The End

Well, after two years out on tour I’m hanging up the rackets. Consider this post my official retirement announcement. Do you think they’ll have a ceremony and throw me a party? I mean, Since Federer is still playing, my retirement is the next biggest announcement in the sports world.

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but I have been sitting on it since then for a few reasons.

First of all, I wanted to make sure I didn’t change my mind. Over the summer while recovering from ankle surgery I had been considering quitting tennis, but I didn’t want to make a decision before I was able to play again. I can’t even count the number of times I went back and forth, but the last thing I wanted was to write a long post saying I’m done and then two days later decide I’m not.

After discussions with my coaches and family, I originally decided I would give it one more go. I began training again, but I could tell something was off. The motivation and drive were completely gone. As cliche as this will sound, I think I knew this is what I had wanted all along, but it was tough to accept.

Secondly, I’m sick of my body hurting all the time. I don’t have a great track record with injuries, and I never seemed to figure out what works for me. I’ve had chronic knee pain for the past year, and I don’t want to keep putting my body through the grind when I’m nowhere close to achieving the results I want.

The tipping point was losing my national ranking. I had planned on finishing out the year playing around the States, but due to my injury I lost all my USTA Top 500 points. Without this ranking, I would be unable to gain entry into any tournaments.

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Here’s a random photo of me from freshman year talent show to make this post a little more lighthearted. Check out those legs!

Over the past two years I poured myself into tennis. I did all the right things day in and day out. Running, lifting, eating clean. If there was something I could do to gain an edge and improve as a player I did it, except for maybe steroids. However, I never got the results I wanted. Mentally this wore me down over the course of the past year or so.

I can tell you the moment I decided to fully quit. I had an 8a.m. practice scheduled, but when I woke up that morning, I didn’t want to go. And I don’t mean the feeling where you’re tired or just want to snooze some more. I legitimately had no desire to play tennis.

I showed up to practice and after 15 minutes I called it a day. The passion and joy I used to have for the sport had left me. I still love tennis and always will, but the drive to stay out on tour was gone.

I’ve had plenty of people say I’m crazy, that I’m too young, I’m stopping too early. They say I’m going to regret this decision. But look, it’s not like I made this decision on a whim. It had been gnawing at me for quite some time.

Am I sad to leave tennis behind? Absolutely. I had such high dreams and goals that I never came close to achieving. However, I have no regrets about tennis. I always gave my best effort on and off the court and fully dedicated myself to pursuing a career in tennis. It sucks that it didn’t work out and I feel like I failed, but I’ve come to terms with that feeling.

The past two years have been an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but it’s time to move on to something new. So what’s next?

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Now that I’m not out on the road I’ll get to catch up on some brotherly shenanigans.

I’m now a coach at Louisville Tennis Club part-time until I decide about a full-time career path. I’m still up in the air about returning to school for an MBA, so until I make a definitive decision my future job prospects are in limbo.

Fortunately, I have plenty of people mentoring me as I transition from tennis into business. I’ve gotten some great career and life advice over the past month, and I’m all ears when it comes to learning about business opportunities.

In the past month I’ve also become more heavily involved with Cracked Racquets. In the past I would usually write for the site once a month as I still had a full training, tournament, and travel schedule. However, I’m now producing more articles and other content, and I did my first ever podcast a week ago. We’ve been all hands on deck the past couple weeks with our US Open coverage and have some other exciting projects in the works.

This Sunday we’re hosting our first ever live watch party. If you’ve ever heard of Barstool Sports or The Ringers, we’re taking a similar approach to tennis. Our goal is to provide a fresh perspective on tennis and share the great untold stories of the sport.

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Follow us on social media @CrackedRacquets

If you’re curious, check out our site and tune in this weekend! We’ll be live from Indianapolis and have guests such as Mackenzie McDonald, Eric Quigley, Jared Donaldson, Roger Rasheed, and Rex Ecarma joining the show. You can find the live-stream here.

Though my tennis career is over, there’s plenty of opportunities awaiting me. Whether or not I get an MBA, I’m leaning towards becoming involved in a start-up and entrepreneurial business that offers a fast-paced dynamic environment full of competition and creativity. I’m ready to take on new challenges, and I think the past two years of tennis have fully prepared me for this next step.

Thanks to everyone who has kept up with my story over the past couple of years. Knowing I had people cheering me on made the journey way more enjoyable, and I’m forever grateful for the support you all gave me.

The end of this chapter is the beginning of a new one.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer School

Well…. it’s been quite a while since I last posted. Two months be exact, but I have a legitimate excuse for once. I was studying like crazy for the GMAT while also rehabbing my ankle and trying to stay in shape.

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Aren’t I purty?

While recovering from my ankle surgery, I also had the joy of getting my wisdom teeth removed. I wasn’t in too much pain, but I lost a good bit of weight due to a lack of proper eating. Apparently two weeks of liquid food and Chick-Fil-A milkshakes isn’t an adequate diet.

