Francesca Curmi and Elaine Genovese were the darlings of Maltese sport this week after the tennis duo won an historic silver medal in the women’s doubles at the Mediterranean Games in Oran, Algeria.
The Maltese pairing defied the odds with a strong run into the final which has seen them claim the scalps of Italian top seeds Nuria Brancaccio and Aurora Zantetedeschi 3-6, 7-6, 11-9.
However, in the final, Curmi and Genovese were beaten by Spanish duo Jessica Bouas Maneiro and Guiomar Maristany Zuleta 6-3 6-2 to return home with a silver medal around their necks.
It was still a remarkable achievement as this was Malta’s first-ever silver medal in tennis at the Mediterranean Games and the fourth overall.
In fact, in 70 years that the Mediterranean Games were held Malta has won one gold, four silver and four bronze medals.
“Obviously, nobody expected us to win a medal here,” Elaine Genovese told the Times of Malta.
“It was a surprise for many but deep down we knew could be at the same level of these players. We prepared a lot for these Games and played a lot of tournaments where we were so close of achieving something.
“But fortunately, this time hard work paid off. No doubt, the toughest match was against Italy in the semi-final where we were 6-3 5-2 down but managed to save seven match points and thanks to the huge support of the MOC clan we managed to go on and clinch a dramatic win after a close championship tiebreak.
“In the final, we did our best against the Spanish opponents but was still not enough. But we are still proud of our achievement and I’m so happy to have shared the court with Francesca on such a special occasion.”
On her part, Curmi said that she was relieved that they finally took their chance to win a priceless medal.
“Obviously it is always an incredible experience to represent our country,” Curmi said.
“We did our best and knew that we could compete in the Mediterranean Games. It’s a great feeling to win this silver medal. We played in several tournaments and lost some very close matches but this time we finally took our chance.
“We wanted to win the gold medal but we are still very happy with this silver medal.”
Curmi said that she hopes that the result achieved by herself and Genovese in Oran would inspire more Maltese youngsters to take on a sporting career.
“I really hope that this results inspires other young Maltese sportsmen to chase their dreams,” Curmi said.
“This week we have set high standards and I received a lot of messages from young players which was really sweet. My message to them is simple… you can reach your goals with hard work and determination. I hope this result will inspire and encourage our future generation.”
The Mediterranean Games experience may be over for Curmi and Genovese but the tennis duo have already turned their focus on another important commitment scheduled for this week when they represent Malta at the Federation Cup in North Macedonia.
“Our focus is already switched to the Fed Cup,” Genovese said.
“We will be flying to Macedonia this weekend and make sure that we are ready for the start of the tournament on Tuesday.”
However, the long-term goal for the Maltese pair is without doubt next year’s Games of the Small States of Europe in Malta and following this result at the Mediterranean Games it’s natural that expectations for a push for the gold medal will inevitably increase.
Asked whether this result at the Mediterranean Games will put more pressure on them, Genoese said: “No, I don’t think there is extra pressure now,” Genovese said.
“It’s all about how one approaches the situation. I think there will always be expectations and we always handled it quite well.
“The most important thing for us is that we remain well focused on our training and work hard every day.
“And then hopefully when the Games arrive everything will come into place and we can give it our best shot.”