club, to the president, to the coach and to the public. I can only thank them for everything, for having opened the doors of French table tennis to me. They’re all amazing people so I’m really happy. Maybe one day I can come back…

Interview by Océane Kronek

Photo credits: Léandre Leber – Gazette Sports

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