Not an Overnight Success

Hi Everyone,

 

It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and new experiences for me the last two months. It’s crazy because I feel like I haven’t really sat down and let all the emotions settle in and feel them. I’ve just been on the go constantly, moving on from one tournament to the next. One airport to the next. One hotel to the next. And just pushing my body to prepare physically and mentally for the next tournament. I’ve been getting a lot of messages from friends congratulating me, I am truly thankful for all the wonderful messages.

After my win in San Francisco earlier this year there have been some ups and downs. A lot of times when you win a tournament and have so much momentum rolling you feel like you should be able to win everything and that things should be easier. The mind is funny sometimes when you have certain expectations. I was still putting in hard work. But there were times when I would doubt because I felt like the effort I was putting in wasn’t exactly matching the outcome I was getting. And that’s a tough part, not just in tennis. Your outlook starts to get a little blurry, sometimes you second guess your work ethic. Maybe the work I’m putting in is not enough.

Before leaving to England to play on the grass I was feeling really good. I had put in some good work and was ready to do some damage. I didn’t quite get the results I had hoped for the first 2 weeks. I thought it would be tough for me at Wimbledon Qualifying because I didn’t get as many matches on the grass as I would have liked. I did my best to keep pushing and I gave myself a chance at qualifying for the main draw, just came up a little short. With all the injuries that happened at the French Open it only made sense for me to stick around and see if I had any luck with a lucky loser spot.

I was really bummed not qualifying. Qualifying meant I would get to play my first Grand Slam. The days leading up the main draw I was just kicking myself and hoping that I could just get another chance. I was asking other players/coaches if they knew anyone that might be pulling out or if they had heard anything. Two days before the tournament one of the supervisors asked me to come to his office. I remember walking to the office with butterflies in my stomach. The supervisor said, “You are in. But we can’t make it official yet because there is going to be a press conference with this withdrawal.” I’m just in shock at this point. Probably one of the craziest feelings I have ever felt. You just have flashbacks of all the work you put in. All the sacrifices and all the struggles. Finally you get the chance to play on one of the biggest stages. The feeling was truly unbelievable. I definitely have to thank Andy Murray though. You never want to see players injured, but in this case it gave me the chance to play my first Grand Slam!!

Playing my first round at Wimbledon was something I will never forget. There were so many people behind me and supporting me. The atmosphere was just so fun to play in. After great points you could hear the roar of the crowds, the ooooh and ahhhs. I had my chances in the first two sets, but my opponent played well.

I landed in Chicago five days later to play a Challenger. Moving from grass to hard was going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but I was excited to be back on the hard. The only thing with this tournament was that it was a Saturday final, which meant if you made it to the finals you would have to play 4 consecutive matches with no rest day. The other thing I had to think about was my next tournament was going to be back on grass in Newport, Rhode Island. I was in the qualifying though. Qualifying usually starts on a Saturday, but for Newport it started on Sunday. My final for the Chicago tournament was scheduled for Saturday night. So the plan was to play the finals, pack up my things, and catch an early morning flight to get to Newport in time to hopefully play in the afternoon.

This was the plan. The day before the final, the supervisor asked me what my plans were. If I was still planning to go to Newport to play the qualifying. I told him, yes. He said he would still need to check with the supervisor at Newport to see if I was allowed to play under the rules. He got back to me and said I wasn’t allowed to play qualifying at Newport as it had something to do with the withdrawal deadline and that it cut too close with the time I was supposed to play the final. At first I thought it was a bit unfair for them to not let me play because I was in the finals of a tournament and there was still time for me to travel and play in Newport on time. But it was also okay because I could just rest after the finals and prepare for the following week. About 30 minutes later the supervisor called me again and told me they changed their mind, I could play Newport.

The next 48 hours was going to be a tough one, but I was ready to take it on. The morning of the finals in Chicago I got an unexpected call from Todd Martin (tournament director for Newport). He called to tell me that he was giving me a WildCard into the Newport ATP. I didn’t know what to say. Todd told me, “You earned it.” I couldn’t believe it. I have never received any type of WildCard into a singles event of any tournament since I started the pro tour and here I was receiving one from Todd Martin. Thank you again Todd! Being straight into the main draw helped me out big time as I had more time to travel and adjust.

