These past two weeks, I was down in Southern California for Irvine Grade 4 ITF and 16’s Easter Bowl. My expectations were not extremely high for these tournaments, the main focus being to stay mentally tough for those two weeks. Little did I know that by concentrating on mental aspect of the game, I would have two unbelievable tournaments.
2018 was a rough year for me that started with me getting violently ill with a flu while travelling to France to compete in Les Petitas as part of Team USA, followed by a long and not easy recovery, all of which led to series of tough and somewhat unexpected losses. So going into the two major tournaments such as Grade 4 ITF and Easter Bowl, my hopes were not too high. However, I did put a lot of effort into my training on and off the court which boosted my confidence and morale quite a bit. I fully realized, that, if I wanted to show good results down in SoCal, I had to be calm, positive and fearless.
The conditions in Irvine were fairly different from what I am used to in Northern California, i.e. it was quite humid; it took several practices before I felt like I am finally ready to compete at a high level that is required for a tournament like the one I was playing. My goal on the court was to play aggressive tennis and not give up too much ground if I was on defense. This mindset helped me get to the semifinals of this Grade 4 ITF.
In my semifinal match, I had to compete against one of the Nation’s top juniors, who was seeded #1 at the tournament and is currently top 150 ITF and has impressive record against solid competitors. I knew that I would have to play my absolute best tennis in order to advance to the final round, which is what I did, overcoming two match points from my opponent. The final wasn’t much easier as I had to play a very strong competitor who was last year’s finalist in Easter Bowl and Orange Bowl. In the final round, I also faced a set point, which I saved in a very physical point. I went on to take that match and my first ITF title. This brought a string of emotions: first shock, then thrill, and then overwhelming joy. It felt so good knowing, that all the hard work I had been putting in these past few months was beginning to pay off.
I had one day to switch gears from humid weather to a desert. When I arrived to Indian Wells for the Easter Bowl, my body did not feel fresh at all, so I had to focus a lot on recovery and maintaining a good healthy diet. On top of that, it was very windy down in Indian Wells, and wind is never a friend of a tennis player. Again, I was not expecting to do very well at this tournament, first of all because I was tired and also, because of past results at this particular tournament (I have played Easter Bowl 3 times before and was unable to get past the second round).
My first two matches were definitely very difficult for me because I could barely feel my legs. I was able to win those matches by utilizing my newly acquired forehand and my good old backhand weapons. The next two matches I felt better physically, because I really focused on my post-match recovery. The opponents were tougher though, one being the top seed of the tournament, but I feel as though as I played better tennis in those matches.
In the semifinals, I had to play a very feisty competitor who I had lost to a few months ago at Orange Bowl. I knew it was going to be a very physical and mental match, so I had to prepare extra hard for it. The score line went back and forth, but I was able to make a final push to conclude the three-hour match and secure my spot in the final.
I was very much surprised, to say the least, to find myself in the final of the Easter Bowl after having a long (and hard!) week before, but I was not going to let the fatigue get in my way. I went onto the court feeling like I owned it, and stayed mentally solid. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think the outcome of that match would’ve been the same as my opponent was definitely very strong. At the end I left the court feeling like I did not play my very best tennis (I know I can do better!) but it was enough to clinch the title.
This win brought tears to my eyes, because Easter Bowl has been my personal beast, it was my fourth time playing it, and I finally conquered it. I also felt extremely happy knowing that I had just won two titles in two weeks. And to top it all off, I was also awarded a sportsmanship award, something I haven’t received in over five years!
Those were incredible two weeks of tennis and now I have to recover before I go on to compete at the Maze Cup. I will continue to work hard on my game, my fitness, and my mental strength as more tournaments approach. Stay tuned!