After finishing the 2018 season on a high note I went to Slovakia to spend the holidays with my entire family. Since my ankle had been bothering me in India, I gave it a little break before stepping back out on the court after Christmas.
I had already planned to go to Hong Kong and start the year there so I didn’t have much of a break. Looking back on it, I rushed back into playing the tournaments in Hong Kong. I felt like I finally had some momentum after Houston and India and I wanted to ride the wave, but it didn’t work out the way that I thought it would.
Jan 1-12 25k Hong Kong
I arrived in Hong Kong the day before singles qualifying started because I had planned my trip thinking that I would be able to get into the main draw. Apparently a lot of players had the same idea so I ended up barely even getting into qualifying. It didn’t help that the ITF implemented a new system which made the draws smaller in addition to taking away 5 spots in the main draw for the ITF reserve players. The ITF reserve spots were for the players who had done well in 15k tournaments. For the most part the ITF reserve players meant an easy first round for a main draw player. The new rules left a sour taste in my mouth since the ITF made it even more difficult to move up in the rankings. All of a sudden players in the 500s couldn’t even get into qualifying of a 25k which was absurd. They also changed the format of qualifying to a super tiebreak in lieu of a third set to make it easier to have all tournaments be seven days. With the depth in the qualifying draw it seemed disrespectful to the players to have the match essentially be determined by a coin flip. Anyone can go on a hot streak and win a breaker and it also took out all physicality from the match. I could write a whole book about the problems with the system, but that isn’t what this blog is about.
So I arrived in Hong Kong and ended up staying across the border in Shenzhen, China for the first two days since the hotels were outrageous over New Years. After I signed in for singles I asked the supervisor to play me later in the day so that I would have time to come from China. Fortunately he did since it took me about an hour and half to get to the courts by subway.
When I got to the courts to warm up I found out that I wasn’t going to get into doubles with my original partner. They also changed the rules to allow players to sign in with their singles ranking resulting in a tougher cut. There was a lot of partner swapping going on which eventually resulted in me signing in with Kyoka Okamura. At least I was able to go on for my singles match knowing I had doubles figured out.
I was pretty jet lagged and it definitely showed in my qualifying match against Gugu Olmos. I was sluggish and my focus wasn’t there as I lost in straight sets. I felt horrible out there. The only upside was that my ankle was at least feeling better after my time off since I had been struggling with some lingering ankle pain at the end of 2018.
That night I had to make a decision as to what tournament I would play after my two tournaments in Hong Kong. I had originally planned to go to Singapore for a couple more tournaments, but I was pretty far down on the alternate list into qualifying due to the new rules. I had also signed in for a tournament Petit-Bourg, Guadaloupe which is a French territory in the Caribbean, but it was on the other side of the world. Originally I signed up with no intention of playing it because it would be crazy to go play it when there were tournaments in Singapore which was closer to Hong Kong. I was worried about not getting into Singapore so I started looking into flight options and although it would take over 24 hours to get there, it was doable. I watched the lists move as the withdrawal deadline approached and I ended up being in the main draw of the tournament in the Caribbean, whereas I was still on the alternate list for Singapore so I chose to go to the Caribbean. I decided it would be better to go to a tournament where I was able to play for points than going to Singapore for the possibility of playing for one point if I qualify into the main draw. I thought I was crazy to attempt to go from Hong Kong to Guadaloupe, but there were two other players who made the same decision. Welcome to the grind.
In doubles the next day we played Danilina and Liang. We took the first and had chances in the second before eventually losing 10-7 in the tiebreak.
I was now faced with having a week before the next tournament. I moved into the city which made things much easier with practice. I was able to go on morning runs through beautiful parks that had all sorts of animals and gardens.
On my day off I had the opportunity to take the ferry to Macau to check out the Las Vegas of Asia. It was so strange seeing all of the Vegas casinos in Asia. Their version of the Wynn had a free tram going around a Bellagio like fountain to take passengers from the street into the hotel. In the casinos they would serve free drinks along with dim sum to the gamblers, which really made me want to take a seat at a table. The most surprising thing about Macau was that it had a lot of Portuguese influence. Most of the signs were written in Portuguese, Cantonese and English. I didn’t know much about Macau before visiting but it was cool seeing all the historical forts and churches, and of course trying some Portuguese egg tarts.
After my little adventure, it was back to practice. It didn’t seem to help much though since I lost in the first round of qualifying to a Japanese girl. She made a lot of balls which was frustrating as I couldn’t find my range. I served poorly so I really buckled down to at least get my serve going for doubles.
In doubles there was a lot of swapping again as everyone tried to figure out who they could get into the tournament with. I ended up signing in with Gugu Olmos. We knew each other from college so we had good chemistry. We didn’t play our best in the first round as we squeaked by 10-6 in the super tiebreak against a couple of Hong Kong girls in the first round. We ended up playing well and making it to the semis before losing to a Japanese team.
Hong Kong wasn’t what I had hoped for in my start to the year, but I tried to remind myself that it was only the beginning. At least I was able to get some Michelin star dumplings before heading to the Caribbean.
Jan 15-20 Petit-Bourg, Guadaloupe
After losing in Hong Kong it was time to start my insane journey. In order to make it cost effective I had to buy two separate tickets. With the first one I left at 5 pm to fly an hour and half to Fuzhou, China where I had to wait for five hours until my next flight to Paris. I arrived in Paris at 7 am after a 13 hour flight. From there I had to check in with a different airline before going through security. I was exhausted and thought I would go to Starbucks, but there were around 20 people in line. That was when I noticed a bright red piano across from the Starbucks which said, “Do you want to share a melody? This piano is available.” There was no one around so I sat down and started to play. After my second song a passenger stopped to tell me how much he enjoyed my playing and that he wanted to treat me to breakfast. I was playing Comptine d’un autre ete which is French so it was no shock that my fellow passenger was French. I never knew my piano playing would come in handy at an airport. At least I boarded my flight well fed. By the time I landed at 2 pm after my 9 hour flight, I had no idea what time zone I was in. Once I got my bag, I went to find the tournament driver, but I couldn’t find anyone. I started getting anxious since I had no cell service, the wifi at the airport wasn’t working, I had no idea what the name of the club was, and no one spoke English. I took French in high school, but I was never very good at it. After about 20 minutes of trying to get on the wifi and contemplating my options, I was excited to see someone from the tournament. At least I wasn’t forgotten.
