Going to New Haven for the playoffs is always a special time for me. In 2014, the first year I played it I made it into the US Open with my now coach, Joel Kielbowicz. It was an amazing opportunity and I was hopeful to make the US Open dream come true again. I was playing well, so I felt I had a good shot going into the playoffs. Also I love coming back and staying with my awesome housing family. Kate and Tom take good care of Joel and I each year and we always look forward to coming to see them.
In singles I played Sara Choy first round who is a good junior. I wasn’t feeling my best, but managed to get through 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. The next day I had Julia Elbaba who was also coming off some good results in the previous couple weeks. I started off slow and lost the first 6-3. In the second I got myself back into the match, but was having a hard time closing games so I lost the set 7-6(3). I was a bit devastated since I had high hopes for the playoffs in singles this year.
I didn’t have much time to contemplate my loss since I had doubles with Danielle Lao later that day. She had come to New Haven only for the doubles so I had to make sure that I showed up for her. First round we had Veronica Corning and Meghan Kelley. We went out and just took care of business and won 6-2, 6-1 with solid tennis.
The second round we had Gabriela Porubin and Julia Schiller. Going into the match we didn’t know anything about this team, but we felt confident. The team came out on fire and took the first set 6-2. It seemed like they couldn’t miss. We tweaked our strategy a bit and ran away with the second set 6-1. The super tie break was back and forth, and the most stressful and long breaker I have ever played. We were down match point multiple times, but each time D and I were able to come up with the big shots to keep us in it. We ended up winning 18-16. I think our experience really got us through that match since it could’ve gone either way.
The next day we played Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller who are both tall and hit everything as hard as they can. Things were pretty routine since we went up 6-2, 5-3. I ended up serving for the match at 5-4 and had three match points that we couldn’t convert. In the end we lost the second 7-6, but then won the tie break 10-7. Despite the little hiccup, we played very well.
It felt like everything went by so fast. We had made it to the final. We were one match away from being in the US Open. We were facing Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey. D and I had just beat them a few weeks prior, but we knew that they were going to be a tough match. We played flawlessly in the final and they were visibly frustrated. We had figured out a solid game plan as to how to beat them, and then executed it perfectly. We won 6-2, 7-5. It was a little bittersweet since only one team could win the wild card. They are good friends of ours and they also deserve to play in the US Open, but I wanted us to win of course.
It was hard to believe that we were going to the US Open. All the ups and downs were worth it all of a sudden. The month before I was at rock bottom, but now I felt like I was on top of the world. Joel and I had put in so many hours at the gym and on the court to get me to this point. I was playing the best tennis of my life.
It was all a whirlwind of emotions and even though there was another week before the US Open would start, I couldn’t calm my brain down. I still had mixed doubles to play, but it was difficult to focus since my brain was already in New York.
Joel and I played our first match the next day, but I could feel I was emotionally drained. We won 3-6, 6-0, 10-6. The following day I felt better playing against Caitlin Whoriskey and Hunter Reese. They’re a solid team but we won 6-4, 6-4. The day of the semis I felt flat. All the matches and lack of days off caught up to me the day we played the eventual winners Emina Bektas and Evan King. I was just a little slow and my legs were gone. We lost 6-1, 6-2. Overall I think it was for the best that we lost because that allowed me to take two days off to rest my aching body and to regroup mentally.
I was excited to get to New York to start practicing and to enjoy the full US Open experience. Danielle flew in Monday night with her coach and family. We got there on Sunday to get situated and start practicing again on Monday. I was refreshed and it was exciting to be back playing at the US Open. Being in the Open is unlike any other experience since you are treated as if you are a celebrity. There’s a salon where you can get your hair done, a cafe where only the players and their guests can eat, and private car service to and from the hotel, just to name a few perks. The US Open is just so grand that you can’t help but be in awe of how massive it is.
I was very excited to share the experience with Danielle since it was her first US Open and my first doubles appearance. We had worked so hard for it and she’s also one of my best friends which made it very special. We belonged there and there was no doubt in my mind that we deserved to be there and that we could win.
While I was in New York, I also had my 25th birthday. I don’t think any present could ever top being in the US Open. Danielle and I spent our birthdays together this year. We thought her birthday was pretty great since we spent it on the Great Wall of China, but mine took the cake.. In addition I had some friends who came out to watch me play. A friend of mine from Seattle who is like my big brother flew out to come support me. I was excited to have him there since he has always believed in me and used to practice with me. With a good positive team around me, I felt as if I could do anything.
D and I felt good in our practice sessions. Joel would work us in some drills and then we played some doubles points with another team as well. We were in sync and feeling good going into our first round match.
We were facing fellow Americans Alison Riske and Louisa Chirico. I liked the looks of our first round and felt like we had a good shot. Neither one of them plays a ton of doubles and they don’t usually play together. Danielle and I had been playing the pressure points well throughout the playoffs so I thought we were better prepared.
Thursday was the day that we played. We were on court 14 at 11 am. It was one of the smaller courts towards the back. The morning we woke up, it was raining so all of the matches were pushed back. We sat around waiting a good chunk of the morning waiting for it to dry so we could warm up. All I can say is thank goodness my people were on keeping track of the drying courts and alerting us when the match was called. It was hectic warming up on a dry court and then having to switch courts to finish our warmup. We did get a solid warmup in, but we went straight from the warmup court to the match.
The stands were full when we were playing. This time around, I felt calm playing in front of the crowd. After playing on Grandstand two years prior, I felt like nothing could phase me. I was confident in my shots and in our game plan. In the first we had chances to get the break early on, but we weren’t able to convert. There were some long games since in the Grand Slams it is a normal two out of three set match. We ended up down 5-4 40-15 in the first with me serving. I ended up serving two aces, a service winner and D put away a volley to get it to 5-5. That game gave me a lot of confidence even though we lost the set 7-5. In the first game of the second it started raining so we went back inside on rain delay. It ended up being 5 or 6 before we went on again, but we came out firing. I was all over the net, and it felt like anything I got a racquet on I would make. We ended up taking the second 6-4 and carried the momentum into the third where got an early break. Unfortunately we weren’t able to maintain our lead, so we ended up losing 6-3 in the third. We weren’t quite as solid in the third and I was upset with this loss. In my mind there wasn’t a doubt that we were going to win, but it was not our day yet.
Regardless of the outcome, I was happy that we had the opportunity to play in the Open and I know without a doubt that I will be back again and stronger than ever. In the meantime it was time to get back to the drawing board before going to the WTA in Quebec City.