I’m probably opening myself up to all sorts of blackmail by sharing this pic, but here’s my post-op photo. Future model? I think so.

I have been considering getting an MBA , so I used this period of down time to knock out the entrance exam. Like all standardized tests, the GMAT is full of tricks and trap answers. The material itself isn’t necessarily difficult, but some of the questions will leave your head spinning.

For the past couple months I had my head buried in prep books, online forums, workshops, tutoring sessions, and practice exams. To be completely honest, I never felt 100% confident about the exam before taking it. My scores on the practice exams were fluctuating and day to day, but I decided to go for it. You can only study so much.

I officially took the GMAT on July 23 and knocked it out. I got the score I was hoping for, so next up is deciding if and where and when to apply. There’s also the minor matter of financing. If anyone sees some money trees sprout up let me know.

Luckily the score is valid for five years so I have some flexibility moving forward.

In an odd way it was nice to study for something again. I don’t know if I would say I miss school, but part of me misses the structure and rigorous schedule.

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The Stud! And no that’s not me. Seb’s college nickname

Following the GMAT, I ventured across the pond again, though this time not for tennis. One of my close friends from college, Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, was marrying his long time girlfriend, Iris. Originally I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it, but the timing worked out and I booked a last minute flight to Vienna, Austria.

It was a mini college reunion of sorts. My former teammates Chris Simich and Albert Wagner also attended, as did one of the women’s players Manuela Velazquez. After years together in college I don’t think any of us could have predicted that the next time we would all be together would be in Vienna.

 

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Chris and Sarah Simich, Manu, and myself

Along with them, my little brother Ben also made his way to Vienna. Ben has essentially been a European nomad this summer, traveling all across the continent under the guise of study abroad. I hadn’t seen him in two and a half months, so a little dose of his buffoonery was much welcomed.

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Taking in the sunset from a rooftop bar in Vienna

 

 

haseSeb and Iris (his lovely bride to be) were nice enough to play tour guides for us during the hectic wedding weekend. They took us around the city center, showing us all the famous monuments and historical sites. We got some fresh air and took in some scenic views as we biked along the Danube River.

Of course the highlight of our trip was the actual wedding day. Due to studying and ankle rehab I’ve been a complete grandpa lately, so the wedding was a nice change of pace. Two nights of staying up until sunrise killed my body, but I think it’s safe to say we all had an amazing time celebrating with them on their special day.

Before you judge the bunny ears and call us immature, listen to the story behind this picture. Seb’s nickname for Iris is hase (pronounced hah-suh) but I always said it differently (hace with a hard a sound like lace). The first time I pronounced it this way it stuck and it became Iris’ go to nickname. Along with this, hase means rabbit in German, hence the bunny ears.

One of my favorite sites in Vienna was the historic Schonbrunn Palace, home to the former emperors. Normally I’m not a history buff, but the tour had all sorts of fun facts. There were also never ending gardens and fountains with hidden grottoes.

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I promise the palace is bigger than us.

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Beautiful fountain at the palace

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Scenic view from the grotto

As of now, I’m in tennis purgatory. I’m building my stamina back up as I prepare my body for tournament play. My cardio and lower body strength are a bit lacking after the month of lounging around.

I also lost my national ranking over the past few months, so getting into tournaments will be difficult. In order to get into Futures, I’ll probably need to play some smaller prize money tournaments first to reclaim my national ranking.

Over the next week, I’ll make a tentative schedule for the rest of the year as well as look into some MBA programs and potential job opportunities down the road.

Thanks to everyone for the thoughts and well wishes following ankle surgery! I’m always thankful to have the support of family, friends, and fans.

A Cripple’s Life

Remember that intense summer swing I talked about? Yeah, not gonna happen. I started having some discomfort in my left ankle the last week in Egypt, the same ankle that had been bothering me on and off for the past year. When I returned home I got an MRI and found out I had a loose body floating around in the ankle joint which meant surgery. Just what I wanted to hear!

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Not sure if they were prepping me for surgery or a mission to Mars

Luckily it was a minor arthroscopic procedure, but nevertheless my summer plans are shot. I had the surgery done last Friday and everything went well. Besides the loose body it turned out that I also had some bone spurs that were causing irritation as the ligaments and tendons rubbed over them. I’m holed up in bed now passing the time alternating between reading and watching Netflix.

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I had the quite the experience a couple of days after surgery. Our family friends the Hodges had come over for dinner Sunday night. After experiencing another lovely gourmet meal whipped up by Chef Juju we were sitting around chatting when we decided it was time to take the bandages off. About 30 seconds after we unwrapped them I got extremely hot and queasy. The last thing I remember is closing my eyes to take some deep breaths. Next thing I know they were yelling for me to keep my eyes open and lightly hitting my cheeks. Fortunately one of our friends was a doctor so he knew what was happening. He said it was a vasovagal attack— in layman’s term I’m a wimp and my brain freaked out when it saw my messed up ankle causing me to faint. Apparently I had a mini seizure and also managed to slightly chip my tooth when my head fell back, but this should be a one time thing. My parents were definitely more freaked out than I was.

