Melanie South - Great Britain Tennis Player

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Canary Islands

Well from my last diary you heard I was in Japan. Well, I got back home, re-packed my bags, got up at 5am the next morning and was on a flight to Tenerife from Stanstead by 8.15. This was a last minute trip as I didn't even know I was going before I touched down from my flight back from Japan. I messed up with my entries and had pulled out from Spain without checking if there was a possibility that I would go. Its one of those automatic things you do and regret later! I had made a lot of calls to Spain to try and get a wild card into the qualifying but had not heard back, so my Dad was ringing whilst I was on the plane. Luckily it was a 64 qualifying draw that they were not filling so they were able to give me one (I could not get there in time to sign in). Another bit of luck meant that I had a bye so did not have to play the day I arrived. I managed to find a girl to hit with and played for 1 hour. I could see straight away why it is such a holiday destination, the weather is amazing although quite hot to play in. I got a massage which was needed after a couple of days of flying and then I went to the hotel, had some dinner and got an early night. My hotel room was not too good, the window looked out to 4 walls so there was no natural light getting into the room and it smelt really smoky. So smoky that I could nearly see the grey cloud in my room. I tried to change rooms but the receptionist was not very friendly and would not let me. I just thought to myself 'it could be worse, there could be no bed!'

After catching up on some sleep, I was up for breakfast and off to the courts for day 1 of the tournament. I knew it was going to be tough struggling with jet lag but I was feeling confident and wanted to play matches so forced myself not to think about it and just get on with my job, to win. I got on with it and was on and off in 1 hour winning 6-0 6-2. I did some training later and hit for 45 minutes. At the club they have 2 outdoor pools which look inviting every time you walk past them so when I was finished I went in the 50 meter pool and did a cool down swim and stretch. Then it was the same routine in the evening, diner and early night after watching 4 episodes of 'Friends' on my lap top.

Day 2, pretty much followed the same routine. My match was against another Brit which can sometimes be hard but I got on with it and was of in just over an hour.

Day 3, the first day of main draw for me. Now the tournament really starts. I was 1st on against a German girl who I knew could play well but could go mentally so I was feeling confident. I was still a bit tired from the jet lag so throughout the match I repeated to myself 'stay focused and concentrate' I followed my instructions and allowed her to get frustrated. I hung in when she was playing well and looked to attack whenever I could. The match took a little longer than the last couple of days, it took an hour and a half to win 6-3 6-1. I was pleased with my efforts and went to cool down. My day followed by supporting the other British girls and then watching my next opponents match. I stayed in the shade for most of the day as I still had doubles to play, 5th match on. We ended up losing in a truly horrific match. We went to a good Italian restaurant for dinner and then I relaxed in the room before going to bed.

Day 4. I had never got to a quarter final of a 25k event before so I had a hurdle to jump over today to get into my first and even go beyond. I hit with Becky Llewellyn and then went and changed. I prepared for my match, re-gripping my rackets and when the match before was nearly finished going to do a sharp warm up. I got on court and knew if I got to a good start she would lose confidence. I had watched her match the day before and saw that it took her 8 games to get going so I knew I had to take advantage if she did it again. I followed this through and went 6-0 1-0 up. With her game you have to stay with it as she can start playing well at any time. She did start to play a bit better and my game feel apart, whether I lost my concentration by 10% or whether I got nervous closing out to my first quarter final or a mix of both I am not sure, but I soon found myself 1-4 down. You may think that for me a quarter final is nothing to be nervous about but when it is a first it is in your head even if you believe you should be there. I just thought, you won the first seven games you can win the next and I fought my way back (not always with pretty tennis) and managed to close out the match in 2 sets 6-0 7-5. For the rest of the day I watched my next opponent again and did some training. As I trained in the basketball hall a group of kids came in to watch and started joining in with my speed, putting my sweaty tennis shoes on when I was not watching and pulling my bands then pinging them back against the metal pole I had attached them to. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! It was the championship final on t.v between Barcelona and Arsenal so even though I am not a football fan it was on, Henry was on the pitch which made viewing a lot better.

Day 5, I had a late start. I got up had breakfast then chilled in the room. When I got to the club I hit for 40 minutes and then chilled by the pool and had a light lunch. The match before me went to 3 sets so I was not on till 4pm. I had a very long match against the winner of last weeks tournament, Ospina. She had been taking the British girls out one by one so I wanted revenge. I won 6-3 in the third. I started really badly going 0-5 down but talked myself around and gradually changed it up going on to fight my way to win the first set 7-5. We ended up both playing really good tennis and enjoying the match with some light banter. When I went 3-0 down in the second set she looked at me at the change of ends and said 'Bring it'. I just looked straight into her eyes and said 'Oh, I will'. We were both smiling but deep down serious, that was the changing point for the tennis going up a big level. I warmed down with a swim in the pool at 7 and then went to dinner late. It did not matter too much that it was late as it was another late start the next day.

