Stumbling to the End of the Year

It isn’t easy to come back from an injury as all athletes can attest. I had pretty much sat around and done nothing over the summer so I was out of shape and out of practice. I was hitting the ball well and was getting back to doing fitness by mid August. There were still lingering doubts as to whether my ankle was going to hold up over the long term. After dealing with the sporadic pain in my ankle for a year, I was still a little tense running out to the sides where I was forced to stop hard on my right foot. I decided I was going to start with doubles to begin gaining confidence in my movement again, so I talked to Ingrid Neel about playing doubles in the WTA’s in Nanchang and Seoul. 

Sept 9-15 WTA Nanchang, China
Before I knew it, I was getting ready to meet up with Ingrid in China. I was excited to get back out on tour since I had really missed competing. I arrived early to adjust to the conditions and focus on meshing with Ingrid. Since I was there early, I signed in for singles qualifying onsite thinking there was no way I was going to get in. Sure enough I got in, but I was really nervous going into my singles match since I hadn’t been practicing any singles points besides the five minutes I took at the end of warmup. I played a Chinese girl in the first round, and boy could you tell that I hadn’t been practicing for singles. I was in no way able to cover the full court and felt like an awkward turtle on court, losing in record time. I wasn’t upset about losing, but I was upset with how out of shape and slow I felt on the court. I’ve always been in good shape and able to run forever. I had lost a lot of my conditioning throughout the year as I had been plagued with the ankle injury, but this was a new low and I didn’t like it one bit. Right after the match I was out on the court running sprints and hitting balls side to side. It was day one of getting back into shape because mentally, I need my fitness to feel good and play well. 

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I was feeling better going into the doubles with Ingrid since we were practicing well together. We drew Sofia Shapatava and Emily Webley-Smith in the first round. Despite practicing well, I started off shaky in the doubles. I had come a long way and it was my first doubles match after a horrible singles match, so it took me a bit before I started to find my game. Unfortunately we weren’t able to both play well at the same time, so we lost some close deuce games that could’ve been pivotal. Instead we lost 3 and 3. 

Ingrid and I had originally planned to play Seoul the following week, but at the advanced entry deadline our combined ranking wasn’t high enough so she found another player to get in with. She was ranked higher than me and with the cut I needed a top 50 player to get in with on the advanced list. Obviously didn’t happen so I flew home instead of sticking around to attempt to sign in onsite. I needed more time to train and push my limits fitness wise before entering another event. 

Sept 23-29 60k Templeton, CA
Nanchang was a major wakeup call. Since I lost early in China, I ended up with almost two full weeks before Templeton during which I worked out pretty much nonstop. I definitely felt more prepared going into my second tournament. 

I may have been more prepared, but I was also still rusty from not playing matches. I played Shatoo Mohamed and went down early on in the first before I started finding my game a little bit. I had brief moments of brilliance between horrible decisions and errors. After losing the first set 6-4, I wont the second 7-6. In the qualifying of the ITFs it’s a super breaker for the third, which I lost 10-7. I really dislike super breakers since it’s pretty much a coin toss. 

In doubles I played with one of my best friends, Jovana Jaksic. We had a tough first round against Caitlin Whoriskey and Vladica Babic who went on to win the tournament. Jovana had a really long singles match in the afternoon so we didn’t go on for doubles until the evening. We started off playing pretty well, winning the first 6-4 and went up 6-5 in the second. We were up 40-30 on my serve when I had a fairly easy forehand volley putaway that Jovana told me to leave because she thought it was flying. I ended up kind of half hitting it badly and we ended up losing that point and the deuce point which really hurt. They also started playing better in the breakers so we lost 10-6 in the third. It was disappointing since it was the first match that I finally felt like I was playing well. 

The following day it was time to thank the Lane family for their wonderful hospitality in allowing me to stay with them during the tournament. It was back to the drawing board, but first was a day in Death Valley on the way home.

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Oct 7-13 25k Claremont, CA
After Templeton I had a week and half to train before heading back to California for a 25k in Claremont. I snuck into the main draw when I showed up to sign in for qualifying, so I had a couple extra days to practice and play points with other players. 

