I canít tell you how nice it is to be back in Melbourne and Iím sure that most players who arrive here from cold countries will say the same thing. Itís not just the weather here either; this is one of my favourite cities in the world and itís one of the few places that I actually like to get out and see the sights. Iíve been to Fed Square and I want to go back to the Aquarium but there wonít be a lot of time for that because itís all about getting on with the job of qualifying for the tournament.
Playing in the main draw of a grand slam is one of the biggest things you can do as a player. I was main draw here last year (just before I broke into the top 100 for the first time), at Roland Garros and because Iím from Britain Iíve been lucky enough to get wildcards into Wimbledon. Obviously Iíd prefer to be playing in the main draw here this time around but my ranking isnít high enough to get me in, so Iíve got to play my way in instead. That means winning three matches to get one of the 16 qualifying places in the draw.
The qualifying rounds at the grand slam tournaments can be pretty tough because there is so much on the line and itís not that different to the first round proper. Itís probably a bit more feisty and people scrap a lot more because thereís a big difference in prize-money between qualifying and not making it in. That probably makes it fun for people to watch though, even if the actual tennis is sometimes a bit ugly because thereís a lot to fight for and everyone is coming here straight from the off-season break and my first qualifying match will be my first match of the year. In some ways that helps, though, because nobody is coming here on the back of loads of matches.
For people like me that have come from cold countries Ė really, really cold. It was about to start snowing when I left London Ė you also have to get used to playing outside again. From September onwards in the UK you have to do all of your practising indoors, where there is no wind and the ball always bounces the same way.
Iíve been hitting here with Kristina Mladenovic from France the past few days (I happened to see her at the airport and asked if she wanted a hit) and weíre both just getting used to the conditions and the temperature.
I worked really hard in the off-season so Iím hoping that pays off. I train with Jez Green, who also works with Andy Murray. Jez put together a program for me which I spent December doing and it was pretty horrible! I spent a lot of time on the running track and Iíve learned not to have too much breakfast before those sessions because otherwise it tends to come back up! I feel ready to last however hot it gets and Iíve always liked playing in the sun. It just gives you happy vibes as soon as you get out there. Thereís not a lot you can do to prepare for really hot days, though, except maybe turn the heating up in your house at night!
Wish me luck for qualifying, which starts in a few days. You can follow me and everyone else on live scoring on this website through all three rounds and then when the main draw of the tournament starts on 18 January. I hope Iím there.