I can’t believe it has already been a month since I left for this swing of tournaments. 4 weeks, 3 countries, and now I’m on my way to a 4th country. This trip has already had its highs and lows and I’m still just getting started.
My first tournament was in Monterrey, Mexico which is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains. The tennis courts were nestled into the mountains so it was a beautiful place to play. I felt good going into the tournament after putting in a lot of hard work to improve my game. It was the first of three consecutive WTA tournaments. This one was an international 250k event.
In singles I drew Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil who is a big tall lefty coming back from injury. It was a tough matchup for me and my serve still felt a bit shaky under pressure. Between that and the bit of altitude that made the ball fly, it was not a good day for me and I ended up losing 6-2, 6-1. It was a bit discouraging since I had felt ready to get back out to play. I spent the next few days hitting tons of serves and returns trying to get ready for doubles.
I did enjoy my time there and had some delicious food. Most of the days I ate at a restaurant called Maire where they had fantastic charred octopus and a tuna tartar that was to die for. We were regulars there and they took good care of us. One of the nights we went to the player party where we were greeted with a mariachi band. It was a fun night full of music, dancing and food.
Finally it came time to play doubles with fellow American Jamie Loeb. We drew the first seeds, Nao Hibino and Alicja Rosolska, but we felt confident going into the match. We got off to a good start winning the first set 6-2. In the second we lost a few tough deuce points that cost us the set 6-3. Super breakers are a coin flip and we came out on the wrong side losing 10-6. I felt like I was playing well in the doubles so I felt good about going to Bogota for my next tournament. Also Jamie and I were the only team to even take a set off of the first seeds the whole tournament so we felt pretty good about that. It was unfortunate that we had to face them the first round.
I had never been to South America so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bogota. The only knowledge I had was that the tournament was at 8500 ft and on clay. My first impression from looking out the airplane window was that it was very green, mountainous and that there appeared to be a lot of farms. As peaceful as it looked from the air, the city was anything but. People constantly used their horns and drove like maniacs. I had thought that the driving was bad in China, but Bogota took it to a different level since there appeared to be no rules.
I had a couple days to get used to the clay and altitude, which was good since it was the highest elevation I had ever played at and it had been a year since I played a tournament on clay. I wish I could say that it helped me. The ball flew big time and I didn’t feel comfortable on the court especially since the courts were extremely uneven. It was another WTA event the same size as Monterrey so everyone was tough. In the first round I played Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic. I knew it would be a tough match since she qualified and beat Christina McHale the week before in Monterrey. She grew up on clay so she was more at home than I was. I had my fair share of chances to get ahead, but I couldn’t seem to get my footing and lost 6-3, 6-4.
I ended up having a day off before having doubles on Monday with my partner Jia-Jing Lu from China. We played Veronica Cepede-Royg and Magda Linette who were a solid team. I don’t think Cepede-Royg missed a shot in the whole first set. We played pretty poorly since neither I nor my partner liked the conditions and the score showed it. We lost 6-0, 6-3. It was a terrible tournament for me and felt like a total waste.
I’m not planning on ever going back to Bogota. The only saving grace of the tournament was the exotic fruit which I throughly enjoyed. I got to try some pear guavas, some type of cactus fruit, papaya and mangosteens.
After the doubles finished we immediately were looking into how to get out of Bogota since my next tournament was in China. We ended up leaving that night on a redeye to Los Angeles. My coach, Joel, has a good friend in LA so we decided to break up the trip instead of flying over 30 hours to China straight. The cheapest flight ended up being from Bogota to Houston (5.5 hours) to LA (3.5 hours) getting in at 9 am on Tuesday. I was exhausted but we still got out and practiced after I took a nap. Stopping in LA gave us a chance to do laundry, which most people take for granted. In Bogota it cost $5 a kilo so I was just washing the necessary clothes in the sink. That night it was back onto a plane for our second straight redeye to Beijing. I was so tired that I slept about 8 or 9 hours of the flight.
By the time I got to Beijing it was 5:30 am on Thursday. Totally skipped Wednesday which was weird. Our flight was supposed to go to Zhengzhou, but we had a 15 hour layover in Beijing so instead of hanging out we got our luggage and took the subway to the train station where we caught a bullet train to Zhengzhou. We didn’t make it to the hotel until 3:30 in the afternoon so we just dropped off our stuff and went to the tennis courts to practice. I was happy with my practice since conditions were slow and I felt good to be back at sea level. After practice I had dinner and got some much needed rest in a real bed. The bed felt heavenly after not getting a normal nights rest for two days.
I had one more day of practice before the tournament started. I ended up being the last person to not get into main draw which was unfortunate since it would’ve been nice to be in main draw of a WTA event. This week the tournament was a 125k. First round I drew Stefanie Tan from Singapore. She hit pretty big and had some good angles. I served pretty well and won the first 6-3, but in the second I lost my way a little bit and didn’t execute as well and lost 6-3. In the third I got really upset over a terrible call early on and I used my anger to steamroll through the third 6-1. I was happy to have made it through but I knew I wasn’t playing my best yet.
In the next round I played Hanyu Guo from China. Unfortunately for me it rained all day on Sunday, so they moved matches to the fast indoor courts. I started off slow in the first since I wasn’t serving great. I lost the first 6-4 with one break. In the second I picked things up and began to serve great which helped me take the second 6-3. The third set will forever be ingrained in my mind because the umpire seemed to help my opponent at every opportunity. So many of my aces were taken away from me, and even normal shots on big points. It still angers me thinking about that match. At 5-4 in the third I was serving to stay in the match and I had an ace taken from me early on in the game, but the heart breaker came when I was down match point and served a huge ace which was called out. Then I served a second serve and hit a shot on the baseline where Joel was sitting and that was called out as well. It takes a lot for me to lose it, but I lost it in that match. It’s one thing to lose a match, but it’s even worse to lose it like that. I just need to keep improving so that I’m not in the situations where calls like that make a difference.