Guadaloupe was gorgeous with a rugged feel of overgrown rain forests, but clear water everywhere. It was a real tropical paradise. The tennis club was very minimal and had the island feel. It was hot so the windows were kept open for a constant breeze. The courts were very strange and appeared to be pieced together asphalt. They were fast and slick and I had never seen anything like them.
I was quick to try them out by getting a practice in before going to my bed and breakfast. The official hotel was really expensive so the tournament director found my friend, Nadja Gilchrist, and I a cheaper bed and breakfast walking distance from the courts. The couple we stayed with was very nice, but they didn’t speak much English so they had to deal with some butchered French on my part. They had lots of ducks and chickens in the backyard, and cows seemed to wander around on my walk to the club. It felt very rural.
Since I flew in on Sunday, I requested to have singles on Wednesday so that I could get used to the time zone and the courts. Because everything was on island time it was tough to get a straight answer about anything. Fortunately I got my wish and had my first round of doubles on Tuesday and singles on Wednesday.
The player party was on Monday night and since we didn’t play until later on Tuesday, we decided to check out the party and get some free food. Nadja was in Guadaloupe a couple days before me and quickly learned that most healthier restaurants around the tennis club weren’t open for dinner. They all make their own hours so you never know what’s going to be open, so we thought the player party would be a good bet. We didn’t take into account island time though. They had some really cool dancers from Carnival followed by a lot of speeches. The food didn’t start until almost 9 pm and we were starving. It was good food… but not worth the wait.
Island time didn’t stop there. The match times were negotiable with most starting 10-20 minutes late due to umpires not being present. Also transportation for the players was routinely 20-40 minutes late from what I had heard. I was lucky to be able to walk to the courts, but I was told to get a ride back if it was dark since it wasn’t very safe at night. Many times it would be difficult to round up a driver since they didn’t understand the concept of time.
I played doubles with Serbian, Natalija Kostic. After intermittent down pours throughout the day, we played under the lights. The lights were pretty spotty so at times we would lose the ball while we were at the net, but we started off strong and beat down our opponents.
I finished quick, but Nadja had doubles even later so I went in search of food for us. One of the drivers took me around to find an open restaurant. After driving by a couple that were closed, we found one by the water that didn’t really look like much. It was a small building with a tent next to it that had some seating. There wasn’t even a written menu so the cook listed out the four dishes they had for the day in French. There was le poisson (fish), le boeuf (beef), le poulet (chicken) and le boeuf de cheval. The driver started telling me how I should get the boeuf de cheval because it’s a delicacy while my brain has alarm bells going off. I’m wondering if I heard them right. Cheval… but cheval is horse… I convince myself that I misheard and that it was meat from something else, so I double check. This time the guy says in English, “yes, horse meat. Very good.” My eyes bulged as I couldn’t even consider trying horse. I grew up in an area with a lot of horses so to me that would be like eating a dog. I chose the fish for both Nadja and I. The fish was amazing, but I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a hole in the wall restaurant.
The next day it rained the whole morning so my singles was pushed to the afternoon. I started off well against Verena Meliss, winning the first set 6-2. I was in control and playing really well as I went up 3-1 in the second. I had been hitting a lot of winners, but the tide turned as I had a couple of bad games. She got a bit of momentum and won the second 6-3. In the third I was up 4-3 when my left ankle slipped on an open stance backhand. It didn’t feel too bad so I kept playing but it didn’t feel solid so when I went down 5-4 I quickly taped it. My opponent started freaking out over me asking for a medical which was interesting. She lost her focus so I went up 6-5 40-15. All of a sudden she started playing better and four match points later it was 6-6. I started off strong in the breaker and went up 6-3 and wasn’t able to close it out. It really hurt to lose after having so many match points, but it happens. I’ve done it to many people, but it’s horrible to be on the receiving end. I actually won more points overall in the match which was kind of crazy.
The following afternoon I had doubles against Van Der Hoek and Babic. We didn’t play well together and weren’t able to gain any traction as we had some sloppy mistakes. We lost 6-3, 6-2.
I was ready to start planning my trip out of there, but the tournament director convinced me to stay an extra day to do some sightseeing. The tournament was doing their best to show the players the island by taking people to the beach, waterfalls and other activities. I ended up going horseback riding in the mountains the next morning which was amazing. I was the only one on the tour so we galloped through banana and pineapple plantations and rode through the valley before reaching a river where I could swim with the horses. I was really excited to switch to bareback and feel my horse swim through the river effortlessly. I’d never ridden a horse in water and didn’t realize that they actually like to swim. It was hot and humid out so it was nice to cool off for both of us. It was a perfect morning.
In the afternoon I went with some other players to see a neat waterfall. We went deeper into the island to where it looked like complete rainforest. The name of the waterfall translated to cascade with crayfish although I’m not sure where that name came from.
After a fun filled day, I finished with my favorite food truck on the island. They had bokits which were the biggest panini sandwiches I’d ever seen. Guadaloupe is a pretty cool place and definitely somewhere I would enjoy going back to for vacation.
Jan 21-27 WTA 125k Newport Beach, CA
Early the next morning I was off to California. I had to fly to New York first since there aren’t many cities with flights to Guadaloupe. To cut costs and be able to take a direct flight to Newport Beach, I took the subway and the train over to Newark for my next flight.