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Mrs. Hodge caring for little baby Alex after his fainting spell

It’s been 4 days since the surgery but it feels like ages longer because of how boring it has been. My parents probably feel like they’re enslaved to me right now, but without them I wouldn’t be able to get through the day. It’s kinda tough to cook and do simple tasks when you’re on crutches. About all I’m good for right now is taking up space in the bed and creating a warm spot for our dog Maddie to snuggle.

I did get to have a little bit of fun before the surgery. A couple weeks after coming home was Derby week, and I went to a party with my friends Chris and Kelsey. The boys spent the first hour setting up a tent so we could hit golf balls even though it was pouring rain. After that I went and got my bets in for the races. The way they do it is everything is a random chance pool where you draw a horse’s name. Lady luck was on my side and I drew Justify in the $20 pool and came away with $200 in winnings. Not a bad day if you ask me.

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Mother son bonding at Thurby

A few days after I made my way up to Philadelphia. I have some friends from Louisville who now live there and my friend Kanika was going to be in town for her sister’s graduation so I decided to go visit so I could see all of them at the same time. I got to catch up with one of my good buddies from high school Matt Kinderman and spend some time with another former Louisville Cardinal Julia Fellerhoff. I also got to hang out with Kanika and met her sister and sister’s friends so all in all a good time. Ideally I would have spent a couple extra days to go see some of the historical sites, but I had to rush back home for Mother’s Day. Anyone who says Mom’s don’t run the world is lying to themselves.

I got my 15 seconds of fame in my hometown recently. I was out to lunch with my family one day when I received a text from my former trainer at Louisville with a picture of me on an advertisement at Kroger. Not sure why they chose me since I’m not on the team anymore but it was cool seeing that. You can definitely tell how much younger I am in this photo.

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I’ll be spending the next few weeks recovering and rehabbing my ankle. I’m pretty bummed I had to miss out on the sunshine of Memorial Day weekend so once I’m off crutches I’ll have to make up for lost time at the pool. In the mean time without tennis I’m writing an extensive article for Cracked Racquets that should be out on their website soon, and I’ve been looking into taking the GMAT. I got tapped to be a geometry tutor for a couple of days, so last night was spent relearning theorems and equations that are buried somewhere in the depths of my brain. Other than that I’ll be doing my best to maintain my sanity without physical activity. Oh, and I have to get my wisdom teeth out June 8th. Another joyful procedure.

I’m not sure about the rest of you Louisvillians but I’m ready for the transition from spring to summer. I’ll take the heat and humidity over sneezing and coughing because of the pollen. I’d rather step outside and start sweating than take one breath of fresh air and not be able to breathe through one of my nostrils for two days.

I also have to take a moment to brag on my little brother Ben. He recently went to France and will be gone all summer for study abroad. He’s got some pretty cool trips planned during his down time there. Be sure to check out his blog theroaminggiraffe.com to keep up with his travels and get some ideas for trips of your own!

Lastly, I have to give a huge congratulations to my friend Daniel Miller on his recent engagement to his longtime girlfriend Amanda. Can’t wait to celebrate with you all!

 

Should I Move to Egypt?

Did you hear the important news?! No…. really? Okay, I guess my life isn’t that important. After three months of bouncing across the globe nonstop for tennis I’m back home in Louisville. Can’t say I’m a fan of the rainy weather so if things don’t change I might have to hit the road again soon, but for now it’s nice to be back.

I just finished up a 3 week stint in Egypt. I’ve noticed that each time I go there and come back to the US customs officers get more and more suspicious of this whole professional tennis scam I claim to be participating in. Luckily they let me back in again but only after some extensive questioning.

The time in Egypt was pretty disappointing as I didn’t come away with points even though I was playing some good tennis. The first week I lost a close battle 7-5 6-3 to a younger kid who ended up qualifying and making the quarterfinals before falling to Teymuraz Gabasvhili (cough former world #43 cough).

If it weren’t for a terrible attitude I probably would have found myself on the winning side of that match. I got a much deserved chewing out from Seb afterwards and wouldn’t you know, the next few days in practice I played well when I focused on staying positive and not letting my emotions control me on court. Who would’ve thunk?

After the first tournament some buddies of mine invited me to go 4 wheeling in the desert with them to see the sunset. I almost passed on this because I was dead tired from training, but it’s a good thing I didn’t. I got to see some cool things, and I had actually never driven my own 4 wheeler. Obviously the most important part was the awesome pics I got though.

