After China, it was back to training to get ready for a series of 25k events starting in a couple weeks. I stayed in Los Angeles for a few days to play a US Open National playoff in doubles. Danielle Lao and I play well together so we decided it would be a good opportunity for us to try to make it into a grand slam.
I was happy to find out that the draw was small for the doubles. Danielle and I only needed to win two matches to qualify us for the national playoffs in New Haven held in August. First up we played Jessica Anzo and Michalle Okhremchuk. We didn’t know our opponents, but we just played our game and won 6-1, 6-3. The following day we played two young juniors named Annette Goulak and Emma Higuchi. They played pretty well together, but we were able to get the better of them since we had more experience. Also Higuchi was very short so it was easy to hit kick serves well above her strike zone. We won 6-2, 6-4.
Sumter, SC June 14-19th
As soon as I was done with the tournament, it was time to drive back to Arizona for a couple days to train. Those couple days went quickly as I prepared to leave for three weeks. First up I had a tournament in Sumter, SC starting on the 14th. I was playing pretty well so I was looking forward to my first rounds. I was also staying with a great housing family, which makes things even better.
On Tuesday the 14th, I started off playing doubles with Danielle Lao. Our first opponents were Meible Chi and Sofia Sewing from the US. They’re both young juniors who tried to hit everything as hard as they could. They had moments of brilliance but they also hit multiple shots into the fence. We stayed ahead throughout the first set and I was even serving for the set at 5-4, but then the match was interrupted at deuce due to lightening. We were forced to sit around for hours until the weather cleared up. When we finally went out to play, I ended up losing the next point and the game because it was no-ad. We bounced back and won the set 7-5. The second set went more smoothly, and we took the opportunities given to us giving us the 6-4 win.
That week Danielle and I were in housing together and our family came out to watch, including two of the daughters who made adorable signs for us. Good housing families make all of the difference when you’re on the road all year.
The following day I had singles against the 6th seed from Japan, Ayaka Okuno. I came out hot jumping to a 4-0 lead. I felt like I couldn’t miss in the first set. I was able to come into the net a decent amount and mixed in a lot of serve and volley. I ended up winning the first set 6-1, so I felt good going into the second. Okuno started playing better in the second and found her stride a bit. I also made a few more errors, so I fell behind to 4-2. There were a couple of close games to get it to 4-4, and then I began to see her falter. I was able to break her serve to give myself the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4. After hitting a couple big serves and getting a few loose errors from Okuno, I won the set 6-4 and secured my place in the second round.
The next day I played Francesca Di Lorenzo, another American. I didn’t really know who she was besides the fact that she had just finished her first year at Ohio State. She’s a lefty so I knew she would be tricky. I went into the match playing my game style and trying to feel out her likes and dislikes. I started off up 3-2 with chances to break to go up 4-2, but I wasn’t able to convert. She played with a lot of spin, but she hit a lot of balls short. I seemed to be a little off since it felt like every time I took a swing I would miss by less than an inch. I set up the points well, but I just couldn’t finish it. I hung in there as best as I could but I ended up losing 7-5, 6-4. I was very disappointed since I blew a lot of chances, but I still had doubles to look forward to later in the day.
Danielle and I played Arina Rodionova from Australia and Riko Sawayanagi from Japan. We knew they were going to be a tough team since Rodionova was ranked in the top 100 and Sawayanagi was also very highly ranked. Right from the start we could feel the pressure they were applying on us. They moved a lot at the net and really went for their shots. We lost a lot of deuce games unfortunately and therefore lost the first 6-4. In the second set they took it to another gear and didn’t make any errors whereas we missed a ton of returns and shots early in the point. We lost the second 6-0 pretty quickly.