And sure enough that WildCard helped me reach my first ATP 250 quarterfinals. After my 2nd round win the ATP reporter asked me if there was anything I wanted people to know that they didn’t already. I want people to know that I’m not an overnight success. A lot of times people see the result and say, “Wow, where did he/she come from?” The results come from a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication. I have been faced with a lot of opportunities throughout my career, some I have capitalized on and some I haven’t. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my coach, it is, showing up. You keep creating opportunities for yourself and you keep showing up, the results will happen.

After I lost on Thursday in Newport, I flew straight to Atlanta the next day to prepare for qualifying on Saturday. I won my match Saturday, but caught some sort of virus and haven’t been 100%. It’s been a crazy eight weeks with a lot of physical fatigue and an emotional roller coaster of new experiences. I’ve been pushing my body too much. So I’m sitting here in the Atlanta hotel kicking my feet up and talking to y’all! Hoping to recover in time to prepare for Washington D.C.

 

 

-JJ

 

 

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The Journey 2018

What a start it’s been to 2018. At the end of 2017 there were actually a few more tournaments I could have played to see if I could push the ranking up just a bit more. With the help of my coaches we made the strategic decision to end the season early and start training my body to be ready for 2018.

The start of this year was a bit unlucky to say the least. After playing my first tournament in Thailand, the day I was to depart to Melbourne, Australia some weird flu like bug struck me hard. At first I thought it was something I ate because I was going to the bathroom every minute until everything, and I mean everything including all the liquids was out of my system. It didn’t help that I was flying out the same day. When I got to the airport I started to feel the onset of something more than food poisoning. As soon as I got on the plane my body suddenly started to feel weak and sore. I was very cold. Luckily I had a face mask with me, hoping that I wouldn’t give my sickness to anyone else. The feeling I had on that plane was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. That feeling of sitting 10 hours next to people you don’t know, cramped up, and going through hot and cold body temperatures constantly. I was literally counting down the seconds.

It was going to take something miraculous for me to be at my best for Australian Open Qualifying. Background story on Australian Open is I actually waited two years to play it. The first time I got in I decided to play a different tournament in the hopes of gaining more points for my ranking. The second time I got in I was just coming back from surgery so I wasn’t ready to play. It was quite a sad moment for me during that week in Australia because I felt like I had worked so hard to prepare my body to be in the best condition it could be in and I couldn’t even put it to use. I had to cancel practices leading up to the 1st round. The day of the match I was going in for warm up and I just felt out of it. My equilibrium seemed to be off, I was tired after hitting a few shots. I ended up playing my match and put up a good fight losing in three sets, but my body was just not able to fight through.

I came back home to Los Angeles determined to get my body back on track. Only one last setback. I had been dealing with tooth pain for over 2 years (root canal gone bad), I figured I was going to be home and wanted to check with the dentist again. I was referred to a specialist and he said the best option for me was to operate on my tooth. So I asked him, “Operate??” I don’t know anyone who likes going to the dentist, but getting work done on your teeth can probably be one of the most scary feelings. My only concern was that I had a tournament over the weekend and it was Thursday. The procedure had to be done though. The smarter thing to do was to probably not play the tournament in Newport Beach. My only thing was that the tournament was so close to home and I wanted to give it a shot. The tournament didn’t go so well to say the very least.

As a tennis player and athlete many times we play our best when we are confident. The year had just started and I haven’t played too many tournaments yet, but after that Newport Beach tournament I started to question myself. It was tough because I really put in hard work in the off-season to be ready for this year and I just wasn’t able to showcase that work. I’ve been fortunate enough to have great friends and great coaches that really tell me the truth when I need it most. I never like making excuses on losses, but I really was too hard on myself. From getting the flu to getting surgery it was hard to be at my best.

After that Newport Beach tournament I really changed the way I approached tennis and myself. I started to forgive myself more for things out of my control. There were so many things outside of my control and I would beat myself up over it. I was determined to be nicer to myself and I think that has made all the difference in the last couple weeks.

All about the journey..

