Toronto x2

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.

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Beautiful view of the skyline at sunset

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.

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Coolest way I’ve ever seen a city skyline

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Not that the shadow gives away this was a selfie. Thanks for taking me sailing Mark!

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….

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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.

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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!

The New Smiths

If you’re confused by the title of this post keep on reading and I promise it will start to make sense. After a busy month of tennis in July, it was time for a little R and R back home, even though I may have been even busier with all the stuff I was doing off the court. After coming home from Illinois I headed straight down to the lake for my best friend’s bachelor party. We spent the weekend out on the houseboat celebrating his final few days as a single man. Between the swimming, jetskiing, and turning the boat into our personal club at night we all had a blast. As my best friend Chris said, lots of beer and little sleep made for a successful weekend!

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One of the groomsmen wasn’t able to make the trip so the doll took his place all weekend

I also got introduced to the lovely game of golf over that weekend. I had only been to the driving range three times in my life so I was pretty interested to see how my first full round would go, and it went surprisingly well. Well for me counts as making clean contact with the ball and hitting it in the general direction of the hole. FYI. I’ve definitely found a new hobby and might be slightly addicted now much to my parents’ chagrin. Luckily I found some of my uncle’s old clubs at the house. He bought them back in 1981… but they get the job done for me.

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Motley crew out on the course

My tournament schedule also worked out to where I was able to go on vacation with my family in Canada (plus my little brother’s girlfriend, Alyssa, but I count her as family at this point). I could write forever about all of the awesome things we got to do up there, so I’ll do my best to sum it up. We spent the first few days in Quebec City milling around Old Quebec. The buildings and streets were absolutely stunning. We were actually staying in Lévis across the St. Lawrence River, and there was a beautiful view of Château Frontenac (see the pic up top). One day there we also drove a bit out of town to the Parc de la Chute Montmorency. The waterfall there is actually higher than Niagara Falls but not near as extensive.

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The life of the trip right here. Apparently I was looking at an imaginary camera and they all looked at the real one.

From Quebec we headed to Mont Tremblant. In the winter it’s a ski resort, but in the summer there’s all sorts of outdoorsy stuff to do. We hiked two different trails up the mountain for some picturesque views and spent the rest of our time exploring the little village at the base of the mountain. I can only imagine how amazing it would look in the winter with some fresh snowfall.

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Panoramic view from the top of the mountain

We finished out our stay in Canada in Montreal. I wish we had been able to spend some more time here because we were a little rushed, but we were able to find some delicious local restaurants. One afternoon we also made our way over to the botanical gardens next to the old Olympic Stadium. I could have spent the entire day there relaxing but unfortunately we got caught in some rain.

The highlight of this month came on August 26th, the day my best friends Chris Smith and Kelsey Newsome got married. Since I was one of the groomsmen, I organized my entire year to where I was certain I would be in town for this weekend. There’s lots of things I’ve missed out on since I started traveling, but there was absolutely no way I would have missed this day. Plus Chris and Kelsey might have killed me had I even mentioned missing for a tournament. The ceremony was held at Garden Court and we were blessed with some beautiful weather. I couldn’t think of two people more perfect for each other, and I’m happy I was able to be a part of their wedding.

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Rehearsal day with the lovely bride and groom 

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Trevor coming through with the selfie

Now before you go thinking I took the entire month off, that’s not the case. I was still practicing and training as usual except for the week I spent in Canada, but I came back from there feeling refreshed. Each week my body and game are feeling better so I’m expecting good things in the next few months.

I headed up to Canada again at the start of this month for 3 weeks of tournaments so next time I’ll have some results to share with you! I feel like I’ve been living in Canada the past month since I was just up here, but I could think of worse places to be. Hope everyone enjoyed the long Labor Day weekend and got to spend some time with friends and family!

It’s Me Again!

It’s me again! Why haven’t you heard from me in so long (besides my usual broken promise of posting more often)? To be completely honest, the past month and half on the court has been pretty rough and it’s no fun reporting back when I’m losing. I’m not used to it and I hate it. Coming back from an injury I know I shouldn’t expect to be at the same level as I was before, but ask anyone close to me and they’ll tell you I’m a perfectionist and all about instant gratification when it comes to my tennis. Needless to say, those things don’t bode well for working your way back into competitive play.

After a week back in practice, I decided to just go for it and play 5 tournaments in the month of July. Maybe not the best idea… but I was ready to compete again. I started off the first week of July playing the local Firecracker prize money tournament in Louisville. I took a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of singles after having two match points in the third set. In doubles, I partnered with Eric Quigley but we fell in the finals to Sean Donohue and Parker Wynn. Props to Sean and Parker for playing a heck of a match. Being good friends, Sean and I made a little bet on the match. Since I lost I now have the pleasure of wearing one of the new man rompers— or romphims, whatever you want to call them— out one night. Stay tuned on that. I’m not sure if I’ll allow any photos….

