Road to my First Title

Just over a week ago, I won my first professional title.

As we all know, behind every success, every title, every award, and every accomplishment, there are usually years and years off hard work and dedication put it to make that all come true. This title is special, and as I am hoping this just to be the beginning of these kind of achievements in my career and continue to pursue bigger goals, I wanted to share a few experiences I have encountered over just the last few weeks that have led to winning this tournament in Colorado.

After my Thailand trip, I went to Mexico for the second part of May for two tournaments. During my quarterfinals match, I had an experience unlike any other that challenged me in many ways. I was up a set and serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set. I had just missed two match points and was on my third one, serving 40-30. The adrenaline was high, I was struggling to calm down my breathing as I’m about to step up to the line and serve. I make the first serve, the ball comes back short and I put away the ball, forehand winner, inside the line, game, set, match. As I’m walking to the net, the referee looks at me and says “that ball was out”, and I respond with “excuse me what?! Sir, you did not call that ball, and that ball was clearly inside the line”. He looks both ways and says “I know I didn’t but I’m calling it now, deuce”. I was left speechless. For me, I had already won the match, I was in the semifinals and now he’s telling me to step back to the line and continue to play a match that I had already won!?

Arguing with the referee never ends well, so I decide to let it go and step back to the line, in shock. I tried to regather myself, but the clock was ticking. Even though it was for only two seconds as I was walking to the net, it was enough to lose all the intense match adrenaline and relax, so having to jump back to the heat of the match again as it was 6-5 deuce, seemed like an impossible mission. I end up losing the game and losing the second set in the breaker, played very poorly and passive, still confused of everything that has happened. I go to the bathroom after that set, and I am trying to convince myself to let go of everything that has happened in the last few hours and focus on this third set, and only this set, one point at a time. It was not easy, I had to fight and crawl for every point, and after many long rallies, many more horrible calls made by the referee and arguments with him that lead nowhere, an hour and a half since my last match point, I made it out and won the match 6-4 in the third.

Winning this match meant so much more to me than just making the semifinals for the second time. It showed me the mental strength and perseverance in such hard situations and the things I am able to overcome. The lessons I have learned in this match I took with me to the Dominican Republic which was my next tournament after Cancun.

I thought I was pushed physically in that past quarterfinal match, where we played three hours and forty minutes, until I played my second round match in the Dominican Republic against the first seed. Four hours and thirty six minutes… FOUR HOURS AND THIRTY SIX MINUTES! Can you imagine playing for this long in the crazy Dominican’s summer heat and humidity!? Three matches finished in the meantime on the court next to us and they were on their fourth, but I think both of us lost track of time somewhere half way through the second set. Point by point, one long rally after another… we both left it all out there. Unfortunately I was the one who came up short in the end with the score of 7-6 6-7 6-7, but man was it a battle. One of the longest matches they have seen… and definitely the longest match of my career, yet.

Directly from this tournament, I went to another one in Colorado Springs. It was a big shift in such a small period of time. From Dominican’s humidity and blazing sun to Colorado’s high mountains and cool weather, and most importantly – altitude! I have never played in such high altitude before, it was around 7,500 feet at the resort where the tournament was being held, in the valley of the Cheyenne mountain, which has over 9,000 feet. It was definitely a challenge, not just a challenge to control the ball as it flies so much in these conditions, but a big challenge for my lungs. It feels as you can’t catch a proper deep breath, especially in between longer points, but likely there weren’t that many of those here.

When I first stepped on the court, I felt so lost. It was so windy and swirly, felt like I couldn’t control the ball, or take it on the rise or even hit through it properly as everything would fly long, and I only had two days to get ready before my first match. I was nervous coming in because I felt as I couldn’t rely on any aspect of my game besides my first serve (which was a huge advantage here and saved me from some big trouble at times), but one thing my coach kept telling is not to panic, take it one game and match at a time, and he was right. After every match I felt better and more confident on court, having these experiences from the previous tournaments, I believed that I will figure it out. It might not have been pretty, but I found a way eventually. Five very different matches later, without dropping a set, I won my first professional tournament.


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