 

Obstacles

I’ve never written a post before a match, but I had quite the experience in my second round in Ho Chi Minh. Even though it’s October and the world is ready for Fall weather, Southeast Asia likes to stay nice and warm. One of the toughest things at this week’s tournament has been the rain. Since it is so humid here, clouds usually form in the afternoon for an afternoon shower. Sometimes the rain doesn’t last long and sometimes it does. Enough to make courts wet and unplayable for a few hours. My first round was scheduled for Tuesday, but didn’t play until Wednesday because of the rain.

Yesterday, my second round match was probably one of the most difficult match I’ve played that was outside of my control. To set the stage: So the center court at this tournament is pretty nice, the stadium is actually quite old with a lot of old seats and big fans that surround the the stadium. What’s really strange about this center court is that is has a retractable roof. Kind of like Australian Open and Wimbledon where if it rains they can close the roof and resume play. Surprisingly the roof opens and closes quite fast considering how old the stadium is. About the big fans I was talking about, since the stadium doesn’t have air conditioning they use these big fans, but since it is still so hot in Ho Chi Minh and when the roof is closed it seems as if the hot air just keeps circling around the court. Okay now that the stage is set…

Before my match there were huge clouds already starting to form and a few sprinkles here and there. I wasn’t sure what to expect playing on center court since this was going to be my first match on that court. Also since it was getting dark I wasn’t sure how good the lighting was going to be. My opponent and I started warming up and there were little drops of rain, not enough to make the court wet though. And since this is an outdoor tournament the supervisor wants to try his best to play this match with the roof open as much as possible.

Two points into the match, the rain started to fall, making the court slick and not safe to play. So the umpire deciding to close the roof. We waited about a minute for the roof to close and then resumed play. Now we were playing an indoor match. With the lighting a bit different now due to the closed roof and the hot air circling the court I had to adjust quickly. This was now an indoor match. A few games later the rain stopped and the umpire decided to open the roof again. Now the lighting was better and it felt like you could breathe a bit better. But not long after, the rain decided it was not done with us and made the court wet enough for the umpire to close the roof again. Every time the roof closed we had to wait a bit longer because the ball kids needed to dry the court. The roof open and close happened about 3 times yesterday, 3 times too much.

I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with such tough conditions that were outside of my control. It was a constant battle to adjust to lighting and the waiting and the hot hot air. I got frustrated during the match because it was difficult to concentrate. I wasn’t playing as well as I thought I could. But I’m happy I hung in there and just battled. I knew my opponent was going through the same thing I just had to be that much tougher. I’ve been in many situations where outside influences have affected me and I didn’t respond well. I’m happy I stuck with it yesterday and fought hard till the end!

 

Quarterfinals tonight! Ready for battle!

 

 

 

 

love,

JJ

$440 Taxi

Decided to withdraw from the Gwanju Challenger in Korea today. Woke up with a stiff neck on the last day of Davis Cup and was not able to turn my head to the left. I tried my best to prepare and see if I could play this week, but just not 100% there. If there’s one thing I learned from my injury last year, staying healthy is one of the most important if not the most important in a tennis career.

After withdrawing from the tournament just a few hours before I was supposed to play I had to decide about my travel plans. Gwanju being about 340 km south of the Seoul airport. I was looking at a really long travel day. I quickly bought a flight for the evening on my phone (thank god for phones these days) and began looking for the best way to get to the airport. The bullet train only takes 2 hours, but runs twice a day. That wasn’t going to work. The other option was, bus. That would take 3 hours and 30 minutes. I was told the best way to get the bus ticket was to go to the bus station and being that it was Tuesday I didn’t think seats would be sold out. I got to the bus station at 2:20 pm wanting to take the 3pm bus. I would arrive before 7pm and have enough time for my 8:45pm flight. Well….that didn’t work out as planned.

SOLD OUT!!!!!!