Day 6. It was my first time in a semi final of a 25k tournament and i was looking forward to it. I had watched the girl I had to play and she was playing very well, smacking the ball and hitting a lot of winners. I knew I would have to bring my A game to get a win. I found a high level but not my tip top game. I tried to find ways to hurt her but she just kept hitting winners, even through the extreme wind conditions. She is very much a hit and miss player and did hit the back fence a few times but it paid off for her and I lost in 2 sets. I decided I would chill for the rest of the day then leave around lunch time the following day to the next tournament in La Palma. The qualifying actually started tomorrow but I would have a bye as it was a 48 draw so I would not play till the following day. I could not get through to the tournament referee to check this. Bit of a shock then when I did finally get through at 9.30pm to find out there were loads of byes and I had been scheduled for 10am the following morning!!!!!!!!! all that could go through my mind was AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I rushed to the Internet to find out that to book a flight for 7am the next morning I needed my passport so I had to go back to the hotel to get it and then back. That night I had a nightmare. I chucked everything in my bags and went to go to bed at 11.30pm to get up at 5am however in the next room we had kids shouting all night. At 12.30pm I got up knocked on their door and told them to be quiet. At 1am I rang reception to tell them to be quiet and at 2am I actually went down to reception in my night clothes to see if I could go to a different room but none were free. At 2.45am I gave up and I think I got about 2 hours sleep in the end. Not the best preparation for a match the next day.

So I was up at 5am the following day to get on a plane to La Palma. It was only a 30 minute flight, the smallest I have ever done; we literally took off, were in the air for about 15 minutes and were landing again. I got a taxi from the airport to the official hotel, left my big bag there and then got on the first transport bus to the club. When I got there I had a look around and then laid down and shut my eyes as I was so tired. I was second on for my match so when the first match went on I went and changed into my match kit and then went straight back to the sofa to close my eyes for a bit longer. I went to warm up and realised that my legs felt like lead. The only thought going through my head at that time was 'I am so tired'. I knew that I had to change this thought and that I was going to have my work cut out for me. I got on and the young Spanish girl I was playing started very well. I went 1-3 down but thought to myself 'you are actually playing quite well considering'. I kept at it and she started to go off. The second set I closed out with ease and was off the court as soon as I could. I went to see the physio to get another well needed massage and then went back to the apartments I was staying in. I watched some dvd's and chilled for the rest of the day,which was well deserved.

The following day I had to play fellow Brit Amanda Keen. It was not the best draw but we were both to blame. I would have been main draw if I had entered and if she had been playing since Wimbledon last year she would be ranked a lot higher. I went out there taking on my confidence and determination that I had got into a roll of. I played very well to go a set and 1-0 up and then I hit the wall. Amanda played well and we battled through a 3 set match but in the end I did not have enough in the tank to get me through. As I went to see the physio again the referee told me that I had a lucky loser spot into the main draw as a French girl had pulled out due to being given a wild card into the qualifying of the French Open. It was no consellation for losing my match but none the less I was into the main draw and had another chance.

I was wanting a day off as they had split draws but I was scheduled to play the following day, first on at 12. I had been drawn against another qualifier. I went out there and my body did not want to move. I forced it to and found very ugly ways of getting the ball back across the net and into the court. It was the longest 6-3 6-3 match I had ever played on a hard court, 2 hours. Later on Katie and I played our first round doubles match. We had tried changing the sides we stood on court in our last 3 matches but decided it was not working as we had lost all 3. We were back on the usual sides and played a lot better. We went out and tried different plays. Serving and volleying, serve and cross sides, it was all good practise. We won routinely and went back the the apartments.

Day 4 of La Palma and I only had a doubles match. However it was not as straight forward as that, I warmed Katie up for her singles match but she was scheduled 3rd on not before 4.30pm! She then had an hours break and we were finally on court at 8pm. The last people there in the tournament, next to people playing paddle tennis, under flood lights, eventually everything around our court was pitch black. We had a tough fought doubles only just winning the first set 7-6, which I was very pleased about as I was not wanting to go to 3 sets. We continued to play well and closed out the match 6-3 at 10pm. Straight to dinner from the courts and then back for a shower and bed.

I was on first at 12pm the following day against yet again another qualifier. I knew this match could be tough as the girl was playing well. My body had been starting to pick up some niggles here and there but I was not too worried about them affecting me. I went out there and put in a very lethargic performance in the first set. My serve was letting me down in the match but I fought on and in the second set I started to find ways to get back into the match. It was more of a match but not enough for me and I was out of the tournament in the singles event. Very disappointed I went to watch the end of Katie's match but she was having a nightmare to and we were soon back on the bus to the apartment.

The day of our semi final of the doubles. Our aim was to go out there and enjoy playing tennis and of course to go and get a win. It was a very frustrating match as we were playing the number one seeds and playing well but just not quite winning the key points. We did achieve our aim of enjoying playing but of course we would have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more if we had won. Soon after coming off court, we organised and booked our flights home and were leaving the next day.

Overall I would say it was definitely a good choice to go to Spain for these tournaments. I had picked up some of my highest points getting 16.5 in total which will set me to a new career high. Back home for a day off and then straight back to work preparing for the grass court season.

Mel xx

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