My first practice in Newport was a bit rough since I was early for all of my shots after getting used to the quick courts in the Caribbean. I signed in for the singles qualifying, but didn’t get in because they shrunk the qualifying draw size to 4 in order to have the tournament only last one week which was required for the mens event being run at the same time. I ended up being the first alternate.
I was disappointed that I didn’t make it into singles, but I had known there was a possibility that I wouldn’t get in. I was set to play doubles with Lauren Davis which was why I had still made the trip. The previous year the doubles draw barely filled up so I was surprised when we barely even made it into the draw. Waiting for the sign in to close was really stressful since it would’ve been a wasted trip if I didn’t even get into doubles.
We ended up getting in and drew Rosalie Van Der Hoek and Christina McHale first round. I had just played Rosalie so at least I knew what to expect from the week before. Lauren and I matched up extremely well with her pounding groundstrokes from the baseline while I was able to cut off volleys at the net. We won 6-4, 6-2. In the second round we played Gail Brodsky and Francesca Di Lorenzo. The first set was really close, but we played well on the big points to break their rhythm and confidence. By the second set we got used to Brodsky trying to nail us with returns at the net and were able to close out the match 7-6(3), 6-3. In the semis we had Hayley Carter and Ena Shibahara. Lauren had a really long singles match that morning so I knew I was going to have to step it up a bit more. We didn’t start off playing very well since we traded some breaks back and forth. In the second we picked it up and started crossing a bit more while figuring out some tendencies. Unfortunately it wasn’t our day as we ultimately lost 4 and 6. We were happy with how we played as a team so I was looking forward to partnering with Lauren again sometime.
I was playing really well however I was a little worried that I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle during my warmup for the semis. It lasted about 10 seconds and then it was completely gone. Since it didn’t bother me during the match, I thought it could’ve been a fluke. It was the same type of pain I had been dealing with periodically throughout the second half of 2018, so I should’ve known better.
While I was waiting to go on court for the semis, Ingrid Neel asked me if I had a doubles partner for Midland. At that point I was planning to go home and rest after all the traveling I’d been doing so I told her sorry but no chance. After the semis I started thinking about how it would be nice to play doubles up there since I felt I was playing great doubles. I talked to my housing family and they said the house is always open to me if I decide to come, so then I talked to Ingrid Neel and found out she still hadn’t found a partner. Next thing I knew I was buying a ticket up to Detroit.
Jan 29- Feb 2 100k Midland, MI
It was time to see some real winter weather in Michigan. In all the years I have played the tournament, this year was by far the coldest. It was in the negatives every day, and no I’m not talking about celsius. School was cancelled the whole week from snow and extreme wind chill which was pretty crazy. The kids in my housing family were really excited since it meant they got to hang out with me more. Midland is a neat tournament since all the players stay with host families and many continue staying with the same family for years like I do. I’ve always stayed with the Rielles and have watched their girls, Maylee and LeeAnn, grow up. It makes me feel so old when I think about the fact that the first time I stayed with them, they were in elementary school and now the oldest, LeeAnn, is in college. Even college classes were cancelled so she was able to come home for the week.
The only downfall to school being cancelled all week was that there weren’t any outreach programs. The tournament is known for sending a lot of pros to schools to talk to kids of all ages about things like the importance of eating healthy, school and the sacrifice and dedication it takes to be a pro player. I always love going out to the schools since you never know who you can inspire. There were a couple schools that did come to the tournament towards the end of the week that I had the chance to talk to however.
I signed in for singles qualifying again, but because of the smaller draws I ended up being the first alternate once again. I couldn’t believe that I ended up the first alternate two weeks in a row. It seemed I just couldn’t catch a break. I went to Midland to play doubles so it at least gave me a chance to work on my doubles with Ingrid Neel. We had good energy and covered each other pretty well so I was excited to play some doubles.
In the first round we played Madison Brengle and Louisa Chrico. We started off really well and took care of our service games. We played aggressively and put a lot of pressure on them by coming to the net to win the first 6-3. In the second we had chances to close it out, but let off the gas a little bit and found ourselves in a breaker. We ended up up losing the second 7-6, but then played the way we played in the first to close out the match 10-5. We immediately went out onto the court to work on putting volleys away and closing more on the poaches to get ready for our next round. In the doubles format you can’t afford to have any lapses.
In the quarters we played Cori Gauff and Ann Li who are a couple of good young players coming up. In the first we got the break early on to go up 3-1 and then didn’t look back as we took the first 6-3. We read them well and didn’t make many mistakes in the first. In the second it was the complete reverse with us losing the break and then being unable to get back into it. They both had good serves as well so it wasn’t easy to break serve. We had some opportunities but weren’t executing late in the games. In the breaker they played well and with no fear as they went for angles and down the lines. We ended up losing 10-6. It isn’t easy playing against kids who have no expectations. We did feel some pressure to win and in the end we didn’t play as well as we could’ve. It was still a fun week even though I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I was happy I had decided to play.
Feb 12-16 25k Surprise, AZ
After Midland I had a week off to train and recuperate before my next tournament in Arizona. This is also a tournament I have played many times especially since I went to college at ASU which is only about an hour away. I always stay with my friend Eryn who is my biggest cheerleader and takes great care of me. My best friend Jovana Jaksic came to stay as well so we had lots of laughs. Since Jovana is getting married this year we took her wedding dress shopping and she said yes to the dress (not the one pictured). Getting married while traveling and playing tennis means you have to do some planning while on the road.
In tennis, I finally got into a tournament in singles! In the qualifying I played Nicole Mossmer first round. I won 6-3, 6-1 since she didn’t like my slices or serve and volley.
In the next round I played Louisa Chirico which did not go well. She hit heavy balls and I had a tough time getting into the match. I lost the first 6-1, but started playing better in the second. I started stepping in a bit more and taking balls earlier but still lost 6-3.
