12 January, 2010 | 15:01
My first blog in a while, so I've put down what I've been doing day by day.
Jan 1 – Landed in Sao Paulo for the first leg of our South American trip to heavy rain. Didn’t stop all day and was confined to running in the rain as a means of exercise. Gutted to get the new Adidas clothes off to a soaking start!
I got upgraded to business class on the flight over which was a nice little bone to have thrown my way. Last year when flying to Brisbane for my first tournament of the year I got upgraded to first class on Emirates - That was probably the best flying experience of my life! The fact there were no overhead compartments probably gives you’re the idea of how much space there was. I had full on siding doors and a great selection of chocolates to munch while watching a movie on the LG flat screen TV that was as big as the one I have in my flat! My year, unfortunately, didn’t continue on that vein and I find myself at the beginning of 2010 here in Sao Paulo playing a challenger event rather than heading out to Australia. Although Sao Paulo doesn’t seem like a bad place to be in January, it’s Australia that every tennis player wants to be heading to as it’s the first Slam of the year. I’ve been there the past three years and lost at the first hurdle on each occasion; really enjoyed my time there but it definitely hurts to not be involved in the tournament!
Jan 2 – Managed to get my first hit of the year in and what a practice it was! Not really - it was pretty mediocre! Mainly because of the conditions – altitude, fast courts, light balls, excessive heat and humidity don’t always come together to create great tennis! BUT it’s potentially good conditions for me and Jonny to do well in, especially against South American opposition so I’m quite looking forward to it although I wont cry if I get a lot more practice done before we play our first match as it takes a bit of getting used to.
We went to the mall this evening to buy some essentials namely in my case – underwear! C&A came up trumps thankfully! Had to gamble a bit on the Brazilian sizing but hopefully they’re a snug fit! Haha.
The water situation at the courts is a shambles – it’s packaged in plastic cups that apparently the Sao Paulo government hand out for free to the locals to get them drinking clean water. Not ideal when your running around in 30c heat and the most water you can get your hands on comes in a cup which holds no more than a mouthful of H2O! “Useless” is the word that comes to mind! So we went to the supermarket and bought some big bottles to help us through the next few days.
Jan 3 – The draw is out and we are up against Marcus Daniel and Santiago Gonzalez. Tough draw for the boys but a tougher draw for them! Both guys know what they’re doing on a doubles court and both play very well at altitude so it will be a difficult test for our first match of the year.
Jan 4 – We’re not on the schedule so we hit twice and I handed in a couple rackets to get restrung before the match tomorrow.
This year I am going to play with a hybrid string which basically means I will have Big Banger Alu Power in the cross strings and natural gut in the mains. This is probably the most common combination on tour these days and so having waved the bandwagon on for a few years I finally decided to jump on it and see where it takes me! I have always played with Alu Power but decided to try out the gut to see if it would give me a bit more feel and perhaps a little more “pop” too. It certainly seems nice on the volleys, which is probably the most important for me as it’s the shot I will be playing most throughout my career!
The problem at altitude is that the ball flies more as the air is thinner so it can be difficult to control and it doesn’t take spin as well as when your at sea level so its important to find the right tension to compensate for that. On top of that, here in Sao Paulo the courts are very quick so I have upped the tension a few notches and gone for 57lbs.
Coming back on the bus, and the thunderstorms started. There seems to be no drainage system in Sao Paulo: the rain doesn’t seem to go anywhere so the water just piles up and the side streets are totally flooded. The water almost covered the wheels on the cars and its fortunate we’re going by bus as some of the roads you just couldn’t go down on a car. It took us a good hour to get back to the hotel. Nightmare.
Got cracking on the daily routine – pumped out my core work and the perfect push up routine but didn’t get through my stretching – improvements!
Jan 5 - First match of the year brings up the first win of the year; hopefully a sign of things to come! We won 7-6 7-6. There were no breaks of serve in the match, although we had a lot of break point chances, particularly in the first set, but didn’t manage to convert. You certainly have to stay patient here as its good serving conditions and difficult returning conditions but we latched onto a few in the tie-breaks and more than deserved our win I thought. Good performance from the boys and onwards and upwards!
Jan 7 – We put in a solid performance to beat Massu/Aguilar 6-2 6-3. Semi finals beckon.
Jan 8 – We go down to Prieto and Dabul of Argentina 6-4 2-6 10-7 in the semis. Very disappointing result for various reasons.:
1. We were clearly the better team as the stats from the match show but we didn’t play the important points well particularly at the start of the match when we had numerous break point chances and that cost us getting off to a great start and probably the first set. Jonny’s 3 double faults at 4-5 in the first set weren’t ideal either nor was my double fault at 7-7 in the match tie break.
2. We are trying to get into Santiago tour event in 3 weeks time and a big week here would have given us a good shot of making the cut.
3. Flights here are costing a bomb and getting to the final would have recouped a reasonable portion of the cost.
Although we were both really disappointed at letting the match slip and not seizing the opportunity to pick up some big points I was pretty happy with our performances for the week. I really think we can have a lot of success together and work our way up the rankings and get playing on the main stage again. Onwards and upwards.
Jan 9 – Alarm goes off at 5am ahead of my epic trip to Salinas, Ecuador. I have to fly via Lima, as there are no direct flights - one of my pet hates about traveling. Anyway I fly four or five hours – not sure how long because I practically slept the whole way – then board a 2 hours flight to Guayaquil. It wasn’t too much of a battle as the connection was only an hour and there were no queues at immigration or waiting for the bags but the battle began when I arrived in Guayaquil. On top of the seven hrs flying that had already taken place, Salinas is a solid two hour drive from Guayaquil. One of my friends Giovanni Lapentti hooked me up with a driver his family use to bring me to Salinas.
The tournament has put Jonny and I in the qualifiers hotel (dirt) so Giovanni said I could stay at his family’s apartment until I can move into the official hotel (much nicer). But I’m not sure I will be able to leave his apartment because its so nice!! It’s literally right on the beach and his brother Nicolas owns the penthouse apartment on the floor above so he has two huge apartments for him and his friends this week!
The first thing we did after dropping my stuff was going out on the boat. It certainly put a shine on the rest of my day! I even tried waterskiing but I was woeful – not that I expected much as a first time participant! But it was a nice way to relax after a long days travel. Afterwards, we grabbed some food before retiring to the apartment to watch the sunset over the sea…in the massive spa Paradise!
I was out the game by 930pm.