I started off the tournament with doubles with my friend Angelina Gabueva. It was our first time playing together despite being friends for the last ten years. We played Mary Closs and Catherine Leduc, taking an early lead to go up 5-2 before blowing a few chances to close out the set. I played pretty horribly as I searched for my first W since coming back. We ended up squeaking it out 7-5, 7-6 and were just happy to be moving on. 

With a win under my belt I was looking forward to playing singles the next day. I played Alicia Barnett and actually started off playing pretty well. I still wasn’t super sharp and ended up running out of gas in the second set, but I was happy to see some progress. 

I turned my focus to doubles with Angelina and worked on sharpening up my volleys. We played Kayla Day and Sophia Whittle who are solid doubles players. Things were tight until 4-4 in the first when something clicked and I just started crossing on everything and putting away volleys making things easier on Angelina in the back. We found our groove as a team and ended up winning 4 and 2 to make it to the semis. 

In the semis we played Madeleine Kobelt and Rianna Valdes. They played a little differently making them difficult to read early on. After losing the first 6-3, we figured out their tendencies and ran away with the match 6-2, 10-6.

In the finals we played Hind Abdelouahid and Alyssa Tobita who we didn’t know at all. We came out playing solid and won the first 6-3. The second set got a little dicey with the added pressure of being a championship match. We went up 5-4, but ended up losing the set 7-6. In the breaker, our opponents had some loose errors early on that let us break away and we didn’t look back. We ended up winning the third 10-4 to win the title. It was my third tournament back and our first time playing together so I was pretty pumped.



Interview Time

Oct 14-20 25k Waco, TX
As happy as I was to win my first doubles title of the year, there wasn’t any time to relax or celebrate since I was off to Waco the following day. My day off was my travel day to Waco so I hung out in Dallas for the afternoon before heading to Waco to meet my housing family for the week. They had three lovable pups and made me feel right at home.

The weather in Waco wasn’t great considering we had to squeegee a court off to hit before matches started on Monday. Then on Tuesday it rained the whole day. Fortunately my doubles partner, Emily Appleton and I were scheduled to play doubles indoors. Basically if you didn’t have a match, you didn’t get to hit because there were only three match courts to share with the mens tournament and one warmup court for the whole tournament. And of course if you had a match you had priority. We were 5th on playing Alyssa Tobit and Charlotte Chavatipon. They had both had singles matches earlier in the day so came out firing while we tried to get our bearings and get used to the quick indoor courts. It wasn’t pretty, but we toughed our way through it winning 7-6, 6-4. It was one of those matches you get through as best as you can and just move on. 

The following day had better weather so I was able to play my singles match against top junior, Alexa Noel, outside. I found she played a little similar to me since she liked to slice and run around balls. She was a solid player and I lost the first set 6-4 before I decided I was finished with letting her slice her way back into points. I started coming in off of everything and took control of the match. It was a long, grueling second set that lasted an hour and half as I started honing in on my volleys. I won the second 7-5. By the time I hit the third set I was on fire, serving bombs and hitting perfect volleys. I went up 3-0 which is when the wheels started flying off and my opponents age was apparent. She loudly said, “Why are you even trying?! She’s playing too good and deserves to win.” I knew I had broken her, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet since a player who doesn’t care anymore can be very dangerous. She started slapping everything and for two and a half games it all went in. However I stayed calm knowing that there was no way she could keep it up, and if she did then too good. At 3-2 she was up 40-15 on her serve to get it to 3-3, but her luck slapping wore out, so when I broke her to go up 4-2 it was over. She pretty much tanked the next two games with me winning the next 8 of 9 points. Experience trumped youth, but I was exhausted. It was a lot of court time for me.

The following day I played Anna Danilina and just couldn’t compete. My legs were too heavy to stay in the longer physical rallies I needed to be in, and my shoulder was wrecked from the long match with heavy Penn balls. I was still a long ways away from the shape I used to be in. 