At least I still had doubles with Ingrid. She convinced me to go to Midland, but I had to convince her to come to Surprise to play with me. I enjoyed playing with her in Midland so I was excited to pair up again.
In our first round we played a set of younger players from Colombia and Japan. They weren’t really doubles players and didn’t like our more traditional approach to doubles so we won pretty handily. In our second round we played Carolina Alves and Eva Alvarez Guerrero. Ingrid and I came out firing going up 5-1 without missing a beat. After a couple of sloppy games we closed out the set 6-4 and rolled through the second 6-0. We were both serving and returning well so felt good going into the semis. We played Cori Gauff again and her partner Paige Hourigan. Neither of us played great since we missed quite a few routine volleys. I didn’t return well either which was really frustrating. In the end we lost 5 and 3.
Over the week in Surprise my ankle slowly started getting worse which could be attributed to playing 6 weeks of tournaments in a row. I needed some recovery time.
Feb 25- Mar 2 Indian Wells 125k
The tournaments are never ending and it is difficult to resist playing larger tournaments that are right in your backyard. Even though I didn’t have much time to recover, I wanted to keep capitalizing on my momentum in doubles. In doubles I could avoid certain movements that would flare up my ankle so that helped make my decision. Since we had done well in Newport Beach, Lauren Davis and I decided to team up at the lead up tournament to Indian Wells.
A couple days before the doubles sign in, Lauren texted me saying that she too had been struggling with an injury and wanted to focus on singles. That left me scrambling for a partner. I drove to Indian Wells in the hope of finding someone to sign in with at the last minute. I was running all around the tennis gardens trying to track down potential partners. I ended up signing in with Yu-chieh Hsieh and although it was tight, we managed to stay last in up until two minutes before sign in closed. It was one of those times that you wished you could lock the door to the office to prevent anyone else from signing in. Rodina ended up signing with Pliskova and there was no way to find someone to switch with in the last two minutes. It sucked, but what can you do.
I was sad that I didn’t get in, but tried to make the best of the situation by stopping at Joshua Tree National Park for a few hours before heading to Arizona to train for the week. It was nice doing a trail run to clear my head and blow off some steam. You might be wondering why I went for a trail run when I had already been having issues with my ankle, but my ankle never hurt when I walked or ran. I would only get the sharp pain in my ankle when I would jump up for my serve or an overhead. At the time I thought it hurt because I would do something weird when I kicked. As long as I taped my ankle tight and restricted the movement it was generally fine, so I saw no issue with going on a run.
Mar 5-9 25k Irapuato, Mexico
I shouldn’t have gone to Mexico. My head was telling me that it wasn’t smart, but my heart said go and I listened to my heart. I decided that I would just manage my ankle for two more weeks before taking an extended break to allow it to fully heal. I wanted to go to the tournament in Irapuato because I love staying with German and Laura Lemus. They are such kind people and I always look forward to seeing them and enjoying all of the traditional Mexican foods. They always have homemade salsas and sauces that I look forward to since they’re nothing like what we have in the US. They live on the golf course at the club so it’s just a short walk to the courts and they have a couple of dogs that are really fun to play with. They have a giant schnauzer that chases shadows and reflections so that provides hours of entertainment. All you need is a phone to reflect light down to the ground and you can make their dog run in circles.
Irapuato was great, but I was in for a surprise to find out that they had switched the ball type yet again. Last year I went to the tournament expecting flat balls out of a box that don’t go anywhere and instead got super hard Babolat balls that flew to the fence with a gentle touch. This year they were back to having balls out of a box that required having to swing as hard as humanly possible to get them past the service line. However there was another curve ball with half of the box balls being “hard” and the other being super soft so you never knew what you would get for the match. The umpires didn’t even bother to make sure all four balls were the same so I ended up checking the balls for my matches. That’s what you get for a 25k in Mexico. Another change this year was a huge presence of police surrounding the club at all times. Crime and murder rates had escalated and my housing family said it wasn’t safe to walk home through the golf course at night anymore. I had always felt safe in Irapuato so it was a bit disconcerting.
In singles I played Paige Hourigan from New Zealand. I had cut down on my court time and movement on court the last week so I thought my ankle would be feeling a bit better. I knew that I would most likely be playing through some pain, but I wasn’t prepared for it to start in the second game. Previously it wouldn’t start until later in the match when the tape loosened. I was rusty and trying to protect my ankle so I bet you can guess how that went for me. I had a lot of opportunities to finish points off at the net which is where I wanted to be as long as I didn’t have to hit overheads. Jumping back for overheads scared me since I couldn’t control my ankle movement as I tried to be in position to hit them clean. Almost every overhead, (I hit quite a few overheads), resulted in sharp pain preventing me from being able to quickly move to the next ball. I lost 4 and 4. After the match I began to see the doctor every day so he could loosen up my calf and ankle to lessen the pain. I already knew I was going to be taking time off soon so I just focused on hiding my injury and making sure I was ready for the doubles.
Doubles had always been my primary focus for the two tournaments in Mexico since I knew I hadn’t been practicing enough to play well in singles. I played with my friend, Sanaz Marand, against Sharon Fichman and Laura Pigossi in the first round. It was a tough first round, but in the past we had always matched up well in doubles and had even won a few titles. Our match started around 9 pm since we were the fifth match after 3 pm. In Mexico they love to have big opening ceremonies and night matches so the community can come watch. They didn’t think it all through when they had a whole marching band playing on center court with matches going on all around. Then they turned off the lights on all the courts for the show so players were left with a 30 minute break before the lights were able to cool off and be able to turned on again. It ended up being a good thing since the tournament decided it would be awesome to have a 15 minute firework show being launched above center court which showered debris onto all of the courts due to a swirling wind. There were shells everywhere so the lines people had to sweep the courts before play could resume. That’s Mexico for you. I was just happy I wasn’t mid match during all of this.
