Jacqueline CAKO

Maui to Midland

These last couple weeks have been pretty interesting filled with ups and downs. They have been a good example of how tough the pro tour can be in regards to stress. When I left off with my last blog, I was training in Maui before the tournament, and I was feeling good. My singles game was feeling strong and I was confident in my doubles as well with my best friend, Danielle Lao, at my side. My coach and I were lucky enough to be staying with an awesome kite surfer named Tom. Tom lived about 45-50 minutes from the site, but it was worth it since we were able to see the residential Maui.

My first match wasn’t until Wednesday, so I was fortunate enough to have some time to see a few sights such as a gorgeous waterfall and a huge volcanic crater. Going up to the crater at 10,000 ft. ended up being part of my training. My coach and I hiked about a mile into the crater and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, but that was the easy part. I ran 10 sprints to get out of the crater, which is really tough at that elevation. I legitimately thought I was going to pass out due to lack of oxygen, but it was great fitness.

By the time Wednesday rolled around, we had a great routine going and I was used to the conditions. I was eating quinoa salad every day for lunch to give me the cleanest energy in order to feel my best for the tournament. First up I had the 7th seed, Ysaline Bonaventure who was ranked 165. I had a good warm up and came out swinging the first two games. That ended up being all that I had to play because my opponent hit a ball into the back fence at the end of the second game and hit an official. The rules state that if an official gets hit when a point is over that it is an automatic disqualification regardless of whether it was intentional or not. I was through to the next round. A couple hours later, Danielle and I took the court for doubles. We played two Asian girls who gave us a good fight in the first set, but after we won the first set 7-5, we ran away with the second 6-1.

The next day I played a top Russian junior named Evgeniya Levashova. I had the same chair umpire as my singles the day before and because of what had happened in my previous match, she made a speech about how we need to be careful about our actions on court. My opponent didn’t seem to listen too closely because towards the end of the first set, she tried to throw her racquet into the net out of frustration. The racquet cleared the net and came about a foot from hitting me. If she had hit me, she would’ve been disqualified immediately as well. Apparently people don’t like the fact that I serve and volley a bit. I ended up winning 6-4, 6-2. Later I had doubles against Mayo Hibi and Ching-Wen Hsu, who beat the 4th seed the day before. We started off a bit rocky and were down 4-2, 40-0 and ended up winning the first 6-4. They played tough and won the second 7-5, but then we claimed the tiebreak 10-7. This put us into the semifinals of doubles.

Friday afternoon I had the quarterfinals of singles and Danielle and I were scheduled as the feature match at 5:30. In singles I faced the 3rd seed, Naomi Broady, who is ranked 111. She recently beat Ana Ivonovic, and has been playing well. She’s 6’3” and has a huge serve. I started off well and broke her first service game since she was a bit sloppy. I served well myself and didn’t give her any rhythm since I was serving and volleying. I held serve the rest of the time and took the set 6-3. The second set went her way since I had one bad service game where Broady broke me and then she served lights out the rest of the set to take it 6-3. Things got interesting in the third since we traded breaks at the beginning. I started to time her serve a bit better and went up 3-2 in the third. Then I had a few tough games where I missed a couple key volleys combined with her stepping up and making some tough shots. I ended up losing the third 6-3. I played well, but I still have things I need to work on so that I can maintain my leads better.

I had a few hours before I was to take the court for doubles against the 1st seeds, Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez. I was able to eat lunch and get a nap in at the player’s lounge. I warmed up Danielle before doubles and at 5:30 we were ready to go. We lost the first 6-4, but we bounced back and played well in the second to take it 6-4. There were a lot of good volley points since we were all trying to get up to the net. We ended up losing the breaker 10-6.

I didn’t even have time to sulk about the loss. I had to quickly get my prize money, and we drove back to the house to pack up our stuff since we were leaving immediately. We bought a flight for 11:15pm as we were driving. Tom was kind enough to make us a delicious dinner before we left. His neighbor had caught a tuna the day before so we got to enjoy some fresh sashimi along with seared tuna. We were all sad that we had to leave so quickly, but I had to get to Michigan as soon as possible so that I could play qualifying on Sunday in Midland. It is a 100k tournament whereas the tournament in Maui was a 50k. It was definitely worth it to hurry over since we had a redeye to Seattle, so we arrived there Saturday morning. An hour later, we were on a flight to Detroit that got in at 4 pm. A friend of ours was waiting for us to drive us the two hours to Midland. We got there around 6:30 and practiced from 7-8:30 before meeting up with our housing. I ate dinner and went to bed around 10, but it was tough to go to sleep since it was only 5 pm Hawaii time.

Luckily I was able to get a later match time so I could sleep in a little bit, but I still woke up groggy. I was able to have an hour warm up in before I played Sharon Fichman who was the 6th seed in the qualifying. I started off very slow, going down 4-1. I wasn’t moving well, and was struggling to get my legs going. I ended up losing the first 6-4. Towards the end of the first I started to get my game going by being loud and trying to pump myself up. I played tough and won the second set 6-3, and then went up in the third. I wasn’t able to keep it going to close it out and lost 7-5. It was an upsetting loss, but I did the best I could for the circumstances I was given.

The next few days I trained to get ready for doubles with Sachia Vickery. She and I had made finals in doubles at the tournament the year before so I was excited to have the chance for redemption. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to step onto the court for doubles. Sachia hadn’t told me that her achilles had been bothering her prior to the tournament. On Wednesday she had singles in the morning, and then we were scheduled for doubles in the afternoon. She retired from her singles match in the second set and then pulled out of doubles as well. I was disappointed, since that meant I was done with the tournament. It was not a good week for me. I ended up staying a couple more days to help out the tournament with some outreach programs where pros visit schools to talk to the kids about pro tennis, following their dreams, and going to college. No one was volunteering to go to the schools and they were desperate so I covered 5 different schools. Also in the evening, I played piano a couple nights at the dinners they have prior to the night matches, which was a lot of fun. Now I’m back to training in order to get ready for my next tournament starting in a week in Surprise, AZ. Hopefully that will be a better week for me.