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Dusty Boyer and I taking in the view

In the second week I had another tough draw and played a young British lefty who is top 50 in the world for juniors. I ended up losing in 3 sets despite some great tennis; my opponent ended up qualifying again and was breezing through his first round match when he was forced to retire due to back spasms.

Something about my last weeks in Egypt seem to go well for me because the third week I qualified and was able to play main draw singles and doubles. In doubles my partner and I fell 6-1 6-4 to the two seeds. In singles I threw in a dud and lost to my friend Dusty Boyer (featured above), a former college player as well. To be honest I’m starting to get sick of writing I’m still searching for my first points but the past 2 months were some of my better months in regards to consistency in training and matches. Having a coach around definitely helped, so I’m looking to continue building on this.

After the last tournament I had a few extra days to kill because I had already booked my flight home for the end of the tournament after qualifying. Before this I hadn’t been to the beach a single time because of the schedule with matches and on practice days I usually started hitting around 6a.m. just so I could get a full court. Sadly the last few days at the beach weren’t enough to get rid of my farmers tan.

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Beautiful tanlines. Tennis player’s curse

This time around I managed to exert some self-control and willpower over my well-known weak spot—chocolate. If you recall last time I was there I ate two kilos worth of chocolate which can definitely not be healthy. This time the most I ever had was three pieces on a single day and I didn’t even go every night. True life of a chocolate addict right there.

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Not sure what I was drinking but it tasted good

The plan was to fly out this weekend for a short prize money tourney in New York but I had to override my desire to play and listen to my body which was telling me it needs rest. I’ll be taking the next week or two off to recover before getting ready for an intense summer swing.

Ballin’ in Bahrain

Before you judge me for this title, at least admit it fits with the usually humorous titles I come up with. Plus there’s alliteration. Can’t beat that.

7 has always been one of my lucky numbers so I was optimistic after qualifying in Bahrain. I won two easy matches so my body was feeling fresh, and I was excited for another opportunity at my first points.

Well, turns out 7 wasn’t the lucky one. We’ll see what my new lucky number ends up being. I lost 6-0 7-6 to the 8 seed. He played a flawless first set and blew me off the court, but I bounced back well in the second set. I actually served for the second set at 5-4 and in the tie break I was up 6-3. Pretty frustrating to let that set slip away. Obviously there was no guarantee I would have won the match, but the momentum had shifted my way and I liked my chances if it went to a third.

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Overall pleased with the progress I made. It was also my first tournament with my coach Seb there with me which was nice. With him there it takes a lot of the stress off me in terms of setting up practices and determining a game plan for matches. It’s also good to have an extra set of eyes off the court. What I feel on the court and what is actually happening doesn’t always match up as most athletes can attest to.

I spent a few extra days in Bahrain since Kanika, the women’s player I am splitting Seb with as a coach, was still in the main draw. I was able to get some good practices in and also had a couple of brutal gym sessions. Still having trouble moving my arms but are those really necessary for tennis?

Seb and Kanika finally saw my iron stomach in action our last night in Bahrain. We were in a rush to get to the airport and the only quick food place near us was Shake Shack. They ate like normal humans while I proceeded to order a cheeseburger, chicken burger, hot dog, fries, and a frozen custard. So basically the entire menu. They were absolutely mortified when they saw me finish off that last bite. Not to mention I topped off this food with some chocolates I had bought about 5 minutes before. I wish I could have captured the look on Seb’s face when I told him I was ready to eat again in a few hours.

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Sleeping it off in a food coma

I’m back in Paris for a few days of training before heading to…. Duh duh duh… Egypt again for three weeks. I’m making up for the lack of sunlight I experienced in Portugal.

 

The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow

Okay, so maybe I overreacted a little bit last time. Portugal isn’t THAT bad. I wouldn’t say I’ve enjoyed myself, but I definitely made it sound like some waterlogged hellhole. There’s lots of worse places I could be. I was reminded of this when I got the following text from a friend back home:

“Did I just read a blog post about a 23-24 year old dude complaining about traveling the world playing tennis instead of going to work 8-5 everyday…. Did that just happen, because it couldn’t have.”

I got a good laugh out of this text. I’d make the point that this is a job for me so when I can’t practice or get in the gym properly it’s frustrating. However, he’s totally right and it’s good to keep things in perspective. I hit a tennis ball around and get to do what I love.

I didn’t qualify this second week in Portugal either. Safe to say I won’t have fond memories of this place. Those who know me know I’m a repetition guy and like lots of practice. Ask my old college teammates how many times I would say “just one more rally” before they finally got me off the court. I struggled with the lack of practice, but this is no excuse. I was still in winning positions so at that point it’s all mental, and I know that. I’m still learning new things every week, so my points will come.

Believe it or not, I actually saw some sunlight the past couple of days. Crazy right? And I’m not just talking a couple of rays sneaking through a cloud ridden sky. Like full blown blinding sun in my face. That was a nice change. I actually got to practice and work on my tan, with the tan obviously being the main priority there.

