First Title of the Year!

After a rough week in Midland, I was excited to get back to Arizona to train. I was able to get some good practices both on and off the court in order to prepare for the tournament in Surprise, AZ. My off court training consisted of a lot of plyometrics, yoga and cardio. The tournament in Surprise was a $25,000 challenger. Since I was in qualifying, my tournament was going to start on Valentine’s Day. When I went to sign in for qualifying on Saturday, I was the first person out of main draw so I was hoping that one person would pull out so I wouldn’t have to play the three matches in order to qualify. Unfortunately, there weren’t any withdrawals so I had to prepare to play the next day.

I was lucky to have a bye the first round since the draw didn’t fill up all the way. On Monday I played my first qualifying match where I played a young Canadian named Isabelle Boulais. It was extremely windy that day, but I powered through it and won 6-2, 6-3.

The next day was the final round of qualifying where I played another Canadian named Katherine Sebov. Since the ball flies a lot in Arizona due to a little bit of altitude, I serve and volleyed a fair amount. My opponent didn’t seem to know what to do so after having a few close games in the beginning, she seemed to fall apart. I won 6-1, 6-0. With that win, I secured my spot in main draw on Wednesday.
Wednesday was a tough day for me. I was to play Carol Zhao, who is another Canadian. She has been playing for Stanford the last few years so I knew it was going to be a good match. Everything started off pretty well. I had a good warm up before my match, and felt good going into the match. Once the match started, I felt a little bit off. I couldn’t seem to find my first serve or my overhead. Normally I get a lot of free points off of my serve, but that day I didn’t have that luxury. I ended up using my kick serve a lot, which luckily worked since Zhao is short. I lost a close first set 7-6(4). The second set remained close all the way through and went to another tiebreak. The tiebreak remained close with both of us coming up with great shots. She ended up having a match point at 6-5, but I fought it off by executing a perfect kick serve and volley and sticking a backhand volley up the line. I ended up taking the set 7-6(7). In the third, Zhao got up to an early 3-0 lead, but I fought to get it back to 3-3 before going down 5-3. After fighting off a few more match points, it went into yet another tiebreak where I lost in a heartbreaking 7-6(4). The match was nearly 4 hours, so I was pretty upset to have worked so hard and lost.

However, I had to bounce back pretty quickly since my doubles partner was counting on me to play later in the day. My partner was Danielle Lao, who I have played and done well with previously. She’s a short Asian who played for USC, and we have great chemistry so we are generally a tough team to beat. We played the local wild card, Morgan and Megan McCray. We focused in and beat them 6-2, 6-1.

Since I was out of singles, I would train for 1.5 hours in the mornings before I would play my doubles matches in order to prepare for the next week. Next up we had Chiara Scholl and Galina Voskoboeva. They started off on fire and took an early lead. Danielle and I settled in after a few games and worked our way into the match. It showed that we play together quite a bit, since we covered the court well. We won 7-5, 6-1.
Next it was onto the semis where we played Sophie Chang and Basak Eraydin. Danielle’s wrist was hurting by this point, and it actually caused her to retire from her singles match earlier that day. She was a trooper and didn’t want to let me down, so after she was cleared by the doctor we played our match. She was hurting a bit so the match became tougher than it needed to be. I tried to get as many balls as I could so she wouldn’t have to hit as much, but it was tough. We ended up winning 6-4, 7-6(5). We were onto the finals, which were on Sunday. We had a day off to train before going for the title.

On Sunday, we played two former college players from the University of Michigan, Emina Bektas and Sarah Lee. They proved to be a tough team since they played together in college. We started off well, playing aggressively and taking the first set 6-2. In the second, we fell behind after losing a couple of deuce points so they took the set 6-4. Instead of a third set, we played a super tiebreak to decide the match. We stayed ahead the whole tiebreak and ended up taking it 10-8 to win the title. Danielle and I were excited since that was our first title together. I’m sure there will be many more to come.

After we took pictures and accepted our trophies and checks, we had dinner before starting our 5 hour drive to San Diego for the next tournament. We were sad to leave all of the amazing people who supported us throughout the tournament, and made it a good week for us.