At this same time last year I had just started my pro career and ventured up to Canada for my first real road trip…. And was it ever the disaster. All of my excitement turned into disappointment as my plans completely went out the window. I didn’t even get into the tournaments and I was struggling to adjust to life on the road.
I was in a debate with myself up until the day I left for Canada about whether or not to return this year. I was the second alternate for the first tournament and still didn’t have guaranteed entry, but I decided to risk it. My other option was going to California which would have been more costly and a much larger qualifying draw. Luckily the decision to trek it back up to Canada has paid off. Some late withdrawals allowed me to get into the tournaments, so I’m already a step ahead from last year.
I wasn’t also quite as ambitious in my driving this year. Rather than drive straight through which makes for an absolutely miserable day, I broke the drive up and spent a night in Detroit with Tom Sorovetz and his family before crossing the border. Unfortunately I didn’t make it up there in time for some of his gourmet cooking, but we all went out ot eat and had a great time. Hope I can make it back next time for one of your legendary meals!
The first two tournaments were held in Toronto. The first week I won my first round qualifying match but then lost next round to another former college player, Harrison Adams, who played at Texas A & M. I had some opportunities in that match but couldn’t manage to break him when I had my chances. On the plus side my first round win snapped a losing streak in futures that had been nagging at me mentally for the past couple months and gave me a little confidence boost.
The second tournament was held out at the Aviva Centre in York, just north of Toronto, the same site as the Rogers Cup, a Masters 1000 Event where the top men and women compete every year. We don’t quite draw the same crowd as Federer or Nadal, or really draw any crowd for that matter, but it’s still a cool experience getting to play on these courts. I won my first round match again before falling in the next round to the two seed in qualifying in a 3 hour battle 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. I didn’t get off court until 10 P.M. that night and I wanted to break every racket I had with me, but I also took some positives away from the day. I was starting to play high level tennis again, the first time I could confidently say that since returning from injury earlier this summer.
I have to give a huge thanks to my host families up here in Canada. The same families I stayed with last year were crazy enough to allow me into their homes again. Apparently I put on a good enough act that I left a reasonably good impression. I spent the first few days in Wychwood Park with Brian Smeenk and his lovely wife Susan. Since then I’ve been staying with the Griffith family in Rosedale. They’ve made my stay much more enjoyable and relaxing, not to mention delicious with all of the home cooked meals. I’ll take a nice family dinner over eating out any day.
The Griffiths were kind enough to take me out sailing again. Last year I was pretty nerve-wracked as it was my first experience on a sailboat and my only goal was to not fall overboard or get hit by the boom as it swung around. I got to enjoy the same beautiful weather and views again this year when we went out racing on a beautiful Tuesday night, and this time around I was actually able to help out some.
The next day Richard Smeenk, one of my Dad’s coworkers who I’m forever indebted to as he organized the housing for me, invited us back out onto a racing sailboat named O’ Canada, a 60 foot behemoth of a boat. I thought that my previous sailing experience could never be outdone, but it was absolutely amazing out on the open water on O’ Canada. We ended up logging 38 nautical miles and topped out at 17 miles per hour. The owner and captain of the boat is actually doing a race in it from France, down through the Southern Ocean, and around the world back to France. And I thought I was being adventurous just going out on the boat. He has some serious cojones if you ask me. Not only does the race itself take anywhere from 90 to 110 days, but he’ll be completely alone on the boat with limited satellite contact with a crew, and that’s it. I start going bonkers on a 10 hour car ride by myself….
On another off day I took some time to get out of the city and do some hiking. I drove about an hour out of town to Rattlesnake point near Campbellville. I meandered around for a couple of hours taking in some stunning views of the Canadian countryside from all the different lookouts along the trail. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective I guess, I didn’t encounter any rattlesnakes. I’m not sure how I would have handled that scenario.
Next week is my last tournament and ends my stay in Canada! I’ll be heading to Niagara in a day or two, and the tournament starts on Saturday. It will be a nice change of pace heading to a smaller city. I’ve always wanted to live in a big city at some point in my life but after this week in Toronto I might have changed my mind. Driving here is absolutely psychotic and absurdly stressful. No matter what road I turn on there’s either construction or some maniac weaving in and out of parked cars about to side swipe me and knock me off the road. Any time my out of town friends joke about bad Louisville drivers I’m going to start sending them up here.
After the Niagara tournament I’ll be heading back home before heading out again in October. Hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful fall weather and friends and family around the country are staying safe during the hurricanes!