I also had one of the best burgers in my life when I found a little hole in the wall in Loulé called Brooklyn Cafe. I opted for their famous Brooklyn Burger which was topped with ham, cheese, bacon, a fried egg, and some amazing sauce. I followed that up with a delicious chocolate mousse for dessert. The second time there I got the Oporto burger. Honestly no idea what all it was topped with, but it was delicious. That’s all that matters.

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The Oporto burger– I can still hear it calling my name

Tomorrow I’ll be spending my entire day traveling to Bahrain for the next tournament where I’ll compete again Saturday. I have an early morning flight so looks like another sleepless night for me which seems to be the theme when I fly. On the bright side, Bahrain should have terrific weather and plenty of sun. Get it…. On the bright side… okay really not that funny, I know.

For those of you who already thought I was insane for going to Egypt and now you just read that I’m going to Bahrain, you’re probably questioning my mental state. I promise I’m still sane, as far as I know.

I’ll check back in with everyone after Bahrain to let you know how it goes!

Get Me Outta Here

Come to Portugal they said. It will be nice they said…

WRONG. Unequivocally false. Could not be further from the truth. I came to Portugal expecting sunshine, scenic views, and beautiful weather (like the photo above). Instead what I’ve gotten so far is what you see below.

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Absolutely abysmal

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The court conditions I practiced on the first day

A few words come to mind when I have to sum up my experience here so far. Miserable. Dreadful. Horrific. It hasn’t been a fun time. The first five days I was here I hit a total of two hours. 30 minutes of that was on an outdoor street hockey rink without a net where the ball almost bounced over my head every time. The other two times were two 45 minute “practices” on a sopping wet court with one ball where I was afraid to take more than one step for fear of sliding into the splits and ripping myself in half.

I was supposed to play my first match Sunday morning but due to the rain matches were canceled for the day. Monday I was up at 7a.m. to warm up as I was scheduled to be second court on, but, you guessed it, more rain. I sat around all day and then went on court at 9:30p.m. I didn’t finish up until 11:15p.m. and after stretching and walking back to our Airbnb it was midnight. My roommate and I also screwed up and read our Airbnb booking wrong and stayed an extra day, so I then had the joy of packing all my stuff up that night. I was not a happy camper getting to bed around 2a.m.

Tuesday I was up again at 7a.m. to go warm up, but my best friend the rain decided to visit again. Such a lovely creature. Once again I sat around all day before finally going on court at 6p.m. I lost 7-5 6-4 to a player ranked 1044, but it was one of my better matches this year. I was up a break 4-3 the first set and 3-1 the second set, so it was my match to win. My opponent was quite the…. Insert your expletive of choice here. Towards the end of the first set he started jarring at me. He then tried to blow snot rockets on me twice. Real mature, I know. Then to top it off he tried to block my path from walking and bumped me. It took a lot of energy to restrain myself but I wasn’t trying to get banned from tournaments for 6 months.

Unfortunately I messed up again with the tournament situation. My second to last day in Paris was the withdrawal deadline for tournaments the week of March 12. I was practicing at 2p.m. with Seb and Kanika and the withdrawal deadline was at 3p.m. We had set an alarm for 2:45p.m. so we could check entry lists and withdraw accordingly, but as luck would have it the ringer on the phone was turned off. I was planning on going to Cali or Japan but sadly I’m stuck in Portugal for another week. Can you tell I’m over this place?

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Don’t let the smile fool you

So new plan. I’ll play one more week in Portugal then head to Bahrain for one week and then head to Paris for one week and then head to Egypt. Phew that sentence was a mouthful. If my English teacher saw that she’d scold me about the run on, but I wanted to emphasize all the country hopping I have coming up.

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About the only thing helping me keep my sanity while I’me here

Hopefully I’ll get my first points in these next few weeks since I’m playing a much better level of tennis. As of now looks like I may be back in the states mid April. But no promises. I was supposed to be back at the beginning of February and now here I am.

If anybody knows how to internationally ship sunshine and dry weather contact me ASAP. I’d pay a pretty penny for some of that right now!

Towering Over Paris

You’re probably wondering how I ended up in Paris. In a last second decision I decided to come here to train at a small academy outside of the city with Sebastian Proisy, the coach I met in Egypt that started helping me towards the end of my last trip there. I really liked some of the changes he made in a few short days, so I thought it would be good to come here for a couple of weeks of proper training before heading back out on the road.

I was completely unprepared for the Antarctic weather in Paris, mainly because I had planned on going home after Egypt so I had absolutely no winter clothes packed. Kinda hard to stay warm when you thought you were going to be in a desert for a few weeks. Fortunately my parents were able to ship me some things to stay warm, but we would have been better off just having me buy those things in Paris. Don’t ask us about the cost. If I could insert the facepalm emoji here I would.

