September 30, 2017
Of all the matches I have played in the last few weeks in North America, there are two stand-out moments for me.
I was lucky enough to be one of the players whose match was scheduled on Arthur Ashe at the US Open Grand Slam, which was a huge privilege. But results-wise, the most satisfying one has to be the doubles final at the US Open Super Series in St Louis.
Whilst it was not the US Open Grand Slam victory I had hoped for, it was a Super Series event and that was my first Super Series title with Yui Kamiji as my doubles partner.
It wasn’t just the importance of the match that made it special. It was the way we came back from the brink of defeat to earn a victory.
We were 0-5 down in the final set to Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot (NED), the silver medallists from the Rio Paralympics. So it is fair to say we were in trouble against quality opposition.
And although we won the next game, we were soon 1-5 down and 15-40 down. Two match points against us, that far behind, you might have thought there was no way back.
But it really is never over in tennis until it is over! We just kept playing our game and made them play their shots. Then things started to go our way instead of theirs. Yui and I managed to claw our way back to force a tie-break – and then we won that 7-5.
Unfortunately at the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, we were on the receiving end of another turnaround, almost as dramatic as the previous one, but this time on Arthur Ashe.
First of all let me tell you that it was an amazing experience to compete in that stadium and it is a truly great court to play on, certainly the biggest arena I’ve ever played in. To imagine it full of spectators, it must be such an atmosphere for the able-bodied players.
We were in a towering arena, we were second seeds for the Slam, and it was all going so well, as we won the first set 6-0 against Aniek van Koot and Dana Mathewson.
After the first set, they made some changes and perhaps benefited more from the new coaching rule that was implemented for this Grand Slam for the wheelchair and junior events.
Basically coaching was allowed at every change of ends, or while you were playing at the same end as the coach, provided it didn’t interfere with the match.
Another rule implemented was the 25-second serve countdown clock in between points, which was displayed on the scoreboards.
So, following what felt like an almost perfect first set, Yui and I made a few mistakes between us in the second set, while the other girls made some big shots. Before we could turn the tide back our way, we had lost the second set 4-6 and the match was decided on a first-to-ten tie-break.
These are a bit of a lottery to be honest and unfortunately it wasn’t to be our day, as we lost 5-10.
When asked my opinion on whether I liked the introduction of the new coaching rule, my answer was that I’m not so sure. Tennis is an individual sport or at most you are a double act on court, and for me that’s half the beauty – players have to go out there and work it out for themselves.
But I also understand why they are trying to implement new rules to make the sport more intriguing or exciting, and therefore even more appealing for spectators.
It remains to be seen whether these new rules will be adopted elsewhere, but all you can do as a player is learn from what happens and try to keep improiving yourself both physically, mentally and tactically.
That’s what I then took into the PTR Hilton Head Championships one week later. Hilton Head, an island in South Carolina, hosts one of my favourite tournaments.
Just as I had been in New York, I was accompanied by one of my hitting partners, Alec Blake, who is a very good player himself and a very likeable character.
I have worked a lot with Alec in Taunton while training there and was extremely grateful to Somerset LTA, who helped to fund this trip for Alec and provide me with this additional support.
He is always able to give me pointers and things to work on from what he sees from the other side of the net, so it is also a massive benefit to have someone there to work with you individually.
Hilton Head was excellent for my confidence. We were able to strip back some of my previous performances and work on a few changes. I beat three Americans to win the title – Sarah Casteel 6-1, 6-0, Mackenzie Soldan 6-2, 6-1, and Shelby Baron in the final 6-1, 6-2.When you only concede seven games in an entire tournament, it gives you a good feeling.
Hilton Head is also a brilliant place to relax after the action too. It’s not often you get much down-time while away competing, but after my final in Hilton Head we were able to go on a sunset dolphin tour, and saw lots of dolphins in their natural habitat.
It was absolutely beautiful to watch them and be so close, although we didn’t get in with them, not like with the Great White sharks in South Africa. But it was a very memorable experience all the same, especially with such a beautiful sunset.
All in all I’ve had a great time competing over here in the US and am extremely grateful to all those that have supported me along the way and make it possible for me to continue competing on the international tour.
There is still more from me to come in Canada, and then back home in the UK, before the year ends.
I’ll keep you in the loop about my progress!
Love, Lucy x