I tried my best to get a seat on that 3pm bus, but the lady couldn’t do anything. If I took the 4pm bus I would be cutting it really close and maybe not make my flight. I had to act quick! I went outside and flagged down a taxi cab, asking him if he wanted to go to Incheon Airport (340km away). And mind you this is all lost in translation. This cab driver does not speak a lick of english. He agreed and we were on our way. Well actually the cab driver had to fill up some gas and he told me the price of the journey, 400,000 KRW local currency. Bargaining wasn’t really an option since I didn’t know how to communicate with him and I didn’t really know the going rate for a 4 hour taxi ride. I asked him if he took credit card and he kept saying, “Yes, Yes, Yes” that was until he said, “NO.” We went to an ATM that spit my card back out. Luckily the 2nd ATM we went to gave me the cash I needed. Finally, we were on our way!

About 40 minutes in, the cab driver had to take a toilet break. Another 40 minutes he stopped again. This time as we were getting back into the car he told me (from what I could understand through hand signals) he didn’t want to continue anymore and was going to look for another driver to take me to the airport. I’m starting to get angry and frustrated at this point because I can’t communicate with him and it feels like he’s playing me. He finds another cab driver that agrees to take me. His taxi cab meter says 50,000 KRW and I tell him I’ll pay him that much. He counters my payment with 200,000 KRW to cover the cost of going halfway. And I ask him, “How much am I supposed to pay the new cab driver.” This is all getting too ridiculous now. As we are haggling over the price and taking way too long to do this, I yell at him and show him all the money I took out of the bank and say, “You are not getting any of this money until you take me all the way! (hand signals and weird noises, mostly)”

Another hour passes and he decides to stop again. This time after the toilet break he buys the both of us strawberry milk. I’m thinking this was a really nice gesture. Shortly after he tells me he needs more money. Money for the tolls. He asks me to go to the ATM again. I’ve had it! The cab driver said 100,000 KRW more for tolls. I told him there’s no way. So then he lowers it to 80,000 KRW. But we are wasting so much time again I decided to give him $80 US dollars. At first, he’s reluctant to take it because he doesn’t know the conversion. I tell him it’s a better deal for him, but he calls someone on the phone to ask and they can barely speak english as well.

We are finally on our way again. Only to hit traffic. Time is not looking good for me now. At 6:30pm there was still 50km to go with traffic. I was starting to panic. Here I was stuck in a cab for almost 4 hours already, so helpless, paying over $400 for the ride and I was going to miss my flight. I couldn’t even listen to music to try and calm myself down. I can’t remember the last time I felt this helpless.

Luckily, by some miracle the traffic started to dissipate. We made it to the airport at 7:30pm. I quickly got my things and started running. And yes, I ended up being dropped off at the other end of the terminal and had to run from counter A to counter J.

Today ended in good news though. I checked in with enough time to spare to buy a nice ham and cheese sandwich. That’s my story today.

 

Time to rest up now! See you in Taiwan!

 

 

 

Love,

 

JJ

Jungsanity

This has probably been the craziest two weeks of my life. There were so many emotions: nerves, doubts, anxiousness, pressure, frustration, joy, excitement, and relief. Now that I’ve had a little bit more time to gather my thoughts and reflect on these two weeks I wanted to share my experience with all of you.

Before even stepping foot in Taiwan I was torn between a decision. The decision to play U.S. Open, my favorite and childhood dream tournament or to play University Games (mini Olympics) on home soil. Ultimately playing University Games came down to how rare this opportunity was. I knew the opportunity to play an event like this would probably never happen in my lifetime again and the chance to win Gold in front of the home crowd.

Most people probably couldn’t tell when I was playing, but I was under extreme pressure the whole 2 weeks. Once being in Taiwan I started to understand the magnitude of the Games and what getting a Gold medal means in the host country. Throughout the Games there were also a few people on our team who got food poisoning so our coaches were all really worried and kept strict orders for us to not eat outside the athlete’s village. Battling the summer heat of Taiwan was also another difficult part. A couple of my matches went through the hottest part of the day, really testing my physical stamina.

As the week progressed and the Games started to get to the later rounds we had fewer of our team members still in the draw. As much as this was an individual event, University Games was also a team event for tennis. Whichever country tallied up the most points in all categories of tennis won the team event. So when I played the semifinals, all of the men’s players on our team had lost. So in order for us to win the team event I needed to win the Gold for singles. Throughout the Games there were a lot of outside voices telling me, “We are counting on you!” “You have to win for Taiwan!”  As much as I tried to block it out I knew it was there. I now have so much respect for athletes who are always in the media spotlight. There is so much outside influence, noise that’s good and bad. And yet these athletes are able to block everything and just focus on what they need to.