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My poor attempt at staying warm

I’ve been in Paris two full weeks now. Between training and visiting the city in my free time I’ve been running around nonstop, but I feel like my game has made some big improvements with the help from Seb. Here’s what a typical day looks like:

7:30 Wake up and have breakfast
8:30 Get picked up for practice
9:00-9:30 Warm-up
9:30-11:00 Tennis
11:00-12:30 Fitness
12:30-2:00 Lunch, shower, and rest
2:00-3:30 Tennis
3:30-4:45 Fitness
4:45-5:15 Stretch, shower, and head home

I’m absolutely dead by the end of every day, but it’s been great for my tennis and conditioning. When I first saw the schedule I was a bit worried about my body holding up because of my history with injuries, but so far I’ve stayed in one piece (as far as I know). The main thing Seb and I have been working on is the mechanics, rhythm, and toss for my serve. Any of my coaches over the past few years can tell you nightmare stories about the hitches in my serve, but the things Seb has had me work on are making a huge difference and my serve is starting to click again. It’s only the most important shot in tennis so I’m pretty pleased about that.

I got a nice surpise last week when Seb told me I would get to practice with Stefanos Tsitsipas, a Greek player currently number 80 in the ATP World Tour rankings. I had been a hitting partner at the Cincinnati Masters Series before, but I had never truly gotten to practice with a player of his level. I was only able to practice with him for two days, but those practice sessions were a huge help. People don’t realize how good these guys in the top 100 are. They’re able to hit the same spot over and over again while absolutely tagging the ball, so getting to train against that level was awesome. Stefanos was also super helpful and gave me some tips at the end of the week. Best of luck to him the rest of the year!

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It was also a nice surprise when I found out my friend Kanika would be coming here to train at the same time as well. After Egypt she had gone home to Singapore, but a few days later she told me that she would be coming to work with Seb since he has started traveling with her and coaching her on more of a full-time basis.

Last weekend we were able to go out and see Paris. Honestly it might have been more tiring walking around the streets of Paris all day than running around the tennis court for hours. On Saturday we went to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica situated atop Montmartre. We made the poor decision of climbing 300 steps to the top of the dome in the church, but the views from up there were amazing. Afterwards we trekked our way over to Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s crazy to think they were able to build such elaborate and ornate structures hundreds of years ago.

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View from atop the dome of Sacre Coeur

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Shadow of the Eiffel Tower over Paris

Sunday was another day full of sightseeing. We woke up early in the morning to get to the Eiffel Tower at opening time and went up to the top for a view overlooking Paris. It was absolutely freezing so we only spent a couple minutes outside, but it was well worth it. After that we pretended to be art snobs for the day and made our way through the Louvre, Musee D’orsay, and Musee de L’orangerie taking in some of the classic artwork of Monet, Degas, and Cézanne. Of course we also saw the famed Mona Lisa, but to be completely honest it was pretty disappointing. To finish off the day we ventured over to the Palais Royal before calling it quits and heading home.

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Thought about pushing her off during the pic

 

waterlily

The famous Monet Waterlily painting

For me the highlight of the weekend was the food. It’s a good thing I don’t live in France because every other store is a bakery or pastry shop with shelves full of heavenly goodness. If I lived here year round it’s safe to say my diet would consist of beignets, eclairs, and chocolate. I need to wear blinders when I go walking through the streets because some of the food is irresistible.

The last place left to visit was the Chateau de Versailles which was absolutely spectacular. I didn’t realize it, but we had passed by it several times already when we took the train into Paris. The castle itself is absolutely humongous and definitely a bit gaudy, but it’s an impressive site to see. I can only imagine how beautiful the gardens are in the spring and summer when everything is in full bloom.

versailles

Today is my last day in Paris before flying out to Portugal tomorrow morning. I was supposed to go to Japan, but I completely blundered the visa situation. I thought I needed a working visa but turns out I could have acted under a tourist visa so live and learn. I guess Portugal isn’t such a bad place to be. After the first week there I’ll either stay in Portugal or head to Japan or California for some tournaments depending on the entry lists. I’m still not sure when I’ll finally get to head back home, but if I ever get my schedule figured out I’ll be sure to let all of you know. Missing everyone back home!

I Sphinx Egypt is My Second Home

In the usual fashion here’s my several weeks late update for you guys. At least I’m consistent…

After my last tournament in Columbus before Thanksgiving, I spent the rest of 2017 rehabbing my knee due to a severe case of tendinitis. It looked like I had a mini golf ball tumor in my knee, and it got to the point where walking up and down stairs without extreme pain wasn’t even possible. I’m still kicking myself around over not taking some rest time sooner, but all that matters now is that I’m healthy and 100%. I was losing my mind not being able to practice, but luckily between double rehab sessions and teaching some lessons I was able to stay busy.

