What a fantastic tournament Midland is! It is the best ITF event I have been to… it feels more like a WTA than an ITF. Every corner of this little frozen town in Michigan comes together to put on and participate in a great event.
Every player has the option of being housed with a family that have generously offered to take one of us in for the week. Almost everyone takes this offer up as not only do we save hundreds of dollars that we don’t have on a hotel, the family feed us and look after us as much as they can. This includes running me to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions for a nasty chest infection that has plagued me this week, supporting you during your matches and making you feel part of the family.
Housing is a reasonably common occurrence at the tournaments in the States and also Australia, as the tournaments make an effort to put this on for us. This means that even though you are digging deeper in to your pocket to pay for a flight to the States, it can work out to be far cheaper than competing in Europe. It is also so very pleasant to not be by yourself in a hotel room the whole time… I go a little crazy if I can’t have stimulating conversation!
Another brilliant concept that seems to be lost on us at our tournaments is a Pro-Am and School visits. The sponsors of the tournament are kept happy with the Professional-Amateur event, which often sees the Pros pairing with an amateur for a mini doubles tournament. This would normally take place one evening with the Amateurs paying to play (sponsors go free of course) and the Professionals being paid to play. The Pros are happy with an extra 50 dollars in the pocket which is often more than they will earn in the tournament, and the Amateurs have had a great evenings entertainment.
School visits are such a great way to maximise the talent and expertise of the players that are in the area for one week only. Schools are used to paying for experts to come and speak in an assembly to inspire the kids, and the tournament arranges for us to have this opportunity. I reckon that well over 1000 kids of all ages have benefitted from us being here this week, which is so rewarding to be a part of. This helps the club as more people will join and take up tennis, it helps the schools as it is inspirational for the kids, it helps the broke players and we actually enjoy it.
This tactic is simple but effective for increasing participation in tennis at a young age… it just takes an interest and a bit of organisation.
Not only have I enjoyed how the tournament is run I have played some of my best tennis yet, and I would go as far to say that my performance in the first round of main draw would have been a great performance when I was ranked 180. This is really exciting as I know that standard of tennis is there, I just now need to work as hard as I can to produce it every day. Unfortunately I have been battling hard through a really rough chest infection as I mentioned before, and although it has been clearing up with antibiotics I was getting more and more run down as the week progressed. It is incredibly difficult to compete at such a high level point after point, day after day when you feel so rough, especially as you aren’t allowed any medication that makes you feel better other than antibiotics as all decongestants and cough syrups are on the doping list, so it was disappointing to finish a great week with a poor performance.
There are so many positives to focus on and I feel like I have improved so much in these past 4 tournaments. Even though I lost some tight matches in Florida (one 6 in the 3rd and one from a match point) I was doing the right things from start to finish, even when it was really tight. That is the fastest way to improve but it is the hardest thing to do. The more I keep the big picture in the front of my mind and visualise the tennis I will be playing in Slams next year, the more chance I have of that happening.
This is also why I felt strongly that I needed to get out of 10Ks as quickly as possible. It is very easy to pick up bad habits that you can get away with until you play someone in the top 350… if you drop one ball short you can almost hear them think “that’s not good enough to beat me” as they step inside the court to cream it past you. If you miss a first serve at 15-30 there is not too much reason to sweat against the lower ranks but against these girls your second serve better be damn good because they know this is their opportunity and they are ready to pounce. As a coach I found that people learn better when they are showed what to do rather than told. These girls are showing me what is not good enough by punishing it… so I am learning very quickly!