Next I headed to Virginia for another prize money tournament. I played a solid first round match but then lost a close one in the Round of 16. Overall I was pretty pleased with my play, but I was still nowhere I expected to be, especially with my physical conditioning. Eric and I played doubles together again and made finals, though. I took home $500 for this showing– tough to complain about a paycheck. This was also one of my favorite tournaments. It’s held at the local country club, and the tournament director does a great job of organizing events so every night it’s basically a giant party. There’s always a good crowd and lots of cheering. Most nights I wasn’t off the court until midnight or 1 a.m. so my sleep schedule was a little out of whack, but it was worth it for the atmosphere. It was also a fun little road trip with Eric and Brandon Lancaster who traveled with us too. We came home with lots of inside jokes and had a great time.

I finished out the month with two futures and a wildcard tournament in Illinois. I lost in first round of qualifying in both of the futures, pretty disappointing results, and in the wildcard tournament I fell in the quarters. Now you might see why I haven’t been posting so much. When people ask how things are going and you feel you’re underachieving and don’t have good results to share it’s not always fun to talk about. The good news is every week I played better than the week before, but it’s taking me way longer than I expected to get back in shape and find my game again. Any time you’re out with an injury you always have to work twice as hard to get back to where you were, and then even harder to start improving again.

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Always representing my cards. Give those tanlines a good look too!

The last tournament was in Edwardsville, Illinois which is just north of St. Louis so I was able to do some exploring in my down time at night. I got to see one of my buddies from high school, Will Tompkins (better known as Willy T), who is living there for med school. He showed me around Forest Park and then took me to the best barbecue spot of my life called Pappy’s. Another night I went back in to town with my friend Toby Boyer who was also my roommate for the week. We went back to Forest Park again and visited Art Hill, then made our way up the Arch for some pretty cool views (the first photo up top is the overlook of the city from the top of the arch).

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View of the St. Louis Cardinals stadium from the top of the arch. If I liked baseball at all they’d be the team I would cheer for. 

The day we headed out Toby and I went back in to St. Louis for the morning to check out the City Museum. It was recommended by Will and he described it as a giant playground to us. I wish I had known about this place when I was younger because I would have been in heaven. I think we were a little too tall for parts of it now, but Toby and I had a good time being little kids again. Almost got stuck in some of the wire tunnels and went down a 10 story slide.

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Kings of the castle

August has been a pretty busy month off the court for me. I had my best friend’s bachelor party and wedding, went on vacation with the family, and I’m heading to Canada in two days!

There’s a lot of lost time and missed tournaments to make up for so I’ll be traveling a lot the rest of the year. Check back in soon!

The Waiting Game

I’m amazed I can still write in full sentences considering how long it’s been since I last posted. For those of you who I haven’t seen or talked to, my ankle has kept me sidelined for the past month. When I returned home at the end of April from Hilton Head, I got back out on the practice court right away after a week of rest for my ankle. Little did I know that a week was nowhere near enough, and my ankle flared up again. After a couple days of practice, it was a little swollen but nothing crazy. I was moving well and able to play all out, so I thought it would go away pretty quickly. Later in that first week back, though, I finished up a routine two hour practice and as soon as I took my shoes off I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot. I was a little freaked out so I got to the doctor right away.

The X-ray came back negative, but the MRI showed some damage. No major tears or stress fractures or anything like that. But I had swelling of the ankle capsule and all of the tendons as well as a stress reaction in one of the bones. I don’t see M.D. anywhere next to my name, so I’m not sure about the exact differences between a stress fracture and reaction, but the doc described it to me as an inside out bruise in a way. The bone flares up due to repetitive stress and trauma and starts breaking down, but no true fractures have formed yet. Either way it hurts. It’s no fun. And the day the MRI results came in he told me I should stop practicing— definitely not what I wanted to hear as I was starting to gear up for all of the summer tournaments.

I do have to give a huge shoutout and thanks to Dr. Brian Przystawski at Foot and Ankle Specialists for all of his help!

I’ve been in a boot for three and a half weeks now letting the ankle heal, and you can bet I’m counting down the days until I’m allowed back on court again. It’s five more days for anyone interested. I tried to see the silver lining in the injury: some time to relax, spend time with my family, catch up with all of my friends. Anyone who knows me, though, can probably guess how well I’ve been dealing with that… I’ve been ABSOLUTELY losing my mind. Fortunately I’m still able to lift weights and bike in the gym, but once I finish up that morning workout my days are pretty uneventful. The rest of my time is usually spent coming up with random menial tasks to occupy myself so I don’t feel completely useless and unproductive. If I’m not in the gym down at U of L or Louisville Boat Club, you can probably find me back at home on the patio reading a book or watching some Netflix. House of cards is the show of choice for now.