Once we actually started our match, we got off to a good start and played a clean first set. Everyone held serve until 4-3 where Sanaz and I were able to get the break, and then serve it out. In the second they started playing better and got the break to go up 3-1. We were up 40-30 and made a couple sloppy mistakes and it cost us the set. We missed more volleys in the second to lose 6-2. We didn’t play well to start the breaker with a few unlucky breaks mixed in. We actually went down 9-3, but we stayed positive and took it one point at a time. As it got closer they started to become tight. At 9-9 I was serving and hit a good body serve that Sharon managed to get almost to the baseline and we ended up losing the point to go down 10-9. They played the last point well to advance. It was frustrating since we had almost pulled off an unbelievable comeback. We were right there.
It was only Tuesday night with Guadalajara not starting until Saturday, so I decided to stay in Irapuato until Friday. I only hit a little bit over those few days in order to save my ankle for one last tournament. Since I couldn’t play tennis too much, I worked on my golf game a little. My housing family arranged for my coach, Sanaz and I to play a round of golf. We even had our own caddy which was pretty cool. I definitely played better with him helping me pick which club to use.
Mar 11-16 WTA 125k Guadalajara, Mexico
Friday turned into the travel day for most of the players since it was also the day that the complimentary hotel rooms began in Guadalajara. I took the bus in the morning along with 5 other players since it was only a few hours away. I hit and signed in for singles that afternoon. I was pretty far down on the alternate list so I didn’t even think I would get in. The courts were on top of a parking garage so that was kind of interesting. Balls were flying everywhere since the tournament used normal high altitude balls which were as hard as rocks. I practiced with my doubles partner for the week, Renata Zarazua, and it was comical as we dealt with the combination of the wind and fast conditions. Points were short and a few balls flew off of the roof. I quickly realized that my serve and volley would be very effective.
When sign in closed, I was still an alternate into the singles, but I had a good chance of moving in due to players still competing in Irapuato. That night I followed the results in Irapuato and fortunately the right people won and I moved into the qualifying draw. I played Andrea Gamiz in the first round. I lost the first set 6-2 since I wasn’t feeling the ball well. I was trying to serve and volley and mix up my balls but I was missing. In the second, something ended up clicking and I began serving huge and was able to put away easy volleys at the net. From the back I tracked balls down and changed up the rhythm to eventually get the break and take the set 6-4. We had some long games to start the third which really wore down my ankle. At times I was getting balls out of the alley and was struggling to put weight on my ankle to get back. I didn’t want her to start hitting drop shots so I would just grit my teeth and shuffle back as I waited for the sharp pain to go away. I still didn’t understand what was wrong since the sharp pain would last about 10 seconds and then go away. I went down 3-1, but I pushed myself to get the break back. I had to start to pick and choose what balls I would run for which essentially cost me the chance to go up a break 4-3. I fought my heart out but ended up losing 7-5. I badly needed a break to let my ankle heal. If I could play that well when I was handicapped, I knew I could do so much more healthy.
I had a few days to recover before doubles so I made sure not to aggravate my ankle during practice by focusing my attention on my volleys and mainly hitting from a corner. I enjoyed my time practicing since it was a nice venue and city. I had the physio take a look at my ankle and give me her opinion on it. Structurally my ankle looked good, but it was super loose and weak. She was shocked when she could almost dislocate my ankle, but it explained the necessity to tape my ankle tightly.
I learned that it is really fun to play doubles with a Mexican in Mexico because the whole crowd cheers for you no matter what. Renata is originally from Guadalajara so all of her friends and family came to watch resulting in a huge crowd. Most of the people didn’t know how to cheer at a tennis match so they cheered after every point we won which was entertaining for us, but annoying for our opponents. In our first round we played Alexa Guarachi and Sabrina Santamaria. We went down 5-3 in the first, but were able to raise our level when it mattered to win the set 7-5. We played really well in the second and won 6-4. We complimented each other perfectly, with her steady backhand from the back and my poaching and long reach at the net.
The doubles was spread out throughout the week so I had plenty of rest between matches. In the second round we played Veronica Kudermetova and Mandy Minella. Our opponents came out a little flat and ended up calling the physio at 3-2. They ended up retiring due to injury so we moved onto the semis after only five games.
In the semis we played Cornelia Lister and Renata Voracova. That night we played on stadium court which was filled with people stomping their feet and chanting Mexico. They were a tough team to play since they played sporadic at times. We were able to squeak out the first 7-6. In the second we lost a few close deuce games before they got the momentum and started serving well to win 6-2. The tiebreak was tough to stomach since it was close all the way to the end. We had chances, but barely missed a couple of key shots while they successfully poached at the end. We lost 10-8. It was still a good week and I really enjoyed playing with Rena since she is a fighter like I am and had really good energy. It was time to go home to recover.
Rena and I made it pretty far so I had a decent amount of down time throughout the week to do some activities. I went to the player party which was in the city and gave me the chance to check out part of the downtown. The tournament director was cool and did his best to make it a fun event for the players. He had organized an event to make tacos with a celebrity chef, but unfortunately the chef cancelled last minute. He ended up buying a whole spread of tacos from his favorite taco place for those of us who showed up to make tacos. Even though I didn’t get to make them myself, they were amazing. The tournament director’s son also took me to get some traditional style tortas of Guadalajara. They were a bit messy since you dipped them into a sauce but it was a perfect lunch after one of my morning practices.
Later on in the week there was also an opportunity to check out the city of Guadalajara in a carriage which was fun. There was a whole tv crew with us which made us all kind of uncomfortable. My friend, Gugu Olmos and I were both worried about saying the wrong thing. It was nice to get out of the hotel though. We played a little tennis outside Guadalajara’s Instituto Cultural Cabañas before going inside to see the murals of Jose Clemente Orozco. It was an orphanage/hospital that has been turned into a museum to show off the amazing murals. Many of the murals changed as you walked to different parts of the room so it was fascinating observing the perspectives. Various other artists were also showcased throughout the museum.
