Unfortunately, because of my full body cramp, I had to pull out of China F10. My quarterfinal match was on Friday and, in the event that I lose, I had to fly to China that night and start qualifying Saturday morning. Obviously, sitting in the hospital with an IV drip in me, that wasn’t happening. I ended up taking a week off to relax and practice a bit in Taiwan.
China F11: Round of 16
China F12: W/D in qualifying
China F11: I felt some jitters playing in a different country and on my own (brother flew to Taiwan with me for my first tournaments). However, qualifying was relatively straightforward. First round, I was able to barely squeeze out a close match against a Latvian player currently ranked 800 but with a high in the 400s. A close first set fell his way with a timely break at 5-4 before a rain delay postponed our match until the next day at 3-3 in the second set. I was a little disappointed with the rain delay as I felt that he, as a fellow foreigner, was struggling in Asia’s heat and humidity. Part of my game plan was to wear him down physically as his fitness was the most obvious weakness in his game. That plan had to be scrapped with the rain delay. Coming out the following day, we traded service holds with me saving two match points serving down 5-6. He showed further cracks in his armor as he began to lose his mental cool. I took the second set 7-6(4). Going into the third set he actually started tanking in the second game and I remember feeling relief as I felt like I had won. He stopped moving his feet and trying to make high percentage decisions, but instead started slapping every ball as hard as he could. I got a quick 0-30 in his first service game of the first and I thought the match was over for sure. That turned around awful quick. He started tree-tanking and reeled off 4 straight winners to secure a service hold. For viewers, a tree-tank is when a player is tanking, or giving up and not putting forth effort, but still treeing, or hitting ridiculous shots outside of his ability. Lo and behold, in my service game at 1-1 he again just slaps the first ball his way and amazingly hits 4 ridiculous winners for a quick break. At this point I’m really nervous as I felt like I lost a golden opportunity to walk away with a win. He continued the insane tree-tank until 5-4 in the third set before he finally got a little tight. In a position to serve out the match, I think he started thinking about what he was doing and got tight knowing he couldn’t replicate those shots consistently. A couple errors and I was back in the match at 5-5. His mental game cracked further and after a little tanking without the treeing, I walked away with a 46 76 75 win.
Second round I played Di Wu. The number 1 Chinese player and the first Chinese man to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam. A couple things I noted about the difference in level was his quickness with his feet and the pressure he placed on me with every shot. I distinctly remember hitting a big serve at 30-40 in my first service game of the match and him barely returning the ball. Seeing that floated inside the service box, I decided to just dink it over for a dropshot winner. I must’ve not disguised it at all as he started running well before I hit the shot. He ended up hitting my dropshot ON THE RISE for a winner and the break. It was stunning to see him perceive the ball that quickly. I was down 5-0 within about 25 minutes. Finally, I was able to ease my way into the match a bit and started serving better. I managed to hold and break for at least a somewhat respectable 6-2 set. In the second, I continued my good form and actually broke him and consolidated the break for a 2-0 lead. He was having a difficult time returning my first serve and I continued to hold serve. I was at 4-2 40-15 before I choked away the second set. I missed a short forehand and made a couple other errors to let him back into the match and I ended up losing 62 64. As a fellow short player, he showed me a lot of areas of my game that need to improve moving forward, but also gave me confidence knowing that I very well could’ve forced a third set against a grand slam player.
China F12: Unfortunately, I ended up withdrawing from China F12. My elbow had begun to bother me on some serves as I kind of tweaked it on an overhead. As the matches went on in China F11, the pain was getting worse and worse and it started seeping into my groundstrokes as well. Finally, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry and withdrew. The extra couple days allowed to actually walk around Shenzhen and see some of what the city had to offer which isn’t always an option with qualifying starting every week on Saturday.
Thoughts: Overall, I must say that this first trip as a professional tennis player has been much more successful than I imagined. The original purpose of this trip was to see how my game stacked up against the pros so I could have a training plan upon coming back to the states. I thought maybe I could scrounge up a couple points just so I knew that I could make qualifying draws in the future. Obviously, I ended up with a little more than “a couple points”.
My current ranking sits at 1157 and when Wimbledon concludes and my 7th point kicks in, I should be right around 1100. There’s a lot I learned about my game and what it takes to be a professional in these 5 weeks in Asia and I look forward to applying the lessons learned once my elbow heals up and allows me to start the training grind.
A side note about Shenzhen, it was quite clean in the more crowded areas. The two Dongmen pictures above show just how clean the ground is compared to other Asian countries, especially given that it is a very popular shopping and street food district. Overall, I was very very impressed with the development of Shenzhen as a city, but felt that it lacked a little bit of culture with all of its development. It seemed like the city was more preoccupied with trying to duplicate what other cities had than with highlighting its own historical significance within China.