Sorry to be a bit of a downer this post, but there really just hasn’t been a lot going on for me to tell you all. One awesome thing I’ve gotten to do in the past month was go to the Chainsmokers concert down at the YUM center. I had planned on going way back at the beginning of April with my friends Sean and Kelsey, so there’s no way I was going to let the boot be the reason I missed it. We had an absolute blast that night. And I can safely say I was the only person there dancing in a boot.

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Rockin’ the boot for the concert. Nice tanlines Sean.

I also had a chance to do my first radio interview. I was contacted by Mark Hebert with the U of L Today Show about coming in to talk about my experiences traveling and playing professionally as well as some of the community service I was involved in during my time at school. I was super nervous before the show, but he was a fantastic host.

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Of course they caught me midsentence…. 

Hope everyone has been enjoying the awesome weather as of late! One other perk of not practicing is I can be a bum at the pool and get rid of my tennis tanlines. I’m going to start practicing again this weekend so the tanlines will be back soon though. In the next couple of weeks I should have a tournament schedule put together assuming my ankle holds up. Thanks to everyone for the support!

Southern Swing

21 days and 2,567.4 miles later I’m back in Louisville after a swing down south for some tournaments. I feel like I’ve spent more time in the car than I have anywhere else, which might not be too far from the truth. After my Houston expedition last fall I vowed to never do a drive like this again, but I guess I didn’t learn my lesson. For all those reading this right now…. I’m pretty disappointed in you all. I’m still waiting for one of you to chauffeur me around to tournaments. You all are nice people, so I’m sure the offer will come.

Overall the trip was pretty disappointing. The plan was to play four Futures. One in Memphis, Little Rock, Orange Park, and Vero Beach. In Memphis I lost in second round of qualifying, but midway through the second set I injured my ankle. To be honest, I have no idea what I did to it because I didn’t roll it. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like it jams itself or locks up and then I can’t put weight on it for a minute or two. Luckily I was able to finish out this match, but my ankle would bother me on and off the rest of the trip.

Since I lost on a Sunday I headed straight to Little Rock to play in a wildcard tournament before the qualifying started later that week. I ended up retiring in my first round match after winning the first set when my ankle flared up again. For those of you who know me, I NEVER retire. Ever. Ever. Ever. Never. The only time I’ve ever had to stop a match before this was because I went into full body cramps and was defaulted by a ref for time violation warnings. I was pretty disappointed having to retire in the middle of the match, but I was trying to think big picture as I still had 3 more tournaments to play. I ended up staying in doubles because I didn’t want to bail on my partner, but we fell in the final of the tournament, one win away from playing our way into main draw.

I took the next few days easy to let my ankle calm down. It was feeling pretty good for the qualifying and I ended up making it to the final round before losing. Once again, one match away from main draw. Realistically, I should have headed straight home from Little Rock because of the problems with my ankle, but at the time I didn’t really consider it too much. It had held up for the three matches in qualifying and I was happy with my tennis, so I liked my chances to qualify in Orange Park. Obviously I can’t predict the future, so little did I know that my ankle wasn’t going to hold up for another week. After two days of sheer misery on the road grinding the 14 hour drive to Orange Park, I had to retire again in the first round of qualifying. I also went ahead and withdrew from Vero Beach. I’ll be seeing the doctors soon to find out what’s going on and hopefully be back on the court again soon.

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My cousin Sophalicious and I taking in the sunset at the beach

If there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s that I was able to sneak in a little vacation time before coming back home. My entire family had organized a trip to Hilton Head Island at the same time I finished up in Orange Park, and since I was only a 3 hour drive away I swung up there to spend some time at the beach. I had planned on taking a few days off anyway to rest my ankle, and I couldn’t think of a better place to get away. It’s not very often that we’re able to get all of the Gornet clan together with our hectic schedules and how spread out we all are. I had a great time getting to see all of them at once, especially since I’ve been missing a lot of the family events due to traveling. I also got to work on my tan, obviously the most important highlight of the trip. One day I came back from the beach looking like a splotchy lobster, but hey, it will turn to tan eventually.

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Got to experience my first PGA tournament! Featured here is the legendary cousin Baby Joe

On the way home from Hilton Head I made a pit stop in Columbia, SC to see my old friend Valentina. We came in to Louisville the same year, and she played on the women’s tennis team there. But after freshman year she went back home to Germany. We had always kept in touch, but I hadn’t seen her in over four years, so I’m happy I was able to catch up with her. That is if 3 hours can count as truly catching up. She probably still pictures me as the 18 year old baby face from freshman year.

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Valentina warned me there wasn’t a whole lot to see in Columbia. But she took me by the State House which had some pretty cool history and architecture.

 

I also had the chance to spend time with my cousin John and his renowned cat Russdiculous. John has been living in Little Rock for his medical residency, so it was pretty convenient having a place to say. In between his weird work hours, we found some time to do a couple of hikes and also duel it out in a battle royale putt putt contest. It’s become a tradition for us to always play, so I’m still pretty bitter about losing because he gets bragging rights until next time we play. Putt putt is no joke for the Gornet cousins.