Rest and Recover
After my trip to Mexico I didn’t play any tennis for a few weeks since I needed to strengthen my ankle. I did some low impact things such as yoga and a bit of rock climbing to work on my upper body strength. Once it was feeling better, I went and did a little hiking at the Valley of Fire, which is just outside of Las Vegas. the name is very fitting with all of the fire colored rocks. It was nice doing a little walking around on the soft sand and seeing some cool petroglyphs and petrified logs.
April 8-13 WTA Bogota, Colombia
As the sign in deadline approached for doubles in Bogota, I was on the fence about whether I should try to play. I had been doing well in doubles, and I was defending points from the previous year. I wanted to maintain my doubles ranking so I decided to try to sign in for doubles. I originally wanted to sign in with Renata Zarazua again, but she was wasn’t sure if she was going to play for sure. I wanted a sure thing so I ended up signing with Ysaline Bonaventure. We ended up on the alternate list so it turned into a waiting game to see if anyone would withdraw ahead of the freeze deadline. In that time period I wasn’t practicing. Four days before the tournament we moved into the doubles draw so I had to officially make a decision whether I wanted to go and try to play. I had barely picked up a racquet, but my ankle was feeling better so I decided that it was worth the risk to try to play.
I left the next day and ended up having three days to practice before the doubles. After the break I felt I was actually hitting well. Bogota is at 8600 ft so the ball did fly some, but I felt pretty good going into the doubles. Funny enough, we drew the same wild card team that I had played in the first round the previous year with Cornelia Lister. It was a good draw. I watched my partner lose in the singles earlier in the day and unfortunately she said that her shoulder was bothering her. Thankfully she still wanted to try to play since I had flown all the way there to just play doubles. We played late in the day and basically anything that could go wrong, went wrong. The clouds came in and it got cold quickly, making my body stiffer. It also started raining so we were cold and wet as we played under subpar lights. All of that combined with the fact it was a clay event and I hadn’t been playing, was a recipe for disaster. I missed some poaches all the way to the fence and I served poorly. I wanted to forget everything about that match since it was one of, if not THE worst matches I have ever played. The only bright side… My ankle didn’t hurt.
Since I didn’t have another tournament to rush off to, I decided to stay and check out Mount Monseratte. I had always wanted to go up to the top and see the church that overlooks the city, but in past years I was always traveling to the next tournament. Monseratte is over 10,000 ft tall so it is the perfect place to see all of the city. I took the train up to the top which only took a few minutes due to how steeply it ascended. It is possible to hike up in the mornings if you’re in the mood for a stair master workout. I didn’t realize how big of a city Bogota was, but it was nice to see the sprawling city below. There were restaurants and vendors at the top along with the church. The tennis didn’t go well, but at least I finally made it up the mountain.
More Rehab and Training
After Bogota I still took a bit more time off to rehab to ensure that my ankle would hold up once I started playing singles again. I did have a few weeks of on court training before I was due to go to Asia for a series of tournaments during the French Open and start of the grass season. Nothing ever seems to go as planned because just as I was getting into the swing of things, I tweaked my back during a long bike ride. My back ended up going into full muscle spasms and prevented me from even being able to walk without pain. I ended up needing some dry needling to release the muscle spasms. After about a week of slowing things down again, my back started getting back to normal so I could train. I was excited to get back on the road again since I was finally moving better and was free to focus on my tennis instead of trying to avoid pain.
May 14-26 25k Singapore
My friend, Shareen lives in Singapore and was gracious enough to let me stay for a few weeks. I wanted to be acclimated so I arrived four days before the tournament. My flight from San Francisco was 17 hours, making it the longest flight I’ve ever been on. I landed in Singapore in the evening, but had no problem falling asleep despite the huge time difference.
My first couple practices were rough since it was hot and humid and I was a bit jet-lagged, but by the time the weekend was over I felt right at home. In the first round I played a local Singapore girl who I beat 6-0, 6-0. I was a little nervous to be playing in my first tournament in a while so it was a nice confidence booster.
Later that day I also had doubles with Ipek Soylu against Valeria Savinykh and Kwan Yau Ng. It was our first time playing together, but we had good chemistry right from the start. In the second we went down 4-2 before we buckled down and didn’t miss. We ended up winning 1 and 4.
In my next singles match I played Ashmitha Easwaramurthi from India. With a couple of matches under my belt I felt much better going after my shots. I served well throughout and kept my nose in front to win 1 and 3. In doubles later that afternoon we played Riya Bhatia and Nudnida Luangnam from India and Thailand respectively. Luangnam had a three hour match before the doubles so she was visibly tired, and the Indian girl was very sporadic since she tried to hit everything as hard as she could. We won the first 6-2, but then went down 3-1. We clawed our way back into the set, but our momentum got thrown off when our opponents crashed into each other and took an extended medical timeout. One girl got elbowed in the head, but fortunately she was ok. We ended up going down 5-4 40-0 with the Indian girl serving. Then, after we won the next long scrappy point, she got extremely tight and started double faulting and hitting balls into the ground. She kept on trying to shake her arm out, but she essentially gave us the game. We then closed it out 7-5 to move into the semis.
In the quarters of singles I played Valeria Savinykh who was the first seed for the tournament. She had been playing well so I knew it was going to be a tough match and that I was going to have to take it to her. She loves to run around and retrieve balls so it was important to step in and take balls early which I did. I had chances to close out the set early on since I took an early lead, but instead I ended up grinding it out 7-6 in an hour and half. In the second set we traded breaks back and forth a couple times, but I had chances to finish the match when I served for it at 5-4. Unfortunately that’s when I had my worst service game of the match so far and ended up losing the set 7-5. At this point another hour and half had passed. In the third I ran out of steam a little bit since I was out of match shape. No matter how much you train, there is no substitute for playing matches. I fought and gave myself looks in the games, but ended up losing 6-2. The match took almost four hours.