With all the pressure set aside this has truly been an unbelievable two weeks. I have never played in front of so many people. And I have never felt so much support in all my tennis career. Anytime I lost a couple of points the fans did their best to lift me up. I truly believe with all that was going on (the heat, the pressure, the outside influences) I would not have got the Gold medal if it weren’t for the fans cheering me on.

The days after winning the Gold was something I never could have imagined. I don’t think I’ve ever been that busy off the court. Running from one interview to the next. To meeting the President of Taiwan then riding in a Jeep for a celebratory parade. To even commentating for Fox Sports. Uncharted territory for me. The spotlight was on me, but it was a humbling experience.

I want to end with a final thought. As an athlete I can say that this type of job is very physically and mentally demanding. Many times an athlete will take all the glory and all the praise for winning. But there are many more people to praise than just the champion. It takes a whole team for an athlete to get to where he/she is. There’s the coaches, trainers, physiotherapists, doctors, and other support staff. And it doesn’t stop there. The University Games requires years of planning and people behind the scenes trying to put on this event for us athletes to show our hard work and talent. Without the organizers and volunteers the athletes would not even have the platform to achieve greatness. So thank you!!

The President of Taiwan!

 

Thank you for riding along this 2 week journey with me!

 

 

Love,

 

JJ

莊吉生

 

 

 

 

Uzbekistan

So I’ve been meaning to post this since the first week in Uzbekistan, but since the wifi was so bad for the entire 2 weeks I couldn’t upload photos. And photos are very important!!

This was quite the journey…

Before going to Uzbekistan I asked all the players I knew that have traveled before to see what their thoughts on Uzbekistan was and if they could give me a little info on what to expect. Not one person said they liked Uzbekistan. Red flags right? Half of the players I talked to said it’s “doable” and the other half said it’s “shit.” Not the answers you want to be hearing before going to a country you’ve never been to.

My journey to Uzbekistan started from Seoul, Korea. Surprisingly there are a lot of non-stop flights from Seoul to Tashkent (capital city of Uzbek). I’m guessing South Korea and Uzbek have a lot of business. My final destination was going to be a city called, Karshi (about 450 km from Tashkent). But in order to enter the country I needed to pick up an on arrival visa in Tashkent (I could not pick up the visa anywhere else). The journey from Tashkent to Karshi is no joke. It only takes one hour by plane, but this flight only operates a few times a week by one airline. So what most players do is take a 6 hour taxi. Yup, you heard correct. 6 hours!! So many of the international flights arriving Tashkent arrive in the evening so after arriving you would need to be in the car for another 6 hours. And driving through the night can be quite dangerous as the roads are horrendous and the lighting is..well there is no lighting. There was no chance I was going to take the taxi.

My flight from Seoul arrived on a Friday night and lucky me there was a flight to Karshi Saturday morning. But flying also had it’s difficulties.

1 of 5 security checkpoints before checkin while it rains

Security took forever and I thought I was going to miss my flight. When I was checking in I figured I was going to have excess weight. Cheap as it was, I was 10kg’s over and paid only $10!! But I had to go to the ticket office (more time) to pay for the extra weight. The lady asked me if I had Soums (local currency) to pay in. A little background on the currency here.So the government rate is about 3,000 Soums to $1 USD. There’s a black market though and you can get about 8,000 Soums for $1. Pretty crazy! If you ever decide to travel to Uzbekistan it’s recommended you bring enough cash so you can change with the local people here. I didn’t have Soums to pay for the excess baggage weight and for some reason I had a $10 bill in my wallet and asked her if it was okay. Luckily she took my $10.

It’s hard to imagine that of all the places in the world for a tennis tournament Karshi, Uzbekistan would have one. Karshi has a whopping 200,000 population, but it really feels like 100. I saw no one during my time in Karshi.

One thing I noticed in Karshi was that almost every car on the road was white.

