August 14, 2011
My summer circuit through the Pacific Northwest has finally come to an end, and I’m happy to say that it ended on a high note. In arguably the most prestigious tournament in the circuit, I won four matches and reached the semifinals in the singles draw, before losing to eventual champion and long time friend Jason Jung. It was my goal to finish strong this summer after “burning out” at the end of last year’s circuit. I wanted to make sure my body and mind were strong leading in to the final tournament. I wanted to be the best prepared I could possibly be, and enjoy every moment of the waning summer circuit.
My Washington State Open began on Tuesday with a straight-set win over a local up-and-coming junior. Following my first round match, I learned that my second round would be a walkover over another local junior who had to leave our tournament for the US Junior Nationals in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The light first couple days of the tournament helped me stay strong and fit for a deep run through the draw, as I was able to stay rested while also having the opportunity to hit the practice courts and work on some important areas of my game. At this point I felt like the best-prepared player left in the draw, and liked my chances for a championship run.
In the round of 16 I faced the two-seed and good friend Angelo Niculescu, who had reached the final in Tacoma the previous week. Last summer I lost to Angelo twice, both times in finals and both contests went three sets. Naturally, I wanted my revenge!
I came out on fire, serving and returning big and playing aggressive off the baseline. The beginning of the first set was close, as we both had chances to break but couldn’t convert. Finally, at 3-2, I broke Angelo’s serve and used the momentum to take the first set 6-3. I broke early on in the second, and after that started to play some of the best tennis of my life. I was in The Zone! I could hit my serve wherever I wanted. No matter the ball Angelo hit, I felt like I could return it anywhere I wanted, with whatever spin and pace I desired. I was stepping into the court and taking control of every point. I rode this wave to take the second set and the match, 6-3 6-1.
After my big win in the round of 16, I faced the Southern California veteran Vahe Assadourian in the quarters. I played well there and took him down 6-4 6-4, setting up a semifinal battle with a very familiar foe, Jason Jung. Jason and I grew up together in the South Bay, taking lessons from the same coach since we were eight years old and practicing with each other multiple times a week growing up. He took his talents to the University of Michigan, where he played in the top 2 of their lineup and had a great career.
I was extremely excited to play Jason again, but quickly my excitement turned to bewilderment, as I turned into just another victim of Jason’s incredible play of the week. After the first round, Jason only lost 10 games in his next five matches in route to winning the title. It was an incredible display, as he completely dismantled anyone put in front of him. I was no different, and went down quickly 6-2 6-1. Congrats to Jason for a great week of tennis!
I learned this summer that the most important thing to focus on when you’re competing is your preparation. As the great Michael Jordan said, “Preparation doesn’t guarantee victory, but without it you have no chance.” The tournaments I did the best at this summer were the ones that I had the best preparation for. I was diligent with my icing, stretching, sleeping, and diet habits, all crucial to the maintenance of my body. When you prepare well, you feel confident when you step out on the court, knowing that you’ve given yourself the best chance at winning.
Now my life is at a crossroads, as I make a decision regarding my tennis career. I’m very fit, and feel like I’m playing the best tennis of my life. Over the last year, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to be successful at the professional level, having witnessed some of the best players in the world prepare week in and week out. However, a major concern for any “minor league” tennis player is his finances, and right now I’m struggling to figure out a way to fund another year on the circuit. In the coming weeks I’ll be making a decision whether to keep going, take a brief break and start up again later, or stop altogether. Stay tuned for updates and thanks for reading!