I know I’ve been a bit slow at posting about my Indian Wells experience, but I’ve been busy training and getting ready for my next round of tournaments. Also it still kind of feels surreal that I actually had the opportunity to play. The sheer joy of finding out I received a wild card is something I will never forget. Playing tournaments like Indian Wells is what people imagine pro tennis is like all of the time, which is true if you are a top player. For those of us who have been grinding through the ITF circuit, that isn’t the case. I spent a lot of time playing the smaller events so I feel like I have a greater appreciation for the opportunities that I get. Recently I have started playing more WTA tournaments since I’ve improved my ranking a lot. Hopefully next year I will be able to get into Indian Wells on my own merit. In the meantime I would like to thank Tommy Haas for giving me the wild card and the chance to compete.
I got to Indian Wells Saturday morning after driving from LA, so I pretty much hopped out of the car and started warming up for practice. I had a good day first day of practice despite being a little bit tired. Sunday my practice wasn’t as good as I hoped since there were 30 mph swirling winds the whole two hours I was hitting. It was beyond frustrating and made me feel like a beginner since you never knew when the wind would suddenly change directions. I didn’t feel good about my game, but my coach reminded me that I had been playing well and that I couldn’t judge my game on a practice in terrible conditions. He was definitely right about that.
That night I went out to an Italian restaurant with my Inphorm clothing rep, Susanne, who was out there to watch and make sure everything was set up nicely in the tent at the tennis courts. Dinner was great, but I was more excited to get a couple of sample outfits from the upcoming summer line. Susanne knows I love dresses so I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to try them on. I instantly knew I would have to debut one of the dresses for my match the following day.
The draws came out and I had a tough first round. I drew 6th seed Natalia Vikhlyantseva from Russia who was currently ranked 78 in the world. She had recently made the semis of the premier event in Russia so I knew she was playing well. I was first on stadium 2 and I was excited but nervous. The stadium was a far walk so I was actually driven to my match which was a new experience. I felt like I was big time. Walking out onto the court I was shocked by how many people were there for the match. I had known some of my friends were in town and were going to come to watch, but I wasn’t prepared for a crowd of 1,000-2,000 people. I was a bit shaky at the beginning, but I started feeling at home as the games progressed and as I won most of my challenges using the challenge system. My opponent was tough and a big hitter. I’m pretty sure she hit harder than anyone I had ever played so I sent some time tracking down balls. Lucky for my the courts were slow so I had a little bit of extra time. I lost the first set 6-4, but I fought back in the second to take it 6-4. It was an amazing feeling to have the whole crowd behind me and cheering for me. It was exhilarating to win big points and have the crowd erupt, and it definitely helped me. In the third I could tell she was starting to get tired since she was taking a lot of time after the long points and beginning to spray balls a little bit more. The match was mine for the taking and after a tight match point she hit a ball into the net and I let out a loud “COME ON!!!” I won 6-4 in the third. I played almost flawless and was glad I could justify my wild card. That was the first time I actually had to go to the center of the court and acknowledge the crowd. Growing up I had always seen the pros on tv and wondered what I would do after winning a big match, but I don’t even remember because I was pretty emotional. This is what I’ve been working for. It’s matches like that which remind me why I’ve given up so much to try to be the best I can be. It’s moments like that when I realize that I’m meant to play tennis and that becoming a doctor will still be there when I finish this career.
I couldn’t wait to celebrate with my coach, sponsors and friends. My reps from Solinco were there watching along with Susanne and one of my best friends from elementary school among other people. My friend from school had never seen me play a match so I was happy she had seen one that big and excited to share the moment with her. As happy as I was with the win, I knew I still had one more match to qualify. Immediately after my win my coach, Joel, ran off to scout my next opponent. I will say I was blown away by all of the messages and support I received after my match. I didn’t even know that many of my friends follow my results. It felt really good.
Next up I had Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain who was ranked around 100 in the world. She’s done well especially on clay and slow surfaces since she gets a lot of balls back and hits heavy. I was feeling confident going into the match but I didn’t feel any more comfortable walking out onto stadium 2 the next day. It was hard for me to believe that all of those people had come to watch me. It was clear the crowd was behind me once again, but it wasn’t my day. Tormo didn’t seem to miss much and I was spraying my shots a little bit too much. I was just a little off, and she was clearly on and playing well. I went through a couple different game styles but ran out of time trying to find something that would work and lost 6-2, 6-0. It was a rough day, but I know I will be back. It isn’t the last time that I will play her and I still have a lot to work on and improve. I’m on the right track though. That result moved me into the top 250 which helps me to get into more WTA tournaments. Indian Wells is an amazing tournament and I feel very fortunate to have played it this year.
The following day it was time to head back to Arizona for a couple of days of rest. I needed it and knew I wouldn’t have a tournament for a couple weeks so I could afford it. On Wednesday I leave for my next tournament in Monterrey, Mexico and I couldn’t be happier to get back onto the road. Training has been good, but I’m excited to try out what I’ve been working on.