And every car on the road can be a taxi, just need to haggle around with the price. The first few days I asked the hotel to help me call for a taxi, but later I learned that there was no point as you could call any car on the street.

It was a tough week for tennis as I lost a close match in the 1st round, but ended the week on a strong note getting immersed in the culture a bit by eating with some locals. So May 9 here was “Victory Day” when the Germans surrendered to former “Soviet Union” in World War 2. A few people from the club invited some of the players to eat with them to celebrate and honor those that lost their lives during the war. The drink of choice for dinner, Vodka. Not surprising. To be honest I’ve never got a good vibe from people from this region (Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan). From the facial demeanors and the way they talk is very aggressive and strong. But they are actually really nice and friendly people. As the old saying goes, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

Next stop was  Samarkand, Uzbekistan..

Had to go in these old beat up cars with no air condition for 3 hours with all our bags! I shared the car with another player and we were cramped up in the back of the car holding our bags while the driver drove swerving by pot holes and passing slow cars. This driver had the worst body odor of all time! Any time he rested his arm on the door of the car I got a solid whiff of that awfully pungent smell as I sat directly back of him.

When we arrived to the new city I was really looking forward to a bigger hotel and better wifi. But I was greeted with the same wifi if not worse and a room where the air conditioning did not work. I asked the front desk to help me fix the air condition in my room four times before I finally gave up. But what Samarkand had was more people, more liveliness, better food, tourists (which meant places to site see walking distance from the hotel!), and a couple universities surrounding the hotel. I’ve got to admit, it was a bit weird seeing people after not seeing anyone in Karshi.

According to Wikipedia, “Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia.”

This trip to Uzbekistan has been one of the most challenging trips I’ve had since playing professionally. The first week losing in the first round on a Monday was a disaster for my mind. There was absolutely nothing to do in the city and no wifi so all I had was time for thoughts to myself.  Repeatedly asking myself why I even decided to travel so far to an unfamiliar territory. But you know what as hard as this trip was I got through it! And I got to see something new, experience a different culture, and meet new people.

Don’t mind the tan lines

Finally made it to Paris and will playing my first round tomorrow!

 

 

 

JJ

 

 

Line Calls

$50,000 Gimcheon, Korea 

 

It’s 5-6 in the first set I’m serving at Deuce (after being up 40-0 in the game) there’s a ball that lands outside of the baseline, I’m waiting for the call. One, two, three long seconds pass by and still no call by the umpire. “In” says the umpire. Like a tea pot waiting to scream, I burst. My mind goes crazy internally. I did not win another game after that. What’s crazy is right before the match I was talking to the umpire and saying how tough it is because there is no baseline referee. Which in tennis makes it extremely difficult for the chair umpire to see everything for the entire match. Little did I know it would hit me in such a pivotal point of the match. These things are not new to me though. I know that at times the first 2 rounds of a tournament will not have all the lines covered. I know that I will get some bad calls and some bad calls that go my way. I know that some of these calls can come at some unfortunate times. I really do.

This is the second time this year where line calls in a match have really got the best of me. I’ve played eight tournaments this year and somehow it almost feels like the chair umpires have a bounty on me. They are out to get me. Unfair. Bad line calls happening at the most critical times. After the first time I really blew up in a match this year and visibly lost the match because of bad line calls I vowed to myself to never do it again. Keep my mind in check. Then today happened. So surely I haven’t completely got my mind in that state where outside noise/distraction doesn’t affect me.

I spoke with my Taiwan professor (ex-professional tennis player) after the match and we talked a bit on what happened today. We both know that these bad line calls happen. And yes, it may seem like it’s unfair. My professor told me that these line calls are out of our control.  He told me sometimes in his profession as a professor there are situations or events that are out of his control that make his job more difficult to do or overcome. My professor’s example really hit home for me.

In any sport, any profession, or life itself there are so many factors that are outside of our control. So many things that are trying to distract us, trying to take us off course, and take us out of our game. When these things happen in our life it’s how we deal with the distractions that’s most important. Do we let the bad line calls affect us so we can’t play anymore? No! I could have totally changed the outcome of the match today. Not saying I would have won or lost with this attitude, but I sure as hell would have given myself a better chance.

 

 

 

JJ