Despite being unable to hang in my singles I knew I would be fine to cover half a court. We played Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes. I knew how Rianna played but I had never seen Kulikov. All I knew was that they played doubles together in college and were a top team. That much was apparent as they came out playing solid in the first. They crossed a lot and complemented each other well winning the first 6-3. In the second, Emily and I figured out the winning strategy as we lobbed to get them off the net and took the net for ourselves. We won the set 6-4. The super breaker was a tug of war and close to the finish. It took us three match points before finally winning it 11-9. It was stressful but we were into the semis. The whole match was filled with great points and reflex volleys, but the most memorable one was late in the second set. Kulikov and I were both on the ad side at the net with our partners rallying at the baseline when she went for the poach to hit a low angle volley. I saw it early so I took off running for the angle volley moving away from me. By the time I got to the ball my only option was hitting it in the foot and half of space between the net post and the umpire chair as I attempted to avoid crashing into the chairs and tennis bags on the side. I hit the ball down and made it which was impressive in and of itself, but then Kulikov still made the volley and somehow the point continued. I ended up untangling myself from the bags, but eventually we lost the point a few balls later which was a little sad. 

In the semis we played Vladica Babic and Anna Danilina who didn’t give us a chance to work our way into the match. We lost three deuce games in the first five games of the match. They played the tight points smart and the match got away from us. 

After finishing in Waco, I had a couple days before my next tournament in Dallas started up so I was able to rest my shoulder. I needed a day off  so I took my housing family’s recommendation to go to Cameron Park. I decided to go on a jog through the woods and along the river in the park which was nice. It didn’t even seem like I was in Waco anymore. I even checked out the Magnolia festival at the restored Silos from the show Fixer Upper. There was tons of food, music and vendors.

Oct 21-27 25k Dallas, TX
I was excited to get to Dallas since I was staying with Susanne and Mike Taylor who are reps for Inphorm and have made sure I’ve been well dressed for years. The day before doubles sign in ended up being stressful. I was supposed to play with Katie Swan, but she was a little injured from the previous week and didn’t want to play doubles. It was a mad scramble trying to find someone, but I got lucky and found Kayla Day. She had just received a wild card into the singles since she had forgotten to sign up for the event. Crisis averted. 

The weather wasn’t great when I first got to Dallas. I was on my laptop winding down for the night when Susanne came into my room to let me know that if I hear a siren go off that I might want to hide in my closet because there had been a tornado warning issued for the area. Also a tornado had just touched down by the Dallas airport, which was close by. I immediately was on high alert and freaking out since I had never been even remotely close to a tornado. I’m from Seattle and we definitely don’t have those there. The wind was howling and it was pouring, but fortunately the tornado didn’t come our way. However, it did destroy houses and stores, and caused a lot of roads to be closed on my way to the tennis courts. I didn’t sleep well that night to say the least. 

Kayla and I played doubles late in the day on Tuesday against Alicia Barnett and Jodie Burrage. We started off slow since the supervisor changed our court at the last minute so we had scrambled to get ready. We lost the first set 6-2 and decided that we couldn’t play any worse so it was all up from there. The first set seemed to be our warmup since we began playing much better, winning the second 6-3 and dominating the superbreaker 10-2. It was 6:30 by the time we finished as the last match of the day. The schedule wasn’t officially out so I lodged a complaint over being put as first match for singles and last/5th for doubles, while Kayla was at least second for singles. First off we weren’t even supposed to have doubles the next day since the draw is normally split in half, but the supervisor was worried that it might rain thus cramming in matches. In the end he told us that he thought we were going to lose after watching the first set of doubles which is why he made the schedule like that. Horrible reason, but instead of changing it he just put the doubles as 4th.

I played Marcela Zacarias in singles. It was pretty cold out so I started off slow going down 3-1 and 5-2 before starting to find my range from the baseline. She makes a lot of balls so I needed to be consistent and take balls early, which I began executing in the second. We started having long points and I was starting to wear her down, but it ended up being too late as I lost 4 and 4. 

