Melanie South - Great Britain Tennis Player

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An experience in India

Day 1 - 8 hours on a plane, watching a couple of movies and doing some school work started off my trip. We arrived at 1am in the morning. Once we had got through customs I went to the toilet. Beggars were opening the door for me wanting tips, that was my first encounter with the world I was about to enter. We arrived at the hotel at 3am our journey opening my eyes to how up-graded my life is at home. It was boiling hot despite the fact it was the middle of the night. We past hundreds of people on the streets sleeping by the side of the road. I found it intriguing but at the same time my face was screwed up, horrified at what I was seeing.

Day 2 - Our hotel booking had been messed up so we ended up having to go to another hotel that was a 45 minute drive away so off we went. The same look on my face, the poverty these people were living in was shocking. We arrived at the hotel, dropped our bags and were off to the club. This consisted of 3 courts at the side of a large area where hundreds of people were playing cricket, football and hockey on the grass and in the dirt. We hit on the courts for an hour but it felt more like 3. It would take a few days to get use to the 35 degree heat and how fast the balls were shooting at you. After practice we were back to the hotel but being taken to the wrong hotel meant we were in an extremely hot taxi for nearly 2 hours. At every set of traffic lights people were trying to sell us flowers, sun screens and ordinary beggars. 2 girls aged 6 and 8 years old were blackened by the dirt and wore no shoes. They came over to our taxi and were reaching in, touching us, wanting money. It was only when the lights changed to green and her arm were still in the cab that you realised how dangerous it was for them. From then on our windows went up which was lucky because at the next set of lights a guy with half and arm that had an open wound was pressing it up against our window.

Day 3 - Up for a 20 minute bike ride in the gym before breakfast. My back was feeling a bit sore (before this trip I had 2 weeks off due to a back injury), I made sure I iced it as much as possible. We found a club close to the hotel as we were unable to hit on the other courts. We practiced for 1 hour 20 minutes this time, working on getting our heart rates down to recover quicker between points. We went back to the hotel and slept for an hour and then back to the courts for a 40 min hit. There was not too much organisation so it was just to jump on court when you could. Later I had a massage to help with recovery.

Day 4 - I got up to do a light 15 minute bike ride today. My back was still sore so I took the day off to constantly ice it every hour to see if I could get the inflammation down. I did my strengthening work but nothing else. Emotionally that night I was very down. I thought I would not be able to play the tournament so I started to pack but then there was a change of plan. I was going to stay and ice and try to play my match. Why make an 8 hour journey and not even try to play a match. So unpacking it was and then a night trying to sleep on the floor to keep my back straight. I managed 3 hours before I woke up and had to get in my bed to get the rest of a good nights sleep.

Day 5 - Once again I was on am icing day but just because I was not playing did not mean my mind could get lazy. I was up at 6.50am as Bec was on 2nd after 9 so was getting to the club early to practice. I sat on the court so I felt like I had been in a practice session. I then watched a couple of matches getting my mind ready for my own match. I charted 2 matches deciding what tactics I would use against them. After Bec had won to qualify we went back to the hotel. Waiting for a taxi to flag down, a car just ploughed into a parked motor bike. Luce and I were in hysterics as we had been so surprised that there had not been a crash in the last few days as there driving is somewhat dangerous. We watched a couple of good films on TV later and then it was another night trying to sleep on the floor again.

Day 6 - My back was feeling worse on day 6. I was very doubtful that I would be able to play my match the next day as I had not been doing anything and it seemed to be getting worse. I carried out 2 visualisation session and 2 relaxation breathing session to fill up my day. I treated myself to a pedicure to break up the day and relax

Day 7 - My first match day. I hit for 20 minutes in the morning for the first time in 3 days. I was hitting the ball quite well which would have been due to the visualisation work I had been doing. I had to play another British girl, Katie Miles. We were due to play at 6pm but did not get on till 6.30 so most of the match was under floodlights. I did not mind this as it was obviously not really sunny so cooler (although it was still really hot). I got through the match winning 6-3 6-1. My movement was restricted as I was extremely cautious about my back as it was feeling really tight.