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John and I at the top of Pinnacle Mountain. If you don’t laugh at his tank top I’m questioning your sense of humor.

I want to give a shoutout to my old teammate Sebastian Stiefelmeyer as well. For those of you who don’t know him, he was a heck of a player and in his senior season he had one of the best seasons all of college tennis has ever seen. He and I still keep in touch pretty regularly. My next task is convincing him to come out of retirement to play with me. I think he’s taking the Federer approach, though, and won’t be making his comeback until at least the age of 35.

As of now I don’t have any tournaments coming up soon. I’m in the process of switching rackets so I’ll be trying out a bunch of different ones over the next couple of weeks to find one I like. Exciting life of a tennis pro, right? I guess for us switching rackets is like a little kid getting a new toy and candy.

Thanks to everyone for keeping up with me and all of the support! Hope you all are gearing up for the Derby festivities. There’s no better place to be than Louisville at derby time.

I Ate Too Many Cinnamon Rolls

You all are probably starting to wonder why I always disappear on you all and don’t post for a while. Well since it’s been three weeks I’ve had time to think up some quality excuses. Writer’s block. I’m secretly a magician pulling a disappearing act. Shady internet. But the truth is I’ve been a bit lazy with it. Lots to catch you all up on so keep reading!

After making the finals of the previous tournament, I had another tournament that started in three days. This tournament was being held at the club where my friend and I train, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. Before the tournament even started, people from the club who I had never spoken a word to in my life were coming up to me telling me how I had to do well and win for Flemalle. Pressure isn’t a bad thing, but it definitely made me want to do well and make a good first impression with my tennis. I rolled through my first two matches easily and found myself in the semifinals on Saturday night. My match didn’t start until 8:30 or so at night, so the people at the club had already had plenty of time to enjoy the festivities and get rowdy before the match started. I battled my way to the first set 7-5. I wasn’t playing my best tennis, but I was staying tough mentally and pulled out some big points. In the second set, I got crushed 6-2. My opponent completely changed his game plan and I had trouble adjusting. In the third set, I found myself up an early break serving 3-1 and 40-15 on my serve when my opponent hit two incredible shots and ended up breaking back. I immediately broke again and was serving at 4-2 30-30 when luck swung against me and my opponent got a net cord winner. My opponent actually served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but I broke back to stay alive. I then went up 6-5 and had a break point, also a match point, but my opponent hit an unreturnable serve. Ultimately I lost 7-6 in the third set.

To say I was furious after this match is an understatement. After 3 hours of battling and playing my heart out, I came up short. Worst of all, Belgium has a weird custom where after a match you’re supposed to share a drink with your opponent. Now, I’m not a sore loser at all, but share a drink with the guy I just went to war with? I don’t think so. I need a little time to mellow out after a match like that or it won’t be pretty.

With that tournament over, I could finally focus on what I had been looking forward to for the previous three weeks. I’m sure plenty of you have already seen the video, but I managed to surprise my family on vacation in Colorado. With my dad’s help, we planned it to where I would fly in to Denver and then surprise my mom and brother’s for our family snowboarding trip. It was pretty tough keeping it to ourselves for that long and I know we both almost slipped up, but ultimately we pulled it off and I couldn’t have been happier. After being alone for so long, it was great to be with my family again. If you haven’t seen it, check out the video of my mom on my dad’s facebook page. I’ve also posted it along with this link. That’s a video I will cherish my entire life.

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My brothers and I on the mountain

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From left to right: Ben, me, my dad, and Austin showing Louisville some love 12,000 feet up

I hadn’t snowboarded a single day in the previous 5 years, so I was also super excited to get back out on the slopes. When we were younger, my dad introduced my brothers and I to snowboarding and we’ve been powder hounds ever since. The annual trip out west to find some fresh snow was always one of the highlights of the year for us.

Luckily, I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. I was definitely a little rusty starting off, but after a few runs on the groomers I got my snow legs back under me. The conditions were pretty subpar while we were there. Not much fresh snow which means a lot of ice— not ideal for a group of boarders that loves going through the trees. I did a couple of tree runs with my brothers but honestly it was pretty miserable. The runs were completely tracked out and if you fell you’d be sliding until you found a tree kind enough to stop you.

Even though I only got two days on snow, I had an absolute blast. Honestly I could have just sat around all day and would have been happy just being with my family again. Seeing the looks on their faces when I showed up at the airports has to rank as one of the top moments in my life to this point. The only downside to the trip (well for me, my dad and brothers found it pretty amusing) was that on the second day we were doing a run when I completely ate it. I was going pretty fast when I caught an edge on some ice and flipped forward landing right on my shoulder and sliding down the mountain at least 100 yards before coming to a stop.