Baton Rouge, LA June 21-26th
Next up was the hot and humid Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Last year when I played this tournament I met the head coach for Portland State when he was visiting his parents in Baton Rouge, so this year I stayed with his parents during the tournament. I really lucked out since his parents love to cook and they made me a lot of gourmet meals. I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with them for the week. Now for the tennis…
I was feeling good leading up to my matches. Since there weren’t very many practice courts, I got up early every day in order to hit before matches would start. This way I would have a full court to work on my game. My tournament started with doubles on Tuesday. Danielle and I warmed up before the match, but things felt off chemistry wise and it showed in the match. We were facing Maegan Manasse and former number one, Liezel Huber. I don’t think it was possible to play any worse as a team. Huber was still extremely tough to play against since she seemed to know where the ball was going before we even knew where we were hitting it. We lost the first set 6-3, but things started looking up in the second since we went up 4-1. After a few missed opportunities and deuce points lost, things slipped away and we ended up losing the second 7-5. After the match I went out and did a little practice session to get out a few kinks and prepare for my singles the following day.
I played Olivia Rogowska from Australia the next day. I knew it was going to be a tough match since she had been playing well recently. I jumped to an early lead of 4-1 since I kept the ball deep and she made some early errors. That lead didn’t last since I wasn’t serving as well as I hoped. I missed some put away volleys and lost the set 7-5. Rogowska went on a roll in the second and minimized her errors. She jumped to an early 3-0 lead before I started making my way into the match. However, it ended up being too late and I lost the second 6-4. I was not happy with how I played that week, but I still had one more tournament scheduled before having a week off to train in Arizona.
El Paso, TX June 28-July 3rd
I got to El Paso the day before qualifying started so that I could get used to the altitude and quick conditions. I was in main draw so I knew I wouldn’t be starting until Tuesday or Wednesday. I was serving well and felt good going into the tournament.
First round I had Priscilla Hon from Australia. I didn’t know too much about her, but I knew she would hit everything pretty hard and flat. We were set to play third after 10 on Tuesday. The matches before me were both extremely long and coupled with some rain delays I didn’t get on court until 6 pm. I lost the first set 6-2 since the umpire kept on overruling my aces on the far sideline, which was unfortunate. I really dislike the umpire that I had that day, since I see him make mistakes over and over again. In the second I had some chances but I was unable to convert. At 4-3 they ended up suspending the match due to darkness, since the facility didn’t have good lights. The following morning I came back to finish my match, but I was unable to pull it out. I lost 6-4 although I did have a couple chances to get it to 5-5. It was not a good result, and I didn’t feel like I was playing well.
Later that day I had doubles with Gabriela Ce from Brazil. She’s a good lefty doubles player so I was pretty excited to team up with her. Danielle and I weren’t playing well together, so we decided to take a break for a few tournaments and then regroup closer to the US Open playoffs. In our first round we played Chanel Simmonds from South Africa and Renata Zarazua from Mexico. I knew both players well since I had teamed up with each of them in the past. The first set was close all the way through with neither side being able to take a convincing lead. There were a lot of deuce games and the no ad points were split pretty evenly. We ended up taking the first 7-6(4). In the second, they started to play better and made a lot of great lobs over us. Gaby is pretty short, so they were able to pick on her quite a bit. We lost the second 6-3. As for the super tiebreak, we got an early lead and maintained it all the way through to take the breaker 10-5. We were happy to have made it into the next round.
In the quarters we went up against Riko Sawayanagi from Japan and Connie Hsu who is from the USA but plays for Taipei. I played Riko in Sumter a couple weeks prior so I knew it was going to be a tough doubles match. Things did not start well with an early break in the match. We lost the set 6-4 because we couldn’t break them back. In the second set the wind started to pick up as a dust storm rolled in. There was dust and debris flying everywhere. It was tough to control where the ball went, but we played smart and used the wind to our advantage to take the second set 7-6(2). The super breaker was pretty close throughout, but we were up 7-4. We ended up having a match point at 9-8, but we couldn’t finish it off and ended up losing 12-10. I was pretty disappointed since we were right there. Since we lost I was pretty anxious to get back to Arizona to train again.