Viva Mexico

I took a few days to regroup and get ready to go to Irapuato, Mexico. The tournament was a $25,000+H (hospitality) so it was a good opportunity to get some points. I had 6 days in Arizona before taking a redeye Tuesday, the 8th of March. It was a long night to say the least so I was pretty exhausted when I finally got to Irapuato. I was going to try to practice that day, but the weather didn’t cooperate so instead I met my housing family for the week. German and Laura brought me into their house with open arms, so I felt right at home. They live on the golf course of the tennis club where I played in the tournament, so I even had the opportunity to play some golf during my down time. When I was getting ready to go to Mexico, one of my biggest worries was the food, but I had nothing to worry about. Laura kept the house stocked with tons of delicious fruit like guava, papaya and mamey (Mexican fruit that’s between a papaya and avocado). In addition, the salsas, tacos and soups were amazing as well. I knew it was going to be a good week right from the start.

I was able to get two days of practice before the tournament started. It ended up being a good thing I got there early since the conditions were much different from Arizona. The city was at 6,000 ft and they used balls that were in a box. The balls reminded me of kids’ pressureless balls since you were forced to hit everything as hard as you could, but the balls would still barely go past the service line. They were tough to play with so I was a bit nervous as to how I would do.

Qualifying started on Saturday, but I got a bye the first round so I didn’t play until Sunday. I played Rebecca Sramkova from Slovakia. She is around 300 in the world and is a solid player who has been doing well recently. She started off really well, and I was nearly broken a couple times in the first set but I held on. As soon as I got a break of serve, I ran away with the set 6-4. I played well and hit a lot of big serves and forced her to go for too much. It was also hot, so by the second set she was tired, which allowed me to run away with the second set 6-2. This qualified me into the main draw, which started Tuesday.

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Since I wasn’t playing the next day, German and Laura took us to see the state capital, Guanajuato. It’s an old mining city, which is about 500 or 600 years old. All the roads are underground and the city is built into the side of a mountain. It had a European feel to it since the streets were very narrow and the buildings had beautiful designs. We walked around the city and listened to some mariachi bands who were walking up and down the streets. Eventually we had dinner and enjoyed the atmosphere of the city. I’m happy I had the opportunity to see something besides the tennis courts!

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First round I had Lyudmyla Kichenok from the Ukraine. She’s a high quality player who beat Flavia Pennetta after the U.S. Open last year, and is top 100 in doubles with her twin sister. I started a little bit slow, and wasn’t able to take advantage of opportunities to get ahead. She hits everything as hard as she can into corners and has a big serve as well. I lost the first set 7-5. In the second, I got off to an early lead and was able to maintain it once I broke her serve. I started to find my rhythm and matched her shots. I began to take control of the points before she was able to. I ended up winning the next two sets 6-4, 6-3.

The next day I didn’t have singles, but I did have a doubles match. This week I played with Robin Anderson who is an American that played for UCLA. This was our first time playing together, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our opponents were Mayo Hibi and Amandine Hesse from Japan and France respectively. They’re both good players, but we were able to exploit Hibi’s one-handed backhand. Robin and I played flawlessly, and our games complemented each other well. We won 6-1, 6-1.

On Thursday I had singles against Lesley Kerkhove from the Netherlands. She was the number 8 seed in the tournament and ranked around 200 in the world. I got off to a very bad start, going down 4-0. I was up in a couple of the games and had multiple game points, but couldn’t convert. It was very frustrating, so at 4-0 I let out my frustration into some serves and hit them as hard as I could for aces. It worked and I got onto the board. I started to get my confidence and rolled off a couple more games to get it to 4-3. I ended up losing the set 6-4, but I felt much better going into the second set. I started off going up 4-1, but then I lost a few close games and it was even again. She was a tough player and didn’t give me many unforced errors. In the end I went for too much and ended up losing 7-5. I was upset, but I still had doubles to focus on.

It ended up raining off and on, so doubles was postponed to later in the afternoon. Once the courts were dry, Robin and I took to the court to play against the Mexican team of Victoria Rodriguez and Ana Sofia Sanchez. Sanchez beat the first seed earlier in the day, so she was playing well. Robin and I started off well and won the first set 6-3. As it got dark, it became more difficult to see and both Robin and I struggled. We lost some tough deuce games in the second, and couldn’t catch a break. We lost the second 6-0. The third set was a super tiebreak. We made too many errors and lost 10-7.

This meant my tournament in Mexico was over. I was very sad to leave, but I know I have lifelong friends and supporters in Irapuato now. I know I will be back again someday. The next day I flew back to Arizona to start my training on clay before the clay court season.