In one of the best early presents to myself I was able to start practicing a few days before Christmas. Well, practicing might be a strong word. For the first week I only hit 30 minutes a day and I wasn’t taking any steps or moving. After all the work I put into getting my knee better I wasn’t about to come back too hard too soon. The racket felt like a foreign object in my hand so I was spraying shots the first couple days, but after a few practice sessions I started to feel the ball better and my instincts kicked back in.

After a whirlwind of Christmas festivities with my family (my grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles also live in Louisville) I made my way down to Nashville for New Year’s Eve. The night didn’t quite go to plan and I almost turned into a popsicle, but it still ended up being a great weekend. Our initial plan was to go to a club where I could buy a ticket at the door first thing they opened and get in with my friends as they had bought their tickets in advance. Well wherever we went seemed to be the hot spot that night because when we showed up there was already a line of 500 people, so no chance I was getting in. It was 7 degrees outside and all I had on was jeans and a button down so I made friends real fast and hightailed it to another club with a random group of people for no other reason than to save myself from shivering to death. Luckily my friend Mackenzie worked her magic and saved the night by sweet talking the bouncers into letting me skip the line.

newyears

Once January 1 hit it was back to work. I was scheduled to fly out to Egypt in two and a half weeks so the rush was on to get my tennis and fitness back to competition level. I always forget how much harder it is coming back from an injury. It takes twice as much effort just to get back to your original level, then even more to start improving again. Maybe one day I’ll learn to stay away from the injury bug, but right now it seems I might have the injury plague. I was also in the process of frantically demoing rackets and trying to get them ordered for my trip so it was a bit of a stressful time. Fortunately they came in the day before my flight, saving both my sanity and my wrist as my old rackets weren’t cutting it anymore.

I wish I could tell you the fourth time was the charm (I know I know, it’s supposed to be third time’s a charm), but I left Egypt empty handed again. My lack of match play for two and a half months definitely showed, but on the bright side each week got better. The first two weeks I lost in qualifying but the third week I lost first round of main draw to the 7 seed in three sets. So yes, yet again, I’m still looking for my first ATP point. I also played doubles one week with George Goldhoff, a Texas alum, but we lost in the first round in three sets. Seems to be the theme for me in Egypt.

While in Egypt, my friend Kanika was also there so it was fun seeing her. If you recall she made a cameo in the last blog post. I’m not sure if she planned on having to deal with me again this time around but it’s always good to have a friend on the road. Her coach Seb started helping me out and working with me some the last week, though she’ll claim I hijacked her coach away. Luckily they were nice enough to let me join in on some fitness and practice sessions. Let me know who you think has the best abs of us three. Kanika also convinced me to try Indian food for the first time. I was a bit hesitant at first because I thought it would be super spicy and I’d end up breathing flames like a dragon, but she ordered something I could actually handle. How I made it 23 years of my life without trying Indian food is a bit of a mystery, but I was a fan. Super tasty!

absegypt

Since this was my fourth time in Egypt, I figured it was finally time I made my way over to the pyramids. My friend Daniel Nguyen had gone the week prior and did a private tour with a guide his friend suggested and said it was a blast so I did the same. I flew into Cairo first thing in the morning and spent all day running from one site to the next. I saw the pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Cairo museum. I learned enough Egyptian history in an 8 hour span to make my brain explode, and I got to eat some awesome authentic Egyptian cuisine. I learned how the ancient Egyptians made papyrus and got to see some of the oldest churches around. Okay enough nerdiness. I also got to take some pretty cool photos. Check out the one below. Pretty sure I risked potential paralysis to get this one but thankfully the camel didn’t move. If any of you ever find yourselves in Egypt Hany Mahmoud is your go to man for a tour. Not only does he know his history, but he can also navigate the madness of Cairo like the conductor of a symphony. Seriously, driving in Cairo traffic should be an Olympic sport.

camel

If you have some free time check out Cracked Racquets. It’s an up and coming multimedia site covering all of the latest tennis news and events with a focus on college tennis as well. During my injury layoff I started doing some freelance writing for them and have been writing articles every two to three weeks. If you’re a tennis fan then you’ll love this site! Here’s the link for anyone interested: https://www.crackedracquets.com

pyramid

In another crazy turn I’m now in Paris getting ready for my next tournaments! More on that in a few days. Thanks to everyone who has reached out since I’ve been gone. Always nice hearing from friends and family back home!

‘Tis The Season

How there’s only 25 more days until Christmas and one month left in 2017 is absolutely beyond me. I feel like I just pulled into the driveway on my way home from Canada. I’ve basically been on the road nonstop since then, so I’ll do my best to catch you up on everything!