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Ben demanded we play a game so we had a family jenga night

When I came back to Louisville I also got the chance to surprise some more people. I surprised both my grandmas, Gram and Mimi, and they both looked like they saw a ghost when I showed up at the door. I wish I could have captured their faces when they first realized it was me there. The last people I wanted to surprise were my best friends Chris and Kelsey. They’ve been through it all with me, so I couldn’t wait to see them. I had my mom tell them she had a housewarming gift for them but really it was just me hiding in the back seat. Hopefully it wasn’t a letdown for them when it was just me!

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Whenever I’m back in town it’s always nice seeing the Gramminator

Whenever I’m back in town, I feel like life is pretty stressful and hectic, but I don’t mind. Besides keeping up with my regular schedule of practice and training, I’m also running around trying to catch up with a million people in the few days I have here. I also got the chance to go out and watch the Louisville Men’s Tennis team play some ACC matches. I’m still good friends with a couple of guys on the team so I wanted to see how they were doing. After being around the matches, it makes me miss some parts of college tennis. The team, the atmosphere, the intensity. In futures, there’s hardly ever fans out there so it’s a very different lifestyle.

Tomorrow I’m heading out for tournaments. Before you start getting jealous about what country I’ll be heading to this time I’m going to have to tell you to take a deep breath and calm down because this time I’m just playing in the states, much to Gram’s pleasure; I think she wore out her rosary praying for my safety while I was over in Belgium. I’ll start off in Memphis and then head down to Little Rock and two tournaments in Florida. It will be an adjustment playing outdoors, but I’m ready for some sunshine.

To finish off my stay in Louisville, we just finished up a “family” dinner. I use quotation marks because my best friends Chris and Kelsey were there, but they are honorary Gornet’s at this point. Whenever I do come back we’ve made it a habit of them coming over for dinner with my family, and it’s always a great time. If you ever want to experience an unconventional dinner, just show up at our house and we’ll entertain you for hours.

Hopefully I haven’t angered the gluten free gods, but I broke down tonight and cracked. After the gourmet dinner cooked by my chef of a mom (I’m still trying to convince her to start a cooking show), we had cinnamon rolls for dessert. And I might have just had one too many.

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Trees messing up a fantastic view, but nothing beats a Louisville sunset

 

Back in Action

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.

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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.

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Marche, the small village where the tournament was held in the province of Namur

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.

It’s a Small World

Woke up to the winter wonderland you see in the picture up top! It’s been a pretty slow week for me in Belgium. Last week I started having some pain in my elbow but didn’t think too much of it as I was still able to play, but when I went to practice Monday morning I couldn’t even hit a ball. I’m not sure what happened, but every time I hit a forehand it felt like my elbow was exploding and something would snap. David was able to get me into the doctor the same day to have it checked out and fortunately there were no tears or other damage. A few days of rest and I should be good to go next week. Unfortunately, because of my arm I had to turn down a wildcard into the India F2 Futures. Since I haven’t been getting into any tournaments I’ve emailed every tournament director in the world (really though) requesting wildcards. Not the best timing. But if I can’t find wildcards for some other tournaments there’s a series of national prize money tournaments in Belgium starting February 27th.

On the bright side of things, I finally have a phone back. I know, I know… kids and their phones. Don’t give me too much grief because I haven’t had a phone for the past three weeks. It wasn’t an easy process though. I took a train into Brussels Monday afternoon to go to the Apple Store. They had ordered the phone for me a week and a half earlier so I had to wait for it to arrive. After spending three and a half hours at the store, I had everything up and running, but the SIM card kept failing, meaning I’d basically be back at square one of the past few weeks where I could only use WiFi. Luckily, my dad was able to get sprint to send me an activation code, so things are good to go now. Thanks Timbo!

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Brussels. Didn’t have time to get inside and look around unfortunately

While I was walking around Brussels trying to find the Apple Store without GPS I also stumbled across some pretty cool views. I’ll have to go back and visit again when I have the chance.

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Random little parked I walked by in Brussels. Beautiful if you ask me

Our apartment is also starting to come along. I can’t say that I’ve gotten any new furniture yet, but our landlord, Thierry, is putting in a lot of work. To be completely honest, I can’t stand the construction every day because it’s always a mess, but in a few weeks we’ll basically have a brand new place… so I shouldn’t complain too much. He just finished up repainting all the walls and is currently putting in a new ceiling . New windows are also on the way.  Thierry has also been a huge help and gone WAAAAAY above and beyond his role as landlord. We needed pots, pans, plates, bowls, silverware, literally everything when moving in. Besides giving us some of his own stuff, he also helped us find other people that had extras. So, instead of having to buy everything, we got all of it for free. I know this will make Gram happy— she’s the queen of bargain hunting. I’ve been trying to get her to go on Extreme Couponers for a while now.

