Well…. now comes the time for me to put up the usual apology about not posting soon enough to keep you all updated on my schedule and what has been happening across the pond. But to be completely honest, there really hasn’t been much going on. The past 3 weeks have been a blur for me because the days were all so similar, but I’ll see if I can spice things up and make them sound like a wild time.
After some rest, a couple of visits to physical therapy, a truck load of arctic ice, and more stretching than sleep, my arm and elbow were back to normal. The first few days back at practice it would get sore and tired towards the end of practice, but I was just happy to be playing again. When I’m not able to play tennis I have to admit I’m in a pretty sour mood. Tennis is a huge part of my life, if not my entire life for the moment, so a lot of times my mood is determined by how tennis is going for me. Turns out the whole reason my arm was hurting is because my contact point on my forehand was late, so it was just a simple technique issue. Funny how a difference of only a couple of inches in contact point can make the difference between a perfect forehand or a lingering injury.
Who’s that good lookin’ guy? Completely kidding. I don’t have any pictures from the past few weeks so I figured I’d throw in one of myself so you all know I’m alive and well.
Since I had hurt my arm, my coach, David, and I decided it would be best to get in 2 good weeks of training and then play some national tournaments in Belgium. I was still having trouble getting into ITF’s, but now it should be easier since a few months of the year have passed. At the start of the year, everyone across the world is looking to play since they just finished up preseason training, but after a few months people’s schedules start to differ based on training, rest, injuries, etc.
The past two weeks of practice went extremely well. We did a lot of work on my forehand and serve as well as tweaked my volleys a bit so I have better feel and control on the ball. If you want to know why I hadn’t posted in so long, this is how the past two and a half weeks have looked. I would wake up around 8 or so, head to the courts to hit some serves on my own from 9 to 10, and then come back to my apartment to rest and eat. After that I would head back to the courts for practice with David, usually for an hour and a half or two. On Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I have fitness and conditioning either in the morning or at night; then once I’m done for the day I stretch, shower, and head home. Then I press the repeat button the next day.
For my tennis, the past few weeks have gone really well, but off the court life has been a bit boring. My friend Matt has been in India since the start of February, so every day I come home and am alone at the apartment. I also don’t have a car here, so if I want to go anywhere I either need to find a ride or take the bus, which isn’t such a big deal, except there’s not a whole lot of stuff going on in Flémalle (where our apartment is). One week I passed the extra time binge watching one of my favorite shows on Netflix. I used to watch the show Suits, but got away from it after a couple of seasons. So I went back and watched all 6 seasons in about a week and a half. After turning my brain to mush like that, I decided it was probably a better use of my time if I read or did something semi-productive with my extra time. I had one book left that I brought with me from back home. Called Shoe Dog, it’s Phil Knight’s memoir of the early uprising of Nike and what the company has come to accomplish as well as the unique spirit and culture behind the company. Maybe not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and finished it in just three days.
This past week I finally got the chance to play another tournament which I had been dying for. Practice gets boring after a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love tennis. I love the work. I love knowing what I’m working for every day. But the whole purpose of being a professional athlete is to compete. Put yourself out there, lay everything on the line, and see who comes out on top. That’s why I die in practice every day. So that when it comes to matches I’ll be the one to win.
I started out pretty nervous as I hadn’t played any true tournament matches since the end of January, but I won my first two rounds rather comfortably 6-4 6-0, and 6-2 6-3. In the semifinals I ran into a bit of a hiccup but pulled the match out in three sets 6-4 6-7 6-1. In the finals I faced off against a talented Chilean player and lost 6-1 7-5. My legs were dead from the day before as I had a three hour match so I struggled to get going early on. I was down 6-1 3-1 when I finally found my rhythm and fought back. At the end of the set, I had chances to force a tiebreaker but made a couple costly errors on some break points and saw the match slip away. Never fun to lose. I hate losing, but overall a positive result for the first tournament back. I also won 150 euros for making the final, better than nothing.
Today I’m taking the day off to rest and recover as I have another tournament that starts this Thursday. It’ll be another good opportunity to improve on what I started last week. Play a couple of points differently and this week I’ll be the champion. After this tournament I have to figure out where my next ITF’s will be. Right now, I need to play tournaments. That’s all that’s running through my head— matches, matches, matches. No matter how much you practice or play practice sets or points, nothing can simulate the pressure and intensity of a match. It’s always different. My old college coach Rex Ecarma would get a good laugh if he knew I was saying that– he used to always joke with me about how all I ever wanted to do was drill.
I hope everyone is enjoying the weather back home. It’s gray and rainy here just about every day, so mail me some sunshine if you can.