After the match I got a two hour break before I had to play the doubles semifinal with Ipek against the Indonesian duo of Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies. I was tired and I started out slow. We lost the first set in the blink of an eye, 6-0. Ipek was positive through the whole thing and reminded me that we could easily turn it around. We became more aggressive at the net and ran away with the second 6-1. The breaker could’ve gone either way. We did a lot of the right plays, but we got passed a couple times and missed a few volleys to lose 10-7. The third set tiebreaks are pretty much a coin flip.
With one tournament in Singapore over, I took a day off. I had spent a lot of time on court the previous few days so I went into downtown to play the coolest miniature golf course I’ve ever seen. Each hole had a different theme to navigate through like the Wizard of Oz or the Flintstones. I also got to see a bit more of the city and went to the Asian Civilisations Museum that had artifacts from a ship wreck along with other Asian art and historical items.
When I got back on court, I noticed that my right ankle was a little sore so I kept my practices light. I maintained my timing and was excited for week two. In the first round I played the top player from Singapore. She was much better than the girl I had played first round the previous week, but was still streaky. As the match went on, I began to feel the sharp pain in my ankle once again. I had pushed it to the limit on the day of my long singles match so I changed the way I moved in order to save my ankle. Since I was stronger and more experienced I was able to win 3 and 3. My ankle hurt, but I decided to just deal with the pain.
Next up I had doubles with Andreea Ghitescu against Paige Hourigan and Aldila Sutjaidi. Covering half a court with my ankle didn’t seem to aggravate it much so I began thinking that I would be ok in the singles. We lost nearly every deuce point. We were up 40-30 to go up 5-3 so losing that game hurt us as we ended up losing 6-4. Our opponents were making the right moves, but after we went down 3-0 I finally felt I started matching their aggressive movements. We ended up going up 5-4 but then didn’t execute well in the remaining games, losing 7-5. The momentum can change quickly in doubles and making a few mistakes, especially late in a match, will often directly reflect the outcome. I think it ended up being a good thing that I lost doubles since it meant I wouldn’t be spending as much time on court.
In my next singles match I played Rina Saigo who was a little girl from Japan. She just ran around and made balls, but wasn’t strong enough to put much on them. She also couldn’t handle my serve so it was easy for me to serve and volley each time and quickly close out my service games. I only lost seven points total on my serve which made me feel like my serve was a cannon. I won 6-2, 6-3.
In the quarters I played Aldila Sutjaidi who played pretty solid, staying close to the baseline. Due to my ankle I was a step slower which was tough since I needed to take balls early in order to win the match. I ended up losing 4 and 4 which was frustrating since it felt I couldn’t give my best effort at all.
Even though I wasn’t at 100%, it was still a good couple weeks. I enjoyed having my cheering section and hanging with Shareen. Before leaving Singapore I had one more day off to enjoy the city, so I decided I wanted to see the island of Palau Ubin. It was a short ferry ride from the ferry terminal by the airport. It’s a cool little island that has remained more rustic with little villages on the island. I rented a bike so I could check out the island comfortably, but at times I felt it was going to fall apart. It was super rusty and would sometimes skip when I changed gears. There were lots of beautiful trails, a great hut to get some refreshing coconuts, and lots of monkeys and wild pigs wandering around. It was gorgeous, except when it looked like it was going to pour.
May 28- June 2 25k Hong Kong
Next up was Hong Kong, and I decided to still play since it was on the way home and I had already paid for the Airbnb for the week. In addition I thought my ankle would heal a little and that I would be able to continue battling through it because how bad could it really be? Famous last words.
I was excited to be reunited with one of my best friends, Jovana Jaksic. She and I were set to play doubles for the next two tournaments so it was guaranteed to be a good time. As fate would have it, we were scheduled to play each other in the first round of singles. Since she had been in the final the previous week in Japan, we had doubles on Tuesday and singles on Wednesday. Even though she is one of my closest friends, I still didn’t tell her about my ankle issues. It’s the nature of the sport and since I was playing her in singles I wanted to continue trying to cover it up.
In doubles we drew Anastasia Nefedova and Dan Ni Wang. The first set was really close with neither team playing exceptionally well. At 4-4 is where things started to get interesting. The chair umpire was either biased or just straight up blind because at deuce, Nefedova hit a serve more than a foot out that he called good. Jovana and I were so pissed that it really lit a fire in us. We went down 40-30 on Jovana’s serve in the following game. It was an important game so after playing “I” and moving to the ad side, I poached all the way across the court. Something happened to my ankle as I pushed off and I knew it was bad the second I was lunging across the court. I put the volley away and won the point, but I couldn’t put weight on my ankle. Instead of letting anyone know I was hurting, I took an extended break to tie my shoe since normally the pain would subside within 10 seconds. It didn’t. I got up and grit my teeth knowing it was now deuce and we needed the point and the game to get it to 5-5. I managed to continue covering up my ankle pain for us to win the game and eventually the set 7-5. After the changeover, the pain lessened from sharp to a throbbing dull pain so I was able to make it through the match. We lost the second set 6-3 after our opponents went on a spree of hitting winners, but we buckled down and played great in the breaker to win 10-4 and advance to the next round.
We may have won the doubles, but deep down I knew I was in trouble and needed to get my ankle checked out. I went to bed that night hoping that my ankle would miraculously feel better in the morning, but of course I woke up the next day to a dull aching pain. I decided I would try my best in singles, but I knew it wasn’t looking good for me. It ended up raining most of the day and I hoped for it to continue long enough to cancel matches for the day to give my ankle some more time. No such luck as we ended up playing under the lights. I lost 2 and 0 and now I really couldn’t move. I couldn’t cover it up anymore, especially not against a hard hitter like Jovana where I needed to be able to run balls down.