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With all the construction going on in the apartment, I get to wear this mask all day. Could be the next big fashion trend, who knows

Thursday I got my first chance to do a little exploring around Liège. Since I haven’t been able to practice, I planned to do my running and conditioning in the morning so I would have the rest of the day to look around. Fortunately, there’s a bus stop 500 meters from my apartment that takes you straight into downtown, another perk of our apartment considering we don’t have a car. Once in town I met up with two friends, Pauline and Charline, who had just finished up classes for the day, and they showed me around. We started off climbing to the top of Montagne de Bueren which offered a picturesque view from the top of the staircase. I was also able to look out over the entire city. Next we made our way back down into town to walk around Le Carré, an area with tons of pubs, restaurants, and shops. Before heading back home, we made our final stop at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Earlier this week I also came across Église Saint-Matthias in Flémalle while I was walking to the grocery. The architecture and design of the churches is pretty amazing and spectacular to see in person, especially considering when they were built. I’ve put in plenty of pictures down below!

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View from the top of the stairs leading up Montagne de Bueren

 

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Not ideal weather for a great panorama picture. I’ll be coming back up here in summer

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Inside Saint Paul’s Cathedral

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Saint-Matthias in Flemalle

Pretty crazy story that shows you how small the world really is. On Thursday while we were sitting down to rest a bit, we started talking about tennis and next thing I know, the guy sitting a few feet away from me scoots over. I was a little freaked out at first, not gonna lie. But then he asked if I played tennis at a university in the states. We started talking and after a bit I found out he has friend, Cedric Dujacquier, who plays at Belmont. Well, in my senior season at Louisville we played Belmont, and I played against Cedric in singles and doubles. After this happened, I just sat there and asked myself what are the chances? I mean seriously. You know how many things had to line up perfectly in the universe for this encounter to happen. The fact that I’m even in Liège is pretty crazy already. Now to think that we were both there, at the exact same time, on the exact same day, at the exact same place, and somehow of all the people in the world a friend of Cedric’s and a random opponent of his from college are there together. My mind is still a little blown from it.

Friday night I had the chance to venture into the city again to meet up with another friend, Mitch. I met him downtown at a cool little pub called Warzone. For those of you back home, it’s pretty similar to Z Bar, so that should give you an idea of the type of atmosphere. From there we made our way over to a local restaurant called La Charbonnade. It’s not even fair to try to put into words how amazing this restaurant was. My favorite restaurant for awhile had been Game back in Louisville, but I think this one tops it. We started off with two appetizers, boudin— a dish of pork sausage served with a caramelized apple and a sweet sugary sauce, a nice contrast of flavors— and les cuisses de grenouille aux croustilles à l’ail (crispy frog legs with garlic sauce). Next came our main course. We both ordered le magret de canard grillé , but I chose the béarnaise sauce while Mitch took a creamy pepper sauce. Our duck came with a massive bowl of potatoes au gratin and a salad. Lastly, for dessert we both had le molleux au chocolat (I have to admit it, I made an exception on the gluten free diet for this one).

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Frog legs

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Le molleux au chocolat

Another cool thing about this restaurant is that all of the meat is cooked in a giant fireplace in the center of the restaurant. If you have a reservation, they bring you your own mini grill and you can cook the meat yourself at the table. Since we made a last second decision to eat here, we had to settle for the giant fireplace… not such a bad settlement.

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By the end of this meal, my taste buds were more than satisfied. Not only was the food incredible, but the atmosphere of the place is unbelievable and the owner is extremely nice. He talks with all of the customers and creates a great environment for the meal. You can’t tell from the picture, but fireplace looks like it’s carved into a giant tree, and the inside of the restaurant is all stone. I’ll have to save up some money for the next visit…. Not sure my wallet, I guess I should really say my parents, can pay for that all the time. But it was a great experience to get a taste of some authentic Belgian cuisine.

That’s all I have for you this week! The arm is feeling better, so I should be able to start hitting again Monday. Other than that, you can find me in the gym killing my legs or exploring the little villages around Liège. I’m starting to get settled in now and meet more people, so it isn’t quite as tough. Still wouldn’t mind if my family found a way to visit though!

Last note, I’m taking applications for Valentine’s Day. Can’t promise you a date, but maybe I can send some Belgian chocolate your way. Hope everyone has a great day with their loved ones!

Check back next week and I should have a tournament schedule figured out!

 

The Big Move

I’d be lying if I told you I had a good a week. To be completely honest, it was pretty terrible. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently in the process of changing a lot of things with my game— technique, strategy, court positioning, tactics, the list goes on. I actually just wrote out everything that David and I have been working on and it ended up being two full pages. I agree with all of the changes he’s making, but things aren’t always clicking. I doubt I’ve been the most fun to work with this week…. Just ask my parents how I get when I’m frustrated about things. Particularly tennis. I wouldn’t classify myself as psychotic, but I think there’s plenty of people who would recommend I go see a therapist if they came and watched some of my practice sessions.