With singles being over it turned into a waiting game for doubles. The match before Kayla took forever, of course, and then Kayla’s match was 3.5 hours so we ended up being 5th just like it was originally listed on the schedule. We didn’t even go on until almost 7 pm because she had to have a break after singles. The worst part was that the supervisor told me that he had a feeling Kayla’s match was going to be long…. My question then is why in the world would you put her second and me first then?! I had more than a 10 hour gap from when I originally had to be at the courts to start warming up for singles which is absurd. We played a team from Brazil that was in your face annoying, so after losing the first set 6-3, Kayla and I sunk our teeth into the match. We battled to win 6-4 and had chances to break away in the third set breaker before eventually losing 10-8. I was pretty upset since I know I could’ve played better if a decent schedule had been made. Kayla was tired from her long match and I was tired from being up 12 hours. And it came down to the fact that we didn’t even need to be scheduled for doubles that night. We ended up finishing at 8:30 pm and were the only match out there playing. It ended up raining only one of the days so there was no reason for him to cram doubles matches in.

The only bright side of losing was I could actually rest my shoulder for a few days before Tyler since the heavy balls had really taken a toll on it over the three weeks. All three tournaments were run by Oracle who provides Penn practice balls for the tournaments causing a lot of players to have shoulder issues. I spent the next few days hanging out with my housing at their showroom and trying on all of the new Inphorm clothes that are going to be coming out. 

Oct 28-Nov 3 80k Tyler, TX
Susanne and Mike took me to Tyler on Sunday since they were staying there for the week. It was an easy drive over and my shoulder felt much better after a few days off and switching back to Wilson US Open balls. 

In the first round of qualifying I played against Monika Kilnarova of the Czech Republic. I served well and took my opportunities to come forward which my opponent didn’t react well to. She wanted to hang from the baseline and hit balls. I ended up winning 6-3, 6-4 to get my second singles win. 

In the next round I played a big, strong German girl named Stephanie Wagner. She had a good serve and hit big from the baseline. It took me most of the first set to adjust and start playing better. In the second I started taking control of points and making more balls, but with all the stopping and starting due to rain delays it was tough to find a solid groove. Every time I started gaining the momentum it would start raining again. There were four rain delays in the second set alone, ranging from a few minutes to 30 minutes at a time. The worst one came after getting it to 4-4 after being down 4-2. I had chances to win the next two games but missed routine shots after the extended break. There was no margin for error that late in the match. 

After a short break I had my first round of doubles with Angelina Gabueva against Liga Dekmeijere and Maria Kononova. Liga used to play on the tour, but stopped when she had a kid, so I knew she was still going to be good, but I had never heard of the other player. They came out hot and made a lot of random shots, but also hit a bunch into the fence. It was such a strange doubles match where we couldn’t get any rhythm. We lost the first 6-3, and I almost got hit in the head by Kononova who didn’t seem to have any control over where she was hitting the ball. In the second we went down 5-1 before battling back to 5-4 where we lost on a deuce point. Doubles is tough when you lose 6 out of 8 deuce points. 

It wasn’t the greatest week but at least I had an awesome housing family who came out to watch my matches. 

I was ready to get out of Texas, so I booked a flight for the next evening out of Dallas. After looking at shuttles I concluded that the best way to get from Tyler to Dallas was to do a one way drop for a rental car. As my housing was getting ready to take me to the Tyler airport to pick up my rental car, one of their friends called to ask if I could take another player. As it turns out, Astra Sharma lost the night before and was heading back to Australia in the evening and needed a ride. Most players were still playing doubles so I hadn’t even thought to try to find someone to split the car with. She was packed and ready so we swung by and picked her up on our way to the airport. That was the smoothest part of the trip, but little did I know it was going to be a trip to remember. It was pouring so we sprinted into the building to get the car. We got everything transferred over when I noticed a dent in the car so I had to sprint back in to report it because I didn’t want to get charged for something I didn’t even do. We got in the car and I started driving out of the airport when I noticed that we only had a 3/4 tank of gas. Astra and I looked at each other trying to figure out how cheap the other one was and as it turns out we were on the same page so we turned around so I could report it. We were not about to pay for someone else’s gas. The girl at the counter told me that either she could run out and fill it up or we could return it at a 3/4 tank. I was getting a little nervous about timing for the flight so I chose to return it at 3/4. 

