I can’t believe it is time so say bye to Sharm. I can’t believe I’ve already been gone for a month. And part of me still can’t believe that I have been living in Egypt this whole time. I am definitely excited to get back home, but as soon as I’m home I know I’m going to miss this place. It’s been an awesome experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my tennis and also had the chance to meet some amazing people over here. Throw in the beautiful sights I’ve been waking up to every day, and it was the perfect recipe for a trip to remember.
The last tournament started Sunday, and the tennis gods were at work yet again. Somehow Mike and I managed to get paired up in the first round match. Of all the people and I have to play my good friend and travel partner… seriously? What are the chances? (If you’re wondering, we actually did the math and it was about a 6.2% chance) Mike and I have played each other countless times in practice, and it is always a battle so we expected nothing less this time. It is also very hard to play such a good friend in a real tournament match. Neither person wants to lose, but at the same time it sucks to knock your friend out of the tournament. Ultimately, I won 6-3, 7-5. I was happy to be back in the final round of qualifying, but I honestly really didn’t enjoy the victory because I knew it ended Mike’s tournaments here.
Next round I played the only other American here right now. The draws are made randomly, but it does make you wonder how the only 3 Americans ended up playing against each other. I ended up losing 6-3, 6-3. My opponent played a great first set. He was ripping balls to the corners and had me running wherever he wanted. The second set I made some adjustments and had my chances to get back in the match, but a couple of costly errors at inconvenient times did me in. Physically, the wear and tear of the previous 3 and a half weeks caught up to me, and I was mentally fatigued. Don’t think I’m making excuses. That’s not why I say that. It’s something I have to learn to manage and play through going forward.
With that loss, my competition officially ended in Egypt and brings me to today. These are our last two days in Sharm before hopping on a 4am flight out of town for the long trek back home. We spent most of the morning at the beach. And wouldn’t you know it? The one day we can both go down there together it is completely overcast and cloudy all day. Only the second cloudy day since we’ve been here. It was only my second time to the beach here, though, so I still enjoyed myself. For me, sometimes there’s nothing more relaxing than lying on the beach with a good book. It gives me a way to unplug from the grind for a bit. I also went snorkeling again today, and words can’t describe what I saw. Spectacularly incredible is the best way to put it. I saw some of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever seen. Being inches away from them makes the experience that much more amazing, so I’ll definitely be back again tomorrow. Not a bad way to end off the trip.
I really am going to miss this place. I know in my last post I talked about the things we hate about it here, but if I look at that list and then think about the positive experiences I’ve had , it doesn’t even compare. With that being said, I want to talk a little bit about some of the people we met here. I already mentioned Bianka and Szabina, the first friends we made. They also introduced us to one of their friends, Aleah, who happens to be American as well; it was nice to have another person that we could speak English with and not have any problems. There was our Italian disco man, Davide Negrotti, who is one of the funniest people I’ve met in a while. We were also lucky enough to meet two Belgian girls, Sophie and Vicky, who came to be known as “The Munchkins” because they were both about 7 inches shorter than us. And lastly, we met a Polish guy, Mateusz Tercyzynski, who we nicknamed Matteo.
For me, meeting these people and making lifetime friends across the world was the highlight of my trip. That’s one perk of traveling while playing tennis. You meet people from all parts of the globe that speak different languages, have different cultures, and grew up with a totally different perspective on the world. Yet for the past two and a half weeks, every single night we all hung out for hours on end, usually staying up chatting until 1 or 2 in the morning before people started straggling off to bed. Life on the road is a difficult one, but with people like this around, it makes it much more enjoyable.
I only have about 36 more hours left here, and I’ve crossed everything off my to-do list except two things— see the sunrise on the beach and do some gift shopping for friends and family back home. I’m hoping to knock the shopping out tonight, and then tomorrow morning I’ll set about 14 alarms to make sure I’m up in time to go see the sunrise. It will be a while before I get to enjoy weather like this again, so I’m trying to soak up as much of it as possible. Up top is a photo of the sunrise Mike got earlier this trip, so I’m pretty excited to see it myself tomorrow morning.
Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I also want to give some shoutouts to the people back home that keep me sane while I’m thousands of miles away.
First and foremost, I have to thank my family so much. My mom and dad, or Juju and Timbo as you may hear me call them, are without a doubt the best parents anyone could ever ask for. They support and encourage me every day, and they are also the ones sponsoring my travels and training right now. I’ll never be able to thank them enough. I also have two pretty damn awesome brothers, Austin and Ben, who check in with me and give me some good laughs. My grandmas, Mimi and Gram, have also been keeping up with me, and I love waking up to their messages of support. I could go on and on about the aunts and uncles and cousins that help me get through the day, so even if I didn’t name you here, trust me I know you all are there for me and I’m thankful for that.
As if I am not already lucky enough with the support from my family, I also have some pretty amazing friends back home. These people have been my best friends for a while and have been through just about everything with me. They’ve stuck by my side through the ups and downs, and even after finding out how crazy I really am, they still talk to me. First of all, a huge thanks to Chris Smith and Kelsey Newsome— you all are incredible people and I can’t wait to see you again this weekend (I’m also looking forward to August 26, 2017!). Katia Vela, soon to be Dr. Vela, does a heck of a job of playing therapist while I’m gone. Anytime I’m missing home or need someone to talk to I know she’ll be there. Matt Browne has been a lifelong friend ever since his first day in Louisville, and I know he’s always looking out for me. Some of my old friends from the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Louisville, Sean Donohue, Chris Kougoucheff, and Sena Suswam, are always there with a pick me up when I need it most and the latest story to make me laugh until I’m crying. I’m also excited to see my favorite twins Elizabeth and Emily again. There’s lots of catching up to do once I’m back!
Lastly, I have to give a huge thanks to Big Mike Lippens. We’ve basically been living together for the past three months. We were in Canada together, then Texas, and now Egypt. It’s safe to say we are brothers at this point and one of us should probably change our last name and get adopted by the other person’s family. It’s been an awesome experience being able to see the world with him, and I’m going to miss him when he heads back to Jersey. It’ll be weird not having him around. We still have these last two days and some serious flight time together, though, so let’s enjoy it!
There are plenty of other people I could mention, and I know there are many people that wish me the best. So to each and every one of you that is reading this, I say thank you. I’m not sure about my schedule for the rest of the year yet. I’ll be speaking with my parents and coach over the next few days to work out all the details. But check back in with me soon and I’ll let you all know the plan!