Four weeks ago I was sitting in my hotel room in Korea after an early loss wondering if I still wanted to continue playing tennis. I was down and out. Actually almost ready to leave. But friends and family encouraged me to stick it out for the rest of the trip. I built up some momentum and confidence in week 2 with some good wins. Week 3 had some tough early competition and although I played competitively it wasn’t enough to advance. I would be tested yet again after week 3. Contemplating once again whether or not I should play the final week. The more I thought about it though, it didn’t make sense for me not to play the last week. I had traveled thousands of miles away with the intention of playing four tournaments and giving myself every opportunity to do well. It was also a chance for me to see a different part of Japan.
Arriving two days before the qualifying draw in Toyota I was four spots away from gaining direct entry because many players were withdrawing (end of the year fatigue). The day before I was one spot away from direct entry, but the qualifying draw had already been made. I was scheduled to play my qualifying match Saturday morning. The night before I was informed by the tournament that there might be one more spot for direct entry, but I had to wait until the withdraw deadline closed Eastern time which meant I would get an answer early in the morning. I had trouble sleeping that night, wondering if I would gain direct entry. I checked my email at every hour. Finally! at 2 in the morning I got an email saying I didn’t need to play in the qualifying draw. I drew a Wildcard for my first round opponent. Not to say that they are easy opponents, but it was definitely better than playing the number 1 seed. After winning my first round, my next round was going to be a Japanese player who made the finals last year and who was one of the higher ranked players I’ve faced so far in my career. Going in I knew this would be a defining moment in my career. I desperately wanted to win just because I knew I didn’t get many opportunities like this, but also knew that my opponent had more pressure to live up to his expectations from the year before.
I started the match fairly well with a few errors and that was enough to lose the first set. And to be honest I’m not sure what happened the last two sets, but I felt focused and locked in like never before. The rest of the match was toe to toe. I ended up serving for the match at 5-4 in the decisive set. On the final change over I started thinking about all the times I lost and won a match when serving for the match. All these emotions and thoughts came flooding in. When “TIME” was called, I said something to myself that I will never forget. “Win or lose these moments of uncertainty are what we live for. Get excited!” For the first time I could ever remember, I was excited to serve out the match. My opponent played me tough in that last game, but I managed to muster up four points. After winning that last point I can honestly say that the feelings and emotions I had were overwhelming. I had come so far from week 1. I always knew I could compete at the top level, but I needed that top win that would make me believe!
It was a great win, but I knew that there was still much more work to be done. I was going to be tested with another tough opponent. I fought well in the match, losing a close three set match. It was disappointing to lose the match especially being only a few points away from winning the match. As much as the loss still hurts I couldn’t have asked for a better finish. I desperately needed a spark in my tennis game; I needed a sign to continue this journey.
Who would have thought…
I have made my way back to Tokyo, writing this entry at a coffee shop.
I will be leaving for Hong Kong on Monday for one final stop on this trip. Playing a money tournament to end the trip. Hoping to make back all the money I spent during this trip 😉 $$$$
See you in Hong Kong!