Back to China

After Tashkent I had a week off before my next tournament in Tianjin, China so I went to visit a friend in a city in southern China called Dongguan. My athletic trainer from my freshman year at ASU happens to be the strength and conditioning coach for a pro basketball team in that city. He still likes tennis a lot and he knew the owner of a tennis club right by his work so he arranged my training there. I was excited to see him [Shaun], since I haven’t seen him in years and I was curious to see where he’s been living and working.

It was nice to have the opportunity to work on my game for a week. However it wasn’t easy getting to China from Tashkent, since there were no flights. We ended up taking a redeye from Tashkent Friday night to get into Beijing Saturday morning. Unfortunately we had an eight hour layover which was brutal because we were exhausted. We slept for a few hours on top of our bags because we couldn’t check them in until three hours before. Just another typical travel day.

Once I made it to Dongguan, I was able to have two practices and a gym workout every day so I felt good going into the tournament. Joel and I became friends with the owner of the club as well so now I have a place to train when I’m in Asia, which is good to have. Dongguan didn’t really feel like China since it was very modern with new construction going up everywhere. It was fun checking out the city and enjoying some yummy street food.
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On Wednesday, we took a quick flight over to Tianjin which is in northern China. When I arrived in Tianjin I was three spots out of qualifying, but I thought I was going to get in. As sign in was about to close, my fate hung in the air depending on if Madison Keys was taking a wild card into Tianjin. If she took it, I was first out of qualifying, but if she didn’t I was in the draw. Lucky for me she didn’t take it so I got into the tournament.

I drew the 11th seed, Akiko Omae from Japan. She’s little but can hit a big ball. I was just happy to be in the tournament and have a chance to play. It was extremely windy that day so I was constantly having to make adjustments. I went up 5-3 in the first, but I wasn’t able to close it out. I lost the first 7-5, but I came back in the second with a vengeance. I didn’t let up and worked on tiring her out. My serve and volley worked to my advantage, especially in the wind. I took the next two sets 6-2, 6-3.

I needed to win one more match to qualify, but it wasn’t an easy one. I faced fellow American Shelby Rogers. She’s had a good year making the quarters of the French. She didn’t sign up for the main draw so she was the highest ranked player in qualifying by far. I fought hard and we traded a few breaks throughout the first set. When she was serving for the set at 5-4 I was up 40-0 in the game and just couldn’t get the break. She got a lucky let cord, and then hit some big serves. She’s a solid player so I lost the set 6-4. In the second a few really bad calls against me gave Shelby an early lead that I couldn’t recover from. I lost the second 6-2, but I felt like I was right there most of the match. There isn’t too much separating my level from the top 100 level, and I think as I play more at this level I will improve at converting the big points. It wasn’t my best tennis, but I’m confident going into my next tournaments here in China.

This week I didn’t get into doubles. Danielle Lao and I signed into doubles, but we ended up being first out. The sign in deadline occurred before my match with Shelby, so after my warmup I went in to check on the list. At the time we were 13 out of 14 teams, but in the last five minutes two teams signed in ahead of us and bumped us out of the draw. I was a little upset about that and it got me down for a bit before my match, but I had to snap out of it and focus on the task at hand. This is going to have to be the final WTA Danielle and I sign in for together because her ranking isn’t high enough. I need to make sure that I can get in when I come to these tournaments. I like playing with her, but she has dropped in doubles and that’s all it is.

I convinced Danielle to stay an extra day to see if anyone would pull out of doubles. I was sticking around regardless until the next tournament. No one pulled out so now Danielle is on her way home. Before she left this morning we went to the player party last night. Lots of good food, company and entertainment. I was happy that we were able to go, but it felt strange doing interviews and taking pictures before being able to enter the party. The fun is over now and it is back to training for the next tournament.
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Originally the plan was to go to Luxembourg to play another WTA and then a 100k in France, but we have had to restructure my schedule. The cuts have been so tough that we can’t afford to go to the tournament and not get in. This trip is expensive as it is so we’re going to stick to staying in China for three more weeks and playing two 50k tournaments and a 25k. Hopefully I will be able to continue building my ranking. When the rankings come out on Monday I will probably be ranked around 350 in singles so breaking my career high once again. If you can help me on this journey, please donate. I really appreciate your support and I really do want to keep playing so anything helps. Thanks!