After the match I told her what had been going on and how much pain I was in. She was very understanding and said we could withdraw if I felt I couldn’t play. We ended up getting a walkover into the semis and with all the rain we didn’t have to play until Sunday. The dull throbbing pain was a constant and it was a little swollen, but I wanted to play especially because I only had to cover half a court. I also knew I was going to be out of commission for a while so I wanted to give it my all before my break. We played Japanese team Erina Hayashi and Momoko Kobori. Jovana had been playing a lot of singles matches so she was a bit tired and it showed as we lost the first set 6-2 making loose errors. We put up a fight in the second and went from down 5-3 to up 6-5, eventually losing in the tiebreak. In the end they played better doubles than us.
June 4-8 25k Shenzhen, China
After finishing the doubles in Hong Kong, I was faced with another decision… Go home or go right across the border into China to play one final tournament in Shenzhen. At this point I really should’ve gone home, but my ankle didn’t feel that bad in the doubles and I wanted to play one more week with Jovana.
My mistake of the week was still signing in for singles. I seem to have a hard time knowing when to quit. I played a Chinese girl in the first round and half-assed it which I never do. Shockingly even with my picking and choosing when to run for balls, I was still in the match and lost in the third set breaker. Walking off that court I was coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to step on the singles court again until my ankle was 100% healed because it just wasn’t fun.
In doubles Jovana and I beat American team Maegan Manasse and Jessica Ho 6-3, 6-2 playing really clean doubles throughout the match. We held serve pretty easily throughout and played really solid. It was a pretty quick match so my ankle didn’t bother me too much, but we weren’t so fortunate with our next round. We played a Chinese team and things looked good as we went up 6-3, 4-2. It started with a couple errors and all of a sudden we had lost our momentum and our opponents gained confidence. Towards the end of the second set, my ankle started throbbing and took away some of my focus which didn’t help us any. I was done. With that loss, it was time to go home.
Doctor Visit and Rehab
I knew deep down it was bad. I was hoping it was just going to be something to do with my tendons and ligaments and that rehab would solve it, but I needed substantial answers. I’ve been fortunate in my career to not have any major injuries, but I should’ve known my luck would run out at some point. I got my first ever MRI and found out that those are some scary looking machines. They’re super loud and you have to stay still for 20 minutes which isn’t easy for me. I found out I had a stage 1 tibia dome lesion which basically means that the cartilage started separating from the bone creating a little pocket. I was lucky that it was minor and that there weren’t any fragments of cartilage floating around. My options were to keep playing with the risk of making it worse (definitely off the table because of how much it was hindering my play), have surgery, or go into a boot. Surgery is never the first option so I basically only had one option, which was the boot. 6 weeks of doing absolutely nothing for the chance that it would heal on its own. The doctor said that it’s normally about 50/50 whether it heals on its own, so I just had to hope for the best.
I went home and just sat on the couch watching tv since I was disappointed and upset I would have to take a step back from training. I was worried that my ankle wouldn’t heal and that I would end up in the same place a few months down the road and have to get surgery, which would set me back even further.
After posting about my injury I had a former housing dad who is an orthopedic surgeon offer to take a look at my MRI to give his opinion. He believed that it should heal on its own without any issues since it was such a small lesion so that gave me some much needed peace of mind. I also had a friend who called in a favor to have my MRI looked at by a clinic who did stem cell injections. Originally they thought using my own stem cells would help my ankle heal faster and stronger, but due to the difficult spot my lesion was it was decided it wasn’t worth it. I was willing to do whatever I could to ensure I could get back on the court again so it was a bit upsetting that I was back to just waiting the full six weeks.
I ended up going up to Seattle for a few weeks to spend some time with my parents and friends. Seattle isn’t exactly a great training hub so I don’t get the chance to visit too much. It was the start of summer so I was itching to go hiking and do all of the outdoorsy things I normally enjoy, but instead I was confined to mainly indoor activities. I went to the gym every day and did upper body, core and back which quickly became excruciatingly boring. I couldn’t swim or do yoga since I had to keep the boot on at all times, so I barely had any cardio. The closest thing to cardio was doing the arm bike.
Time seemed to slow down since I wasn’t busy all day for the first time in years. My primary job was making sure the duckling in the pond in my backyard didn’t get eaten by the crows, so I would just sit outside and read. The rest of the time I saw friends, went strawberry picking and did some baking.
Once I got out of the boot, I started with rehab and going to the chiropractor to get my leg length sorted out. After being in the boot for so long, my body compensated by changing my spinal and hip alignment so I needed to be adjusted to lengthen out my right leg again. It felt strange having my legs the same length again, but I could finally walk straight and was able to stop running into walls. The process was slow, but eventually I started hitting balls on the court. I was out of shape and everything hurt. My shoulder was no longer used to the torque from serving and my lower body wasn’t used to the pounding anymore. I had severe anxiety about my ankle so any sort of twinge had me thinking that it didn’t heal. Strangely enough the inside of my ankle started hurting after a few days of training so I had to take a step back from the court. I was worried so I called my housing dad who had given me his opinion before, but he didn’t see any reason for it to still be bothering me. After a few days it went away and fortunately it hasn’t come back which leads me to deduce that it was just a bit sore from beginning to pound on the court.
Thank you for reading what I’ve been up to in 2019. It has definitely been a tough year for me so far, but I’m hoping the last part of the year will be better. I’m feeling rejuvenated and hungry to get back to playing the level of tennis that I know I can. After my injury, I’m feeling extremely grateful to be back on the court playing the sport that has given me so much joy.
I’d like to thank my sponsors, InPhorm and Solinco, who have stuck with my through my injury and recovery providing me with the equipment I need as I make my comeback to the tour. I also want to give a special thanks to Davide Corallo, Jim Evans, and Craig Silvis for donating and believing in me. I really appreciate it and all of the people who have continued to support me throughout my career.