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Good Start to the Season

What a week! It may not have been perfect, but I feel like I had a solid first tournament of the year (I’m not counting Auckland since technically I lost before 2017 started). My first tournament was to be a 100k in Midland, MI, so smaller than Auckland but still a good sized tournament. I went up to Midland on Friday in order to practice with girls since I had only been practicing with Joel for the last month. I wanted to be able to get some point play in and get a feel for the courts. It was freezing, but at least they keep the courts warm. In addition I couldn’t wait to hang out with my housing family, the Rielle’s. I’ve been staying with them since I was in high school, so I have pretty much watched their kids grow up.

I also did a few extra events between practices such as going to some schools to talk to kids about what it means to be a tennis pro tennis player and how important school is in order to go to college. It’s always fun to share my experiences and to see their reactions. I feel it’s important to always dream big and it’s a good way to give back to the sport that has given me so much. I talked to a few schools who brought their students to watch some of the tennis and the kids were amazed by what we do. It is something a lot of the kids don’t see, especially coming from a small town. Here’s a picture of me with some of the students I spoke to at Kolb Elementary School.
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On Monday the draws for singles and doubles came out. I honestly always get the toughest draws… 5 out of the last 6 tournaments I’ve drawn the 1st-3rd seeds for my first round in singles. This week I drew the 1st seed, Madison Brengle, but I was actually pretty excited since I had a feeling that it meant that I would be playing in one of the feature matches. She’s in the top 100 and actually beat Serena Williams in the tournament in Auckland which I was at. In doubles I was set to play with Serbian, Jovana Jaksic, against a couple of former doubles partners, Danielle Lao and Kaitlyn Christian.
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Just as I predicted I was scheduled to be the night match for Tuesday night. I was very excited since I love to play in front of people, and the night matches in Midland always draw a good crowd. I have worked so hard in order to get to the point where I’m playing well so I was looking forward to showing off what I have been working on. For me there is no better feeling than winning an epic point and having the crowd go crazy. The extra adrenaline alone makes me feel unbelievable. As excited as I was, I started a bit shaky in the first set and went down 4-0. I had some chances but just couldn’t convert and I could feel that I was rusty since I hadn’t played a match in a month. I fought back and got it back to 4-4 before losing the set 6-4. I went down 3-1 in the second as well before I started hitting my stride. From there I barely missed a ball and I played high percentage and aggressive winning the set 6-4. In the third I started slow once again and went down 4-2 before I rolled off four straight games to claim the set and match 6-4. I was ecstatic since I made a lot of changes to my game in the off season and this win solidified that I was on the right track. I have never been so excited and optimistic for the future of my tennis game. I’m playing at a top 100 level and I’m confident my play will get me the results to get there soon.
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After the match the adrenaline was still pumping when I did my on court interview. I was given three balls to sign and throw into the crowd and I thoroughly embarrassed myself throwing the first one. I aimed for someone at the top of the stands and the ball flew up and over the curtain behind the person and went right into the food court… oops.. The look on my face says it all. My housing family thought it was hilarious that I threw the ball into the food area. The whole family came to watch my match and they were stoked that I had won. They aren’t big into tennis, but they knew how big of a deal it was for me to take out the 1 seed so it was nice to be able to share the experience with them.
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That night it was tough to sleep because it took me a while to come down from my high, and by the time I did I only had a few hours to sleep before I needed to wake up to get ready for my doubles match. That’s the only problem with the night matches. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world, but I do wish there was a way to immediately fall asleep afterwards.
For doubles I was 4th match so I warmed up with Jovana in the late morning. We waited until stadium court opened up so we could take the court. Honestly there isn’t much to say because we both played horrendous. We lost 6-3, 6-1. We lost a ton of deuce games and were just unable to find our rhythm. It was just one of those days.
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The following day I had singles against Kayla Day who is a young up and comer. She was the number one junior in the world and has been winning pro circuit events. She even won a wild card into the Australian Open, so I knew it was going to be a tough match. She’s a lefty and hits with a lot of spin, so very different from Brengle. We stayed on serve most of the first set, but I faltered at 5-5 when I lost my serve. I missed a couple of volleys that cost me the game. Then at 5-6, I had game points to go to a tiebreak, but I was unable to break her so I lost the set 7-5. In the second set she gained some confidence and momentum and started playing even better. I was hitting the ball great, but it just wasn’t good enough that day. I lost the second 6-1. She played well so all I can to is train and come back stronger. It was a pretty good first tournament for me and set the tone for what I think is going to be a good year.

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I stuck around for a couple more days to hang out with my housing family. I also played some piano in the hospitality area at the tournament before the night match started. I’ve done it the last couple years and it’s always a blast. I’ve played piano since I was 8 and it’s fun to perform in front of a crowd. Basically I was the background music while everyone ate dinner, and the classical music I play is perfect for that. I managed to get some tips as well!

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On Friday night I got roped into playing an exhibition because one of the night matches was cancelled due to a player sustaining an injury. The tournament director asked me if I would be willing to play some mixed doubles to help them out so they would have two feature matches still. Of course I said yes so I took the court with Katerina Kramperova and a couple of guys from the local community college. I can honestly say it was an exhibition unlike any I’ve ever done before.

Now I’m back in Arizona training and preparing for my next tournament in Surprise, AZ which is a 25k. It starts next Tuesday for me since I am in the main draw, so now I’m getting adjusted to playing outside again. As fun as Midland was, it is very nice to be back in the sunshine again.