On top of this, Matt and I have been in the process of finding and moving into a new apartment in Belgium. Between tennis, moving all of our stuff, and running around buying things for the apartment, it has been a pretty stressful and exhausting week. You should also ask my parents how I am when I’m tired (anyone that knows me can tell you I religiously take a daily nap haha). I’m no fun to be around and will snap at any little thing that rubs me the wrong way in about 0.2 seconds.

On the bright side, we’re finally moved into the new apartment. It’s a great location, only about a 5 minute walk from the tennis club. Here are some pictures below! From the outside (picture up top) it may not look so great, but the inside is quite cozy. It’s also nice having our own place close by. I’m sure David and his family will be happy to have some family time again. Everybody can use some “me” time here and there.

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My new bedroom at the apartment. Probably need to pick up some furniture….

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View from the front of the apartment. It’s hard to tell but at night you can look out over the entire valley. 

Last weekend after returning from Egypt, I experienced my first soirée (French for party) in Flémalle. David and his wife organized the event as a mixture of a recognition ceremony for his academy as well as a celebration of the year. The night started off with the traditional meal of Liège, les boulets liégeois (lapins ou tomates), and after dinner turned into a giant dance party. I got to meet a lot of the members of the club, perfect for me considering I could still count the number of people I knew in Belgium by name on one hand. It’s also nice to relax every now and then and remember to enjoy yourself. I know I can lose sight of this sometimes and get too serious on the court, so little reminders like this are good for me.

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Have to admit it, I think Matt beat me on best dressed.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure when my next tournaments will be. Next week Matt is heading to India. Originally we planned on going together, but I’m not getting into qualifying anywhere. A change most people probably don’t know about is that the ITF (International Tennis Federation) mandated that the lowest level Futures tournaments change from $10,000 prize money to $15,000 with the idea that it would be better for the players. Though the prize money is a little better, some tournaments are getting cut because they couldn’t find the additional money to continue the tournament. Because of that, the level in all the other tournaments is now higher, meaning it’s harder to get in. Basically a big domino effect and the law of unintended consequences. So for those players who weren’t able to pick up points last year, it’s now difficult to even get into qualifying draws of tournaments to have a chance at getting a point. To give you an idea, I’m entering tournaments in 6 different places each week and not getting into any of them.

I also want to give a shoutout to Stephen Pobst (or Stevie P as I call him) from back in Louisville. Steve is a chiropractor, but he does way more than that. He’s a borderline superhealing shaman wizard. I started working with him two years ago after I had injured my back so badly that I couldn’t even walk anymore, but within two weeks Steve had me competing again. After that, I started seeing him once or twice a week whenever I was in town and haven’t been injured since. I could use some of his magic over here in Belgium because my body is getting beaten up from all the training. If any of you back home ever have a problem, he’s one of the best around.

Hopefully when you check back in a few days I’ll have some better news about the tournament situation! In the meantime, it’s back to work on the practice court and in the gym. If anyone is swinging through Belgium you have a free place to stay. I wouldn’t mind seeing some familiar faces.

Egypt Recap

First of all, I want to apologize for taking so long to put up another blog post. You all are probably sick of hearing me say that, but this time I have a legitimate excuse. Somehow the Egyptian wifi was even worse than last time. I’m not sure how that’s possible, but it happened. I couldn’t check my email or open up most websites on my computer, so it was impossible to get access to the blog site. Eventually I should probably stop promising to update you more often because something always seems to go wrong, but for now I’ll keep trying my best and saying sorry when it doesn’t happen.

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Basically sums up how I felt about waking up at 4am to catch our flight to Egypt

Unfortunately I can’t tell you all that I got my first ATP points to start off 2017. That was my number one goal this trip— I would have loved nothing more than for you all to open this link and see that I finally had an ATP ranking. I came extremely close, but in the world of pro sports, close doesn’t cut it. You either win or you lose. And there’s no reward for losing. On the bright side, I’m playing the highest level of tennis of my entire life, so I still believe points will be coming my way soon.

The first week I played a young Spanish player, Nicola Kuhn. I started off the match pretty rough. Since I received a main draw wildcard I was extremely nervous as I wanted to prove I was worth the wildcard. It probably sounds stupid, but when you receive an opportunity like that I think it’s important to make the most of it. I went down 2-0 extremely quick, but then I found my rhythm. I finally relaxed and my game started flowing. I battled to take the first set 7-5. The second set was a back and forth affair until 3-4 in the second set when my opponent finally managed to break my serve and take the second set 6-3. Ultimately I lost the third set 6-2. A couple of misses by less than an inch when trying to save break points sealed my fate in the match.

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Even though I lost, it was still a very positive start to 2017. I was executing my game plan early on and playing a very high level. My opponent was ranked 780 ATP… I also later found out he’s currently the number 5 junior in the world. And he’s only 16. I spoke with him some after the match and he should be playing some ATP 250 and ATP 500 events this year. It’s definitely possible we will be seeing this kid play in Grand Slams one day.