Finally we were off. We had fun listening to music and breaking down the difficulties of the tour. We were so engrossed with our discussion that I missed the turn for the freeway so I swung a U-ey before I realized that the missed turn was actually onto a toll road. We ended up making another U-turn to continue down the alternate route avoiding the toll completely. Everything else was great until it came time to fill the gas tank to 3/4. It really isn’t that easy to measure out. The car looked like it would get good gas mileage so we decided to start by putting $8 in. Astra was sitting in the car while I got up to pump the gas. I put the gas on and waited until it was close to $8 and then tried to stop it. It got jammed as I tried to stop it and my first instinct was to take it out since we didn’t want to fill it all the way up. Dumb move as I doused myself in gasoline before managing to get it off. For a second I just stood there horrified not knowing what to do. I was now cold, wet and smelled like gas. I put the pump away and walked to the car door and couldn’t even formulate what had happened to Astra for a few seconds. I didn’t even feel embarrassed yet, I was dumbfounded. She got out and looked at the car and the gas on the ground before digging through my stuff to help find me something to change into. I went into the bathroom with my head hung in shame as I cleaned up. In the meantime Astra made an attempt to clean up the gas on the ground by pouring water on it and further amplifying the mess. With that failing she decided to check how much more gas we needed and as it turns out it was about another $5. At this point I’m in the bathroom unable to get the gas fully off of my skin and am convinced that Astra thinks I’m a complete idiot since this was the first time we had ever spent a chunk of time together. There goes that potential friend because who wants to be friends with someone who can’t even fill up a gas tank. Anyway as I’m coming out of the bathroom I run into Astra who immediately told me that the pump was definitely busted. As she was nearing the amount she wanted, the pump jammed the same way it did on me. Her first instinct was to pull it out as well, but fortunately she remembered what had just happened to me. She managed to get it unstuck and avoided the gasoline shower but it was still on her hands. At least we didn’t make the same mistake twice. I was still so distraught and hungry that I walked over to the junk food isle and picked up a bag of chips telling Astra “I deserve these.” My day was not going well, but the chips made things a little better. My clothes reeked so I stuffed them into a bag by themselves, but the car already smelled of gas. We didn’t want the rental car place to ask questions about the smell so we rolled into the airport like gangsters with all the windows down when it was 38F outside surely raising some eyebrows. 

We were convinced that we were in the clear as we got onto our separate shuttles taking us to the correct terminals. A couple minutes of being in an enclosed space and I could smell the gasoline again. Since it was about a ten minute ride to the terminal there was plenty of time for everyone to get a good whiff. People were looking around and crinkling their noses as I tried to appear as baffled as everyone else while stealthily texting Astra my update. I was definitely going to need to change my shoes so I wouldn’t be flagged as a terrorist trying to blow the plane up or as an arsonist fleeing a crime scene. It didn’t help my case that the leggings Astra handed me at the gas station were camo. I was looking more suspicious by the second. Astra said that she had it on her shoes as well because she saw how oily she was making the floor. It was to the point that someone on her shuttle asked, “Do you smell that? Is something leaking?” We were both trying to remain invisible until we reached the terminal. When we had been at the gas station I had completely overlooked my shoes and the fact that my socks were soaked with gas as well so I threw my suitcase open in the middle of the terminal as I searched for a replacement. Even with changing all my clothes and my shoes I could still faintly smell the gas on my skin which was bothersome. I was counting down the minutes until I could scrub myself down in Vegas. 

The gas station comedy didn’t end there since I was left with gasoline soaked clothes and shoes that I really liked, so I had to google how to get the smell of gasoline out. That led me to putting baking soda on my clothes and then soaking them in vinegar for a few hours. Then I put them in the washing machine which only made the machine smell. In the end I soaked them in vinegar for 5 days before the smell was finally gone. What an experience and one I don’t ever plan to do again. Never a dull moment on the tour. 

