Adventures in the South

After my trip to Mexico, I had a couple weeks to train in Arizona. Since my next few tournaments were going to be on clay, I moved my training over to clay courts. Every morning I would run a few miles and run some hills before starting my practices. I would hit and then work out at the gym before going home to relax. As the tournament got closer, I felt like I was playing well on clay which is my worst surface. I don’t play on clay very often, so I’m not as confident with my footing on it.

My next tournament was a $25,000 in Jackson, Mississippi. The last couple days before flying out were very stressful, since a decision was made that I am going to China in May to play tournaments. On my final day in Arizona, I had to run around the area to submit my application for a visa. After everything was in place, I had my final practice before packing and taking an early morning flight to New Orleans on Thursday, March 30th. Jackson doesn’t have a very big airport so we flew into New Orleans and then drove to Jackson. The weather was stormy on Thursday, so I didn’t get to practice until Friday. The weather was a bit cool but I ended up having three days of practice before the tournament started for me. It was nice to spend some time with Kendall and Danelle Garraway, who were housing myself and another player during the tournament. I’ve stayed with them in previous years, so it is always a treat to come back. They’re huge supporters and come out to all of my matches, which is nice.

I was in qualifying, but once again I was seeded so I had a bye in the first round. This meant that I needed to only win two matches to qualify, and I didn’t have a match until Monday. Saturday evening was Jackson’s Sweet Potato Queens parade, so I went with Caitlin Whoriskey (the player staying at the same house) to check it out. The families’ son was in the parade, so we went to try to spot him. We had a contest to see who could collect the most beads, since people threw beads into the crowd instead of candy. It was a fun evening!

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In my first round on Monday, I played Christina Rosca who has committed to playing for Vanderbilt. She started off well and was hitting deep heavy shots. I was a little bit off, and was missing more than I normally would. Usually that first match is the hardest after not playing for a few weeks. I lost the first set 6-4. In the second, things started to click and I began to wear her down physically. I ran her side to side and she began to make some errors. I took the second set 6-2, and then ran away with the third 6-1. My fitness proved to be very helpful because by the end she didn’t even bother to try to run balls down anymore. After my match, it was time to get back on the court to work on a few things for my match the next day.

Next up was Lauren Herring who is a former college player from the University of Georgia. I grew up playing against her in the juniors and in college, so I knew she was a good player. She was a top 10 college player I believe. I showed up sharp and immediately started wearing her down. I made sure she had to hit multiple winners to even win a point. I served well and played aggressively most of the match, and was able to take her out 6-1, 6-1 to qualify into the main draw.

I had some lunch, and then waiting for about four hours for my doubles to start. This week I was back to playing with Danielle Lao. She and I have already won a title this year, so I was excited to see how we would do. Originally we were supposed to play Alexandra Stevenson and Charlotte Petrick, but they pulled out due to injury. We ended up playing a lucky loser, which is a team who lost in the last round of qualifying. We played Americans Stephanie Luk and Akika Okuda. Danielle and I went out there and took care of business winning 6-2, 6-1.

The following day I had singles against Elizaveta Ianchuk from the Ukraine. This was going to be the third time I faced her in this very tournament. She’s a player I’ve beaten before, but I’ve also lost to her. She recently made finals of another tournament of equal size, so I knew she was playing well. The whole first set we went toe to toe and I had chances to get to early leads, but I wasn’t able to capitalize on them. It was very windy during our match and I was already struggling with my footing. I lost the first set 7-5, and then she began to play even better. She hit everything as hard as she could and it all seemed to hit the line. I couldn’t get my foot in the door and was making too many errors, so I lost the second set 6-0. It was not a good day for me, and one of the worst matches I’ve played in a while. It was time to focus on doubles.

On Thursday it was the quarterfinals of doubles, and Danielle and I faced Marie Benoit and Melanie Stokke from Belgium and Norway respectively. We didn’t know much about them going into the match, but they’re both good singles players. Danielle and I came out on fire and went up 4-0 to start. It felt like we couldn’t miss. We won the first set 6-2 and then went up 2-0 in the second. They began to play better and made a few more shots. We ended up having to beat them to the net since they were getting too much of a rhythm from the baseline. The second set remained close, but we prevailed and won the set 7-5. It showed that Danielle and I have played together since we won the key points at the end. We were happy to be advancing to the semifinals.

The semis was played first thing in the morning at 10 am. Our opponents were Americans Lauren Herring and Yuki Chiang. At the beginning we played ok, but we were a little bit off that day. We were both missing shots that we would normally make. I wasn’t serving very well and I threw in more double faults than I usually would. It was a frustrating day since we couldn’t seem to get into the match. We ended up losing 6-3, 6-2. I was disappointed so we ended up leaving that afternoon to go to Fort Walton Beach, FL.

I have friends in Fort Walton, and access to clay courts to practice on since I decided to not play the next tournament in the series. I needed some time to work on my game and make some more adjustments. Since Saturday, I have been here playing tennis and working out to get ready for my next tournament in Dothan, Alabama on Sunday. I’m improving and I feel like I will play better in Dothan. It has been nice to enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches as well. Tomorrow, Friday, we will head to Dothan to practice there and then sign into the tournament on Sunday. I’m looking forward to competing again.