At least I still had doubles with long time friend, Julia Glushko, from Israel. She and I became friends years ago when we were both starting out on tour. I hadn’t seen her in a while so I was excited to play doubles with her and catch up.
In the first round we faced the Chinese team of Jing-Jing Lu and Qiu Yu Ye. It was super windy and in the first set we were down 5-4, 40-0 before we came back and won the set 7-5. In the second we lost 7-6, but we bounced back well for the super breaker. We played flawlessly to go up 6-0, but let it get to 7-5 before we were able to close it our 10-5. I was beyond excited to finally win a doubles match since up until that point I was 0 and 6 for the year.
In the next round we played the second seeds Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato from Japan. They made semis of Australian Open together earlier this year so we were prepared for a tough match. Julia and I were playing great together and feeding off of each others energy. We were able to win 7-5, 6-3 to take us into the semifinals. It was also Joel’s birthday that day so making it to the semis was the best birthday present I could give him. We did go to HaiDiLao for dinner to celebrate his birthday with a bunch of friends. It’s a popular Chinese hotpot place that always has an hour wait for the normal person, but fortunately being white has its advantages sometimes so we were able to get a table immediately.
Next we had Monique Adamczak and Chin-Wei Chan who are both doubles players. Julia and I started slow in the first so we lost 6-2 before we even knew what happened. We both stayed positive and became more aggressive and good things began to happen. Both Julia and I each had a game where we were down 40-0 on our serve before coming back to win the game. It was pretty exhilarating, and it kept us in the match. In the end I think it broke them down a bit so we were able to win the second 7-5. In the breaker, we went for our shots and hustled to take it 10-4. It was hard to believe it, but we were into the finals. It was my first WTA final so I was pretty excited.
It’s always nice to make it to Sunday in a tournament. It’s kind of strange to still be at a tournament once everyone else has left to go to the next one, but it does mean that you’re doing something right. We played Chinese team Xinyun Han and Lin Zhu for the title. We were right there in the first set and had chances to go up 5-4 and 6-5, but failing each time. In the end we lost the set 7-5. In the second they were more confident and played even better so we unfortunately went down 6-1. It was a rough day for us with neither of us playing our best. Nevertheless it was a good tournament for us and I was happy with the result and excited to play the next week with Julia.
We flew out that night since the next tournament was starting the following day. We both asked to play Tuesday since we didn’t get in until really late Sunday night.
I was a bit nervous about playing Anning, since it was altitude and clay which didn’t go very well for me in Bogota. Fortunately the clay was better in Anning and the balls were a bit heavier so it was easier to keep the ball in the court. I also went into the tournament with no expectations so I was pleasantly surprised when I actually had a good first practice.
The tournament was pretty much in the middle of nowhere at a resort. It was also combined with a mens tournament, which gave it more of a fun, relaxed feel. It’s always nice to see old friends on tour since most of the time tournaments aren’t combined. Monday night there was a player party at the resort, which pretty much everyone went to for the free food. There were a bunch of acts who performed for us, and unfortunately for me I was pulled into one. I along with 5 other people tried to copy a short Chinese dance that was judged at the end, and we all failed miserably. My team won, but I have no idea how. It was fun to be involved, but I’m definitely better at tennis than dancing.
The following day I had singles against my doubles partner in Bogota, Jia-Jing Lu. I started off great getting an early break in the first and then just kept my nose in front the rest of the match. I served huge and played aggressively to win the match 6-3, 6-4. I was pretty excited since it was the first main draw match I’ve won on clay in a long time. I felt much better on the clay after gaining some confidence from my doubles wins in Zhengzhou.
Later that evening Julia and I had doubles against Xinyun Han and Qiu Yu Ye both of who we played in Zhengzhou. Playing doubles in altitude is something else though since the ball flies when you least expect it to. After having a set point at 5-4, we ended up losing the set 7-6(5). We became more aggressive and fought back to take the second set 6-3. The super breaker was pretty close until the end, and a lot of it came down to luck since I don’t think it was possible for the other team to hit more lines and net cords. We lost the first set and the match point on net cords that barely dribbled over. It was a heart breaker to lose 10-8 in the third. The team went on to win the tournament which is kind of frustrating since we were so close.
I still had singles to focus on so after a long day I got some good rest before taking on Valentini Grammatikopoulou from Greece. She’s little but doesn’t lack firepower. I was taken aback at the beginning and didn’t start playing well until the end of the first set when it was too late. I lost the first 6-4, but was able to gain an early lead in the second to take it 6-2. I felt confident going into the third, but I lost a couple of close games early on in, which ended up costing me the match. She gained confidence and momentum to take the set 6-1.I was playing well so there wasn’t too much to be mad about.
I was upset with the loss mainly because I really wanted to make the French Open qualifying. The tournament moved me up to 243, but realistically I needed to be around 210 in order to make it this year. I needed to at least make semis of the tournament in order to have enough points. It’s just the way it goes sometimes, but I still have four tournaments that will count for Wimbledon qualifying so I need to just focus on the tournaments ahead.
After Anning was over for me it was time for a couple days off. It had been weeks since I had the opportunity to relax so I decided to check out the city. First stop was these really cool carvings and caves from the Ming dynasty. I just wish I knew what they actually said.
It started raining, but I was determined to see this temple that was up on the hill so Joel and I hiked up in the rain. It was pretty and peaceful, plus you could see the town below as a bonus. We were soaking wet by the time we made it back to the hotel, but that’s ok.
Next up Japan!!!