Nov 4-10 60k Vegas, NV
I had a bit of time to start adjusting to the altitude in Vegas, but my balls were definitely flying. It isn’t an easy place to play since it’s high enough to make a difference, but not high enough to need altitude balls. This year the tournament moved from Red Rock Country Club to Dragon Ridge. Dragon Ridge didn’t seem to be ready for the tournament because when I arrived to practice on Friday, they were still resurfacing the courts and painting the lines. They even screwed up one of the courts making it three inches too short.

In singles I played Charlotte Chavatipon who was pretty sporadic, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the court at all. I sprayed balls all over the place and played horribly throughout the match losing 4 and 4. 

I was excited to play doubles with Sachia Vickery. It had been a long time since we had played together, but we generally complement each other well. We played eventual winners, Olga Govortsova and Mandy Minella in the first round. It was an ugly match all around with a lot of horrible lobs and misjudged overheads to the fence from both sides. It seemed like it was a match of who could string together a few good points. In the first we went down 3-0 since we had a lot of loose errors, but those errors were returned to us to get it to 3-3. Eventually we lost the set 6-4, but it was shockingly close for how poorly Sachia and I were playing. We did play a bit better in the second with some good poaches and strong groundstrokes, but it was a struggle to gain any momentum. The altitude definitely got to us as we lost the second 7-6. Not a good week.

Nov 10-17 WTA 125k Houston, TX
Next it was time to head back to Texas for one more week. Our tournament schedule really makes no sense sometimes. Last year the tournament was freezing so I came prepared with a lot of warm clothing this year, and it’s a good thing I did. It was a fluke they said, but I didn’t believe it for a minute as a polar vortex swept through a couple days into the tournament. It was cold and rainy for almost the entire week. 

I arrived early enough to sign in for singles qualifying, which I didn’t get into due to the qualy draw being a draw of 4. I had figured I wouldn’t get into singles, but had wanted to come for doubles at least. Originally I signed in with my friend, Sanaz Marand, but we were already two out an hour before the deadline so I was left to scramble to find someone to get in with. My heart was in my throat as I worried that I had flown to Houston for nothing. I had already spent a night in the hotel and if I didn’t get in, I was going to have to pay for that as well instead of it being a complimentary room… Double whammy. On the alternate list behind me I saw that Jovana Jaksic was signed in with Olga Danilovic and that if I changed to play with Olga that we could get in. The only problem was I didn’t know Olga and that makes it tough to reach out over social media in a time crunch, so I called Jovana. I sent her a picture of the list and asked her if I could steal her partner, and since she had no chance of getting in she consented and told me she would text Olga to ask her. I paced around for a little bit while waiting for a response before I decided to take matters into my own hands even further. I googled a picture of Olga and started walking around the site checking out all of the players I didn’t know. Eventually I found a girl who I thought to be her so I pulled out my phone and compared before crashing her practice. I had found the right person and after a short phone call with Jovana, the switch was official. At this point I had another 20 minutes to wait and pray that we wouldn’t get bumped out. We ended up being 14th out of 15 teams accepted. It was a tough cut that Genie Bouchard and Shelby Rogers didn’t even make, but I was excited to be in. 

Olga and I ended up being scheduled for Monday against Gabriela Ce and Jessika Ponchet. We got a good warm up in and were close to going on when it started pouring. The tournament supervisor was optimistic that it would stop and that we would be able to play under the lights, but one look at the weather radar said otherwise. Olga and I left her coach there to monitor the situation while we went back to the hotel. Eventually it was canceled. On Tuesday we ended up playing really late since Olga had been scheduled for third in singles. The temperature dropped quickly after the sun went down so it was tough to get warm playing doubles. From 3-3 in the first we got on a roll and couldn’t miss, winning the set 6-3 and going up 5-1 in the second. From there the temperature seemed to drop even more since all of a sudden my shoulder was frozen and I couldn’t get anything on my serve. We ended up winning the second 6-3, but it got closer than we wanted it too. 

Olga and I were hoping to play on Wednesday since we were both wanting to keep the momentum going, but our next opponents hadn’t even played their first match. Instead we had a day off to practice off site since there was only one court on site for warmup. It was cold, windy and miserable so we kept our practice short and sweet. After our practice I went to hang out with my housing family from last year to do laundry since it was super expensive to do through the tournament. The best part was I got to have a playdate with their adorable little girl, Ellie. Even though I was staying at the hotel this year, it was nice to be able to step away and catch up with the family and have a little normalcy. 

