Me serving against my second round opponent, Ashley Hewitt.
Going into the match I kept thinking what a great opportunity this is. Looking back, I think this hurt me.
I started the match surprisingly tight even though I had no reason to be so. I was the clear underdog playing against Ashley Hewitt, a player currently ranked inside the top 500 in the world. However, for some reason I felt the pressure. It could’ve been because I knew that while one ATP point was great, another win and a couple more points would be ideal and an opportunity that I might theoretically not have for a few weeks, as you never know what can happen in the qualifying rounds. Negative much? My word, terrible.
All good news from Israel!
Fortunately, I got a bye in the first round of the qualifying, so I was scheduled to play at 3 pm on Saturday afternoon. I was drawn to play a young, local player from Tel Aviv.
I got off to a flyer, serving well and just playing solid tennis, and before I knew it I had the first set in the bag, 6-0. He played much better in the second, however I continued my good form, winning the set 6-2.
Israel has been quite an experience so far. I feel like I’ve been here for a week. I arrived early Thursday morning at the airport in Tel Aviv. Thankfully, shortly thereafter my bag appeared on the luggage carousel. Having grown up in Africa that’s always a welcome sight for me and a small victory in itself.
From there I caught a train to Herzliya, which took about 45 minutes with all the stops and the changing of trains. From what I saw along the trip I must admit I was a little nervous and apprehensive. Mile after mile of run down blocks of flats, really rough neighborhoods and a diverse, interesting array of characters on and around the train. Another thing that really struck me and made a huge impression was the number of “kids” on the train and sitting at the station in their military fatigues. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the Israeli Army and their policy of conscription. I believe it’s a compulsory 2 years for woman and 3 years for men, but I was shocked at the sheer volume. I saw hundreds of “men” and “women,” many of whom were no more than 18 years old. What was even more frightening was that an M16 rifle seems like a standard accessory for many of these youngsters. I would say that was the most eye opening experience for me so far. It definitely gave me some perspective and a deep sense of gratitude for the situation I am in right now.