When I returned from Canada I had the opportunity to play in an exhibition match at Big Springs Country Club with Eric Quigley. The head pro there, Alladin, had asked us a few weeks prior if we would be able to participate and fortunately the scheduling worked out. Every now and then it’s nice to step out on court with no pressure on the line and get to entertain a little bit. It was a great atmosphere to play in considering there’s almost never anybody watching on the road. Of course Eric and I still wanted to win, and I ended up coming out on top. Eric kept throwing around excuses about how he had his wedding a few days before and was looking for a job blah blah blah. You know how people are when they lose (Just kidding Q!).

exhibition

Following the exhibition I played in the State Closed where I lost in the semifinals of singles to my old teammate Albert Wagner and in the finals of doubles. I was pretty disappointed with this showing because I felt my tennis dropped a bit. I also missed out on extra money, and I’ll never complain about some extra prize money to help cover my expenses. To be completely honest with you all, I was scheduled to leave for Egypt only a few days after this tournament, and I was seconds away from cancelling the trip. However, I decided that I needed to tough it out and keep playing tournaments. It doesn’t matter how well I train if the tennis isn’t coming out on game day.

After a couple of days back training I returned to Egypt much to the dismay of my family. I know. Egypt again, right? You’re probably wondering why I don’t just live there year-round at this point. It was the best decision for my tennis at the time, and I knew some other Americans going as well so I wouldn’t be completely alone.

I ended up staying for four tournaments in Egypt, and each week I played progressively better and the results showed. I don’t want to bore you with all of the tennis details as I’m trying to fit 2 months worth of hitting fuzzy yellow balls around in this post. The highlights were I ended up losing in the first round of main draw twice. You’re probably wondering why this is a highlight if I lost. Well, these were my first main draw matches in a looong time, and since my injury this summer my tennis had been struggling.

The last week I was there I by far played my best tennis. I rolled through qualifying and in the first round was playing the 6 seed, a Ukrainian ranked 644 world in the world. After losing the first set I cruised 6-1 in the second and was up 4-2 in the third with 0-40 on his serve. Anyone who knows anything about tennis would tell you I was in prime position to close out the match and get my first ATP points. Unfortunately, I squandered that opportunity. I had 0-40 again at 4-4 on his serve and once again couldn’t convert. Ultimately I lost 6-4 in the third set, so I’m back to chasing those elusive first points.

Everyone I’ve talked to has asked me if I think I got tight or if I choked or was it too much pressure, and I can honestly say no. Of those 6 break points, I only had one point that I can look at and say I absolutely should have won that point. So did I choke that one? Maybe. But my opponent is a very good player and came up with big serves and shots when he was in a hole. This loss still stings, but I look at it and know I have the level to start competing day in and day out again. It was the first time since April of this year I had felt that way.

As usual, I made some new friends in Egypt. There were a couple of Canadians that came along as well as some other college players. Shoutout to Antoine LeDuc for putting up with my shenanigans for an entire month. I didn’t think it was possible to find someone else as insane as me but you succeeded. A group of us would usually go watch our friend Kanika play at night and cheer her on. Check out the pic below for the best cheerleading squad around. We coined ourselves Kanika’s Kamarades. Maybe if she makes it big time she’ll have some fanboys across the world.

kamarades

I finished off the year with two more tournaments in the states. In a questionable decision on my part, I drove down to Pensacola only three days after returning from Egypt. The plan was to play a wildcard tournament and then stay for either qualifying or main draw depending on how I did. I won my first two matches before losing in the quarters of the WC tourney, but then my knee flared up. I ended up having to withdraw before qualifying began and came home.

The next week was spent deciding if I would play in Columbus or not because of my knee. If I didn’t get in, no big deal, but I decided I would play if I was able to and then take some time off afterwards. My friend Jarryd Woog came up for the week to train with me, and we also roomed together in Columbus. Do you see where this is going yet? As the tennis gods would have it, he and I drew each other in first round of qualifying. He got the W with a 6-2 4-6 7-6 win.

As you can imagine, the past couple months have been an absolute blur for me. I was on the road for 6 weeks straight and only home for a couple of days here and there. Luckily when I came back from Egypt I got a little down time over the weekend and went up to Columbus for my good friend Mackenzie Eichengreen’s birthday. We had a blast barhopping on the pedalwagon, eating some awesome local cuisine, and dancing the night away to celebrate her 24th.

macbday

I also got to be in town for one of the first holidays in quite some time. In the past years I can’t even begin to count the number of birthdays, banquets, and other events I’ve missed because of tennis. I think everyone got wind of me being around for Thanksgiving, though, because none of my other cousins came back into town. Guess I’ll have to keep my plans to myself if I want to see them next time.

Right now I’m currently taking some time off to rest and rehab my knee, something I should have done a while ago considering it has been bothering me since late July. So far everything is on schedule and I should be back out on the courts practicing in a few days. The plan is to play a couple of tournaments in December scattered in with my offseason training to get ready for 2018.

Thanks to everyone who has kept in touch and followed my results as I’ve been on the road! There are days I wouldn’t get through without you all so I appreciate the support. Hope everyone survived the Black Friday madness and is looking forward to the holiday season!