I’m happy to say that I have finished out the 2017 season. My last three tournaments were a bit rough since my body was slowly starting to fall apart due to all of the tennis I was playing. Here’s my recap of my finish to the year.
Since I was training 45 minutes away from the tournament site the week prior, it was easy to get over to the site early to practice and get used to the courts. I was feeling much better after a couple days off and was hitting well. I felt good going into the tournament since it was a bit toasty, just the way I like it. In addition the city was nice and the tennis club was awesome which helped. There were lots of places to eat and the tennis club even had its own amusement park which was pretty cool.
My doubles partner, Nina Stojanovic, and I started off the tournament with a win in doubles against a Chinese team. I felt off so the match wasn’t pretty but a win was a win. The following day I had singles against YiFan Xu who is ranked in the top 20 in doubles. I kept her running and mixed up my shots to beat her 6-1, 7-5.
The following day I faced Shuko Aoyama from Japan who is another player in the top 30 in doubles. She hits two hands off of both sides and takes balls extremely early which is tough. I felt just a little slow and off with my movement at times and it cost me the match. I had a really tough time putting balls away so I lost 6-3, 6-2.
I still had doubles an hour and a half later, but I came out with a vengeance. Nina and I faced Ankita Raina and Anastasia Gasanova and we both played great. I was hitting huge serves and poaching well. I really didn’t want to lose in both singles and doubles in the same day. We never gave our opponents an opening into the match since Nina and I were both holding our serves pretty comfortably. We won 6-2, 7-5.
We were into the semis and were facing a tough, young Chinese team who plays together a lot. Xinyu Jiang and Qianhui Tang. They are both in the top 100 so we knew we would have to play solid. There were no breaks of serve in the first set so it came down to the wire in the tiebreak, which we won 7-5 bringing out our best. We ran with the momentum that we had gained after the first set and didn’t look back. We continued to play better as the match went on to win the second 6-2. We were both excited to be moving into the finals. That made it three doubles finals in a row for me which was huge! It was exciting to be in the finals, but it did complicate getting to the next tournament. The doubles final in China was on Saturday and my next tournament in Taipei was starting on Sunday, so we were going to have to fly out after the doubles final. Unfortunately there weren’t many flights going from Shenzhen so we were going to have to fly out on the last flight out of Hong Kong on Saturday night, which was a two hour drive from the tennis courts. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.
The day of the finals, we were following the two semi final singles matches which of course went long so we sat around the club most of the day. Our opponents were Shuko Aoyama and Zhaoxuan Yang who have been playing together all year. They are both ranked in the top 30 so we definitely needed to bring our “A” game, and we did. We were both serving bombs and moving a lot at the net. We did a great job fixing up our heights and attacking them before they could. Aoyama poaches a lot, but we were reading her moves pretty well once we settled in. We stayed on serve until we got the break to go up 4-3 and then served out the set 6-4. In the second set we got an early break to go up 2-1 and ran away with it. We won the set 6-2. It was some of the best doubles I have played and I was excited to be walking away with my biggest doubles title. Nina and I were undefeated in the two times we played together. I was really sad that we weren’t going to be teaming up in Taipei, but I know we will play again in the future.
We took our pictures and ended up having an hour before our car was scheduled to take us to the airport. By 5:30 we were on our way. We got to the airport in plenty of time so we even managed to get on an earlier flight at 9 pm to Taipei. Unfortunately it was delayed and didn’t leave until 10, but that’s ok. I was happy that it was only an hour and half direct flight and that the plane was pretty much empty so that I could sleep. Even though it was a short flight, we still didn’t get to the hotel until 1 am because we had to go through customs, get our bags and take an hour drive to the hotel.
Fortunately I got to sleep in a little bit before having to head to the courts to get ready for my first round match. I ended up being the last one to not get into main draw so that really sucked since it meant I had to play qualifying. The tournament was on indoor carpet which is a surface I don’t play on very often. The courts were very fast so it was tough to figure out the timing. I warmed up and soon went out for my match against Hiroko Kuwata from Japan. I started off a bit shaky as I tried to get my bearings in the new conditions. I lost the first set 6-3. Fortunately I began to serve better and was able to get an early lead in the second which held me through as I began to find my game. I ended up winning the next two sets 6-2, 6-3. I was happy to have made it through my first round though.
The following day I played Australian, Priscilla Hon. I think the travel hit me more the second day since I had enough adrenaline the first day to compensate for lack of sleep. I was feeling a bit slow on those fast indoor courts. I still played pretty well, but I wasn’t able to capitalize on my opportunities so I lost 6-4, 6-4.