Day 8 - Once again I had to play another British girl. The difference was that this time I had to play the girl I train with and am sharing a room with out here. Rebecca Llewellyn. My back was not too bad and I went on to win 6-3 6-3. Back to the hotel for the ritual of icing and visualisation. I had a massage to loosen up my back again.

Day 9 - Today I played the No1 seed Chia-Jung Chuang who is ranked 305 in the world. My back was feeling a lot looser so I was confident if I played my game I could beat her. This confidence paid off as I won 6-1 6-4. I was extremely pleased with this result as she is the highest ranked player I have ever beaten and meant that I was now in the semi finals.

Day 10 - I was up at 6.30am as my match was scheduled for 9am. An early start but never the less I was prepared to work hard. I had to play a Chinese girl. Before the match I was feeling nervous as I really wanted to win and get to my first $10,000 final. I started the match really well winning the first set 6-4. In the second set I got too tight. Yang took advantage of this and played well to win the second set 6-0. We were in a 3rd set and I was not here to lose. I changed my shirt as the heat was getting to me and a dry shirt would also indicate a new start. A fighting battle took place in the final set but I came through winning it 6-4. Through to my first final I was happy but knew there was still a lot of hard work to go.

Day 11 - Finals Day... Not the best day to wake up feeling sick with a high temperature but that was the day I did. I struggle to eat breakfast but knew I had to fuel up. I prepared the same in the morning hitting for 30 min and then back to the hotel for lunch. It was time for my match at 3pm. The weather was very sunny and extremely hot so conditions would be tough. I had to play another Chinese girl, Chen. I went out and was nervous and tight. I had prepared myself that this might happen so was not phased when I was 2-4 down in the first set. I played my way in, relaxed and came back with some great tennis to win the first set 6-4. This is a time when you can relax but in the heat with the girl on my toes I knew there was a long way to go to get the final pay check. From then on I played every point like it was her match point and I had to win it. She was not going to give in and after a great battle I came through to win 6-4 6-4. I could not believe it. My first title in a $10,000 ITF event. An announcement said the presentation would be in 5 minutes so I did not have time to get changed. After a delayed start, a lot of long speeches, collecting my prize money, having pictures and saying a few words I was still in my wet clothes. An hour had past and I was still in the sun. After changing and speaking to the media once more we were waiting for a taxi to take us back to the hotel as we were due to catch a flight at 8pm. 2 minutes later I started to feel really ill. In the taxi on the way back I could not stop shivering which told me something was wrong as it was boiling out. I had to concentrate to get to my room and knew I would not be able to make the flight. I went straight to bed were later on that night I turned boiling hot.

Day 12 - I woke up with a headache but apart from that I did not feel too bad. A bad course of sun stroke had hit me from the last couple of days and I had suffered. We got on our flight and arrived at Delhi for the second tournament. I thought it had been hot in Mumbai but here it was a joke. We arrived at the hotel and later went to the club to get use to the surroundings.

Day 13 - Had a hit today. Had to take lots of little breaks as it was so hot. I looked at the time when I thought we had been playing for an hour only to find out it had been 30 minutes. The courts were slower hard courts than the previous week so I had a basic session to get my timing and feel comfortable.

Day 14 - Up for breakfast at 6.30am. I got to the club to hit for 30 min at 7.45. A good hit and then off to get changed for my first match. I was due to play Yang, the girl I had played and beaten in 3 sets in the semi final last week. I was nervous before I went on as I had been close before I wanted to do well again. I went out and found myself unable to time the ball. My nerves were making me tight which in turn made my feet stop moving which resulted in a wrong contact point. The rallies were not long and I soon found myself 3-6 down. A new set and new start, I thought as I sat down. However this did not happen as I went 0-2 down. Time to dig in and make balls. Hit to basic targets and do disciplines. I managed to fight my way back into a 3rd set. 7-5 to me. A poor start to the final set meant she had an early advantage. She capitalised on this and ended up beating me 3-6 7-5 2-6. Warm down, collection of prize money and back to the hotel disappointed were my next few hours. The lunch, thinking about my match by the pool, packing and off for my flight home at 2am.

Mel xx

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