Leading up to the first day of qualifying in Ilkley I had put in some hard work and had a few days of good practice. I felt as though I was hitting the ball well but still felt a bit tight and stiff in the knees and hips. I took the court feeling pretty confident, although definitely not totally at ease.
Unfortunately, what transpired was an absolute shocker. The first set I really struggled with my movement. I felt I was out of position for every ball. I wasn’t reading my left-handed opponent’s shots, and as a result I was just guessing on returns and short balls. I was serving and volleying fairly well but struggling to get any kind of speed behind my serve. My timing and rhythm was way off. I got broken early and never really came back. I fought as hard as I could, but to no avail. I lost the first set 6-4. Things didn’t improve much in the second set, and I went down 6-2.
Following the match I was very disappointed and quite honestly embarrassed with my performance. What’s difficult to get my head around is how my game and shots differ from practice to a match. All I can put it down to is nerves and pressure. I feel like I put far too much pressure on myself and take it all way too seriously, to the point where I can barely swing the racquet.
It’s time to make some serious changes. Fortunately my dad, who was in England already coaching my old high school team on a tennis tour, has joined me and is helping me through it all. Having coached me since I could first hold a racquet, he knows my game better than anybody and we have a good strategy to get me back to winning ways. I need to be more positive, really work on my hip flexibility and general movement around the court, and overall just try to enjoy playing the game. We have another two weeks together before I head back to America and he goes back to South Africa, so I’m determined to make this time as productive as possible.
Right now I’m busy preparing for my doubles match on Wednesday afternoon. My partner, Antoine Benneteau, and I play against the number 4 seeds in the first round, and I’m really looking forward to it! I’ll update you after the match.
Thanks for reading!