That night they had the player party, which was actually really cool since they had a yoyo expert perform. I have never seen anything like it. He was able to even light a match with the yoyo which was very impressive. They also had drawings for prizes and even gave out a new iPhone 8 for best dressed. I tried my best to win, but unfortunately I wasn’t chosen. Overall, it was a pretty good night to help me forget about my loss.
The next day I still had doubles with Lin Zhu from China. As fate would have it we were up against my previous weeks partner, Nina and Arina Rodionova. My partner had a tough singles match earlier in the day, but we tried to bounce back in the doubles. We started off playing pretty well and had our chances, but the deuce points were not our friend. We lost 6-4, 6-2.
I was sad we lost, but it meant that we were leaving the next day to go to the US. It also meant that I would be able to take a couple days off before starting to practice for my final tournament of the year.
It never ceases to amuse me when I travel back in time. We left Taipei at 3 pm on Wednesday and landed in Honolulu at 9:30 am on Wednesday. It is pretty awesome gaining a day, but it wasn’t much of a gain when all I wanted to do was sleep the whole day. I had to force myself to stay awake. Still I was ready to kiss the ground when I made it to the US. It had been 2.5 months since I had been in the states and I was ready to be back.
I took a couple days off of tennis to enjoy Honolulu and adjust to the time zone. The first few nights were rough since I would wake up at 2 am wide awake, but I slowly got used to it as the tournament approached.
When Friday came, we moved into the tournament hotel which was an amazing Four Seasons on the beach. It was gorgeous with lots to do, but as usual I didn’t have much time to enjoy it. When I wasn’t at the courts practicing I was happy to just be relaxing in the room.
The tournament started out with doubles where my doubles partner and I were in a featured night match. My partner for the week was Eva Hrdinova who is making a comeback after having a baby. Before she stopped playing she was in the top 100 of doubles so she was a solid player. We were facing the Hsieh sisters. One of them is currently in the top 50 in doubles so we knew it was going to be a good match. We lost the first set 6-4 after losing a few close games, but we bounced back to win the second 7-6 since we began to find the winning strategy. In the third we got off to a bad start and weren’t able to recover so we lost 10-4. It was just a weird match for many reasons. They both hit with two hands from both sides and hit a lot of their volleys with huge swings which made it difficult to adjust. In addition it kept on sprinkling so our match was interrupted a ton which made it tough to stay loose because it was a bit chilly. It was just enough to make the court slippery but it never lasted long. At one point all of the lights went out as well which caused the match to be stopped for about 20 minutes while we waited for them to fix the problem. We had to roll with it as best as we could, but it was far from being ideal conditions. The loss stung, but I had played pretty well and done all that I could. At least I still had singles to focus on.
The following day I had singles against Katherine Sebov, who is a young up and coming Canadian. I started off playing a very aggressive game style and mixing in a bunch of serve and volley as well which won me the first set 6-1. In the second set I all of a sudden began to miss a ton and was struggling to find the court so it slipped away 6-2. It wasn’t easy to play well because the was a ton of wind to adjust to. On one side it was almost impossible to hit long and the other you would barely touch the ball and it would sail. I started off rough in the third but I started finding the court as the wind slowed down a bit. I was feeling it in the third set. My body and mind were exhausted, but somehow I pulled through to win 7-5. I think a big part of it was that I had a good support team who came out to watch me play, between Joel, friends from Maui, Seattle and Honolulu. It always helps to be surrounded by people who care about you especially after being in Asia for so long.
The next day when I woke up I knew it was going to be a tough day. I wasn’t sore or anything, but just felt tired despite sleeping 10 hours. I faced Vitalia Diatchenko who has been doing very well recently. She plays with two hands off of both sides and hits everything as hard and flat as she can. It was another windy day so at times it was tough to keep up with her balls. I tried to keep mixing my shots, but I didn’t have the legs beneath me to chase down balls as well as I normally do. The end of the season is tough, but I put in my best effort. I lost 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. I thought I was going to get it after winning the second set, but I cooled off after my opponent took a really long medical timeout after the set. It was a tough way to finish the season, but I definitely needed the season to be over. I had nothing more to give.
By not winning that match I might not make Australian Open qualifying, but it is something that I have come to terms with since it isn’t worth it to go chasing points at this point. I have improved a lot, but I need to give my body and mind the time to heal and rebuild. I truly hope that I make it into Australia, but if not I’m confident that I will keep moving up in the rankings in the New Year.
Now it is time to get back to some R&R.
Also want to give a special thanks to the Kutach family for donating and supporting me during my journey. They kindly took me into their home when I played a tournament in their city a couple years ago.