I had a quick turnaround for the second tournament as I was in qualifying that week. First round I drew a Slovakian Lukas Klein, currently ranked 1200 but playing at a much higher level than that lately. His past couple of tournaments he has been in the quarterfinals of main draws and recently lost a close match to the number 130 player in the world. So, I knew it would be a tough one. I ended up losing 6-3 6-3. Somewhat of a routine match but not completely. I had a break advantage in the first set but it slipped away, and in the second set I went down early and couldn’t recover. Once again, I didn’t play bad tennis, but I have to play better.

The second week my friend Matt and I also received a wildcard for main draw doubles. We won our first match 3-6 6-2 10-2 and then faced off against the number two seeds in our second round match. Before walking out on court, I had no idea that this would come to be one of the craziest matches I’ve ever played in. After losing the first set 6-3, we battled back to take the second set 6-4 and force a third set supertiebreaker. Points were back and forth and even until we found ourselves down 9-7. We saved these two match points and finally got one of our own at 11-10. The tiebreaker went back and forth like this again with us having four match points of our own and saving four match points of our opponents. But on the fifth match point, our opponents finally won 17-15 in the third set.

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On the left, Matt and I after our first round win. On the right killing some time at the courts before our quarterfinal match

I was extremely upset after this match. Especially since we had four match points. If we had won, it would have been the first time I had ATP points in singles or doubles. Once again we played extremely high level tennis as both of our opponents were ranked top 400 in the world.  It was also the sixth time I’ve been one match away from claiming my first points. Not to mention that the three times I’ve played doubles in Egypt I’ve lost three matches in third set tiebreakers. Two of those teams went on to make the finals and the other team was the tournament champion.

Going forward, I know I have the level to compete with players at these tournaments, but now it’s a matter of winning. Most of the time all it takes is one point, sometimes even one shot, to swing a match your way, so every day when I step out on the practice court that’s what I’m training for. For now it is back to work in Belgium dying in practice and the gym every day so next time I have my chance I’ll come out on top.

Luckily this time around in Egypt wasn’t quite as miserable as last time when it came to off the court life. The wifi was still absolutely treacherous as I mentioned, but I managed to steer clear of the American killing mosquitoes this time. I wore high socks and used bug spray everywhere. There was only one night of itch induced craziness and insomnia from some bug bites on my hand, but other than that I came out unscathed. Since we only stayed two weeks, I don’t think I managed to meet the 20 pound consumption of white rice quota, but it was still close. In a weird way I was actually pretty comfortable in Egypt this time around. I’m not quite insane enough to say it felt like home, but I definitely wasn’t as stressed as last time I was there.

My friend and coach having been making fun of me the past week and a half because my phone broke in Egypt, so I’ve been walking around everywhere with an iPad. At first I was the typical millennial and went absolutely bonkers over the idea of not having a phone, but after a day or two it wasn’t too bad. The main reason I was worried is I wanted to make sure I could still speak with my family, but besides that it’s kind of nice not having a phone on you all the time. No notifications from meaningless social media or other apps to eat up my attention.

I also made some more new friends this time around in Egypt. Last year when my friend Matt came he met two Georgian (the country, not the state. Sorry my American friends) girls and coincidentally they were going on vacation again the same time we would be there for the tournaments. Their names were Nani and Nini (I swear I’m not making that up). The four of us hung out just about every night, a lot more fun than sitting in the room trying to interpret a random movie in Arabic.

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From left to right: Me, Nini, Matt, and Nani

For those of you who haven’t seen, and I’m guessing it’s most of you, my friend and coach have taken to calling me “Superman gluten free” as a joke. When I first arrived and told them I was gluten free, they asked me for the reasoning behind it. I’m not sure they bought it but they respected my choice. Well also for those of you who don’t know, I pretty much take a nap every day after practice. So, since I told them that once I started eating gluten free I felt like superman because my energy was so much better, they thought it was hilarious that I would always be the one to come home and fall asleep first. Here’s some pictures for your amusement.

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Superman Gluten Free at your service. Photo cred to Matt

My off the court highlight from the Egypt trip has to be winning the Mr. Sierra competition at our hotel. Each week, they have shows at night with different themes, so my friend and I decided to do the Mr. Sierra one. The best way to explain it is a funny competition for best all-around guy of the hotel. They have different competitions like dancing, a weird version of Simon Says, a sports related one, and bodybuilding poses. Check out my modeling photo below. I’ll be sending it to some agencies soon. Who knows, might even land a modeling sponsorship contract on the side.

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Look for me in the next edition of GQ. Hope this gives you all a good laugh

My next tournaments should start either the weekend of February 13 or February 20, but I’m not sure where we’ll be playing yet. At the start of the year, the tournaments are a lot stronger than usual as everyone is trying to get out and play, so we’ll wait until the last second to decide where to go depending on what gives us the best chance to win and get points. I hope everyone is keeping it interesting in Louisville for me! I’m managing the traveling better, but it still doesn’t change how much I miss you all back home.