Then on Thursday it rained ALL day so my housing mom was nice enough to take Olga and I to her club to practice indoors. We were thankful to at least be able to get some exercise and to stay sharp. It was comical watching the tournament officials trying to dry the courts as it continually misted. On Friday we finally played Hayley Carter and Jamie Loeb. We played in the cold and under the lights which wasn’t ideal. We had quite a few chances in the first, but they played solid to win it 7-5. In the second we started attacking and moving forward more and got the momentum going our way when all of the lights shut off. Basically there was a power shortage so we had to wait 30-45 minutes for an electrician to come and fix it. By that point we had literally cooled off and basically had to start over. We each missed some shots that would’ve made a difference, losing us the second 6-4. 

I was sad that we had lost, but I was also itching to get to Sacramento as fast as possible since my best friend, Jovana Jaksic was getting married that Sunday. Olga and I were both flying up for the wedding so the loss was bittersweet. I almost immediately went into planning mode with Jovana and took the first flight in the morning the following day so I could help set up and join the festivities. She was a really beautiful bride and I was so happy to have been a part of her special day. She’s the main reason I chose to play in the States for the last part of the fall because otherwise I most likely would’ve gone to Thailand to play the tournaments over there in November. 

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Nov 18-24 25k Tucson, AZ
Tucson was a tournament that I shouldn’t have played, but the points always pull me in. I had wanted to go to Phoenix afterwards anyway so it kind of made sense to play the tournament. Originally I was supposed to be in the qualifying on Monday so I was going to leave the wedding Sunday night to play Monday. Now that would’ve been really crazy, but when I called to sign in over the phone, the supervisor told me that I would move into the main draw. I was really excited to hear that so I changed my flight to Monday morning in order to be able to spend the evening celebrating with Jovana and Vuja. 

The flights on Monday weren’t ideal but I arrived in the afternoon in time to get a short practice in at the U of A. I was staying with my friend, Ryan Stotland, who is the head women’s coach and with all the Oracle events being held this year I assumed the tournament was at the U of A. I had never looked at the fact sheet so I found out when I arrived that the tournament was being held on horrible courts at a hotel. The tournament site had been told that they had to resurface the courts before the tournament, but instead opted to attempt to patch them up, failing horribly. There were actual mountains and valleys and major crevices where multiple people ended up hurting themselves. These courts looked like they belonged in a forgotten park somewhere. 

Everyone was doubting why they were playing the tournament since the conditions were so bad. Cue the rain and the conditions went from bad to terrible. I went to school at ASU and we only got fully rained out four times in the three years I played for them. It doesn’t rain in the desert, except when there’s a tournament apparently. On Tuesday all the main draw matches were canceled since it rained most of the day and they couldn’t start matches under the lights due to them not being regulation. Wednesday was a lot more rain so matches didn’t start until late in the day. By the time I was close to going on it was almost dark, so the match was canceled. Thursday I finally got to step on the court against Brynn Boren once the morning rain subsided. At this point I had barely hit since Houston because I didn’t practice in Sacramento and then it kept raining in Tucson, so I couldn’t find the court. I lost the first 6-4 after being unable to make routine shots which was frustrating. I began fighting back in the second, but then there was torrential downpour the rest of the day, canceling the matches yet again. People were dropping like flies since it got to Friday, playing on crappy courts in crappy weather and everyone wanted to go home. Me included. I made a comeback winning the second 6-2, but it still wasn’t pretty. I never found a groove and kept missing putaway shots which was infuriating. I was mentally done after losing the third and wanted to get out of Tucson as soon as possible. It wasn’t the way I wanted to finish the season, but it was over at least. I thankfully hadn’t signed up for doubles since I wouldn’t have wanted to stay for doubles matches with no umpires. 

I took a couple weeks off after Tucson to take a mental break from tennis and the grind. It gave me a chance to reflect on the year and think about what I want to do moving forward. Hope you enjoyed catching up with me.

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