Sept. 12, 2008
Former Georgia Tech standout Kristi Miller will share her experiences on and off the court from Spain as she begins her professional tennis career on the women’s circuit. Miller is competing in various 10K and 25K tournaments throughout the country.
Hola de Espana! This is my first blog entry from my travels in Spain. First of all, I’ve never been to Europe, I’ve never traveled outside the United States except to South Africa last Christmas.
My first impressions are things are so different here in Spain! From the different measurements (Celsius, kilometers, and kilograms), to the language, to having to buy regular water at dinner or Coca-Cola in tiny glass bottles. I decided to come to Spain relatively spontaneously. I came by myself, and while I would rather have someone to travel with me, it didn’t work out. But, in some ways, I think that it has been a good thing for me to be alone so far. I have really had to figure things out and be independent. I came into this trip blind and hoping that things would go well. I have been so pleasantly surprised by the people out there who are willing to help me out. When I first arrived in Barcelona, I landed a few days before my first tournament so I could train and get ready for the red clay! I have never played on red clay before and I haven’t played on green clay here in the States for five years so it’s safe to say I was a little rusty and nervous about the new surface.
I stayed with my former teammate, Dasha Potapova, in Barcelona. She played on the team at Georgia Tech when she was a senior and I was a freshman (2004-2005). Her apartment was a few blocks from the Mediterranean Sea and the first night we walked around the boardwalk. Another first impression, which proved to be correct- Spanish people eat so late! I am starving by 5:00pm. But dinner isn’t until 9 at the earliest. I have to have a snack just to make it through the early evening. Anyway, upon arriving in Barcelona I had a place to stay but no place to train and get used to the clay. One of the freshmen on the team right now, Viet Ha Ngo, trained in Barcelona before arriving at Tech last month, so her mom helped me hit at an academy in Catalonia.
Then a few days later I took a train (my first time!) to Lleida for my first tournament. The train was only supposed to take two hours, but the train in front of us hit a person! It was a very strange thing, but long story short, the train ride took close to five hours. When I finally arrived in Lleida, I didn’t have a hotel room or anyone lined up to hit with. Thankfully, my new friend from the academy, Lucia Sainz, let me stay with her and introduced me to some of her Spanish friends and her friend Natasha Khan from England. Lucia used to play at Fresno State so we had some things in common right off the bat.
Lleida was pretty awesome. The club was beautiful and we stayed at an amazing hotel within walking distance of the facility. We somehow got hooked up with a suite on the top floor (since there were three of us staying together), which had two bedrooms and a shower, sauna, and Jacuzzi tub. It also had a laptop in the middle of the room with internet, which I was very happy about. The tournament got off to a good start for me when I found out that only five teams had signed up for doubles and that they would be playing the finals on Thursday (instead of Saturday as normal). This allowed me to play doubles and not worry about missing my next tournament in Madrid. I wasn’t expecting to get to play, so I didn’t have a partner lined up. I ended up randomly asking this girl from Macedonia to play doubles and we won the tournament! Too funny how things happen. In singles, I became more and more comfortable on the clay and won my first two rounds. Today, I lost an excruciatingly close match to the No. 2 seed. I definitely put myself in position to win the match, as I served for the match in the second set. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to close out a match, especially on clay when the court is slowed down. I ended up losing in three hours,6-4 in the third.
As I write this, I am already on a train to Madrid because I am playing in qualifying tomorrow so no time off. I will get in tonight at 10pm and then play tomorrow sometime midday. I am on a bullet train called “ave”. Currently we are going 300 km/hr! The sun is setting out my right window and there are a million colors over the mountains. As I have never been to Spain, I didn’t know what to expect, but it is definitely more mountainous than I expected. On my train rides, I have gotten to see a bit of the beautiful scenery in Spain.
Once I arrive in Madrid, it will be an immediate adjustment as the courts are hard courts and there is altitude (so the ball flies more). I am excited to stay with my friend Maria Nieto, who also played tennis at Georgia Tech she helped recruit me! After this tournament, I will have one week to just train and relax. I will be staying with a family in Madrid. Their son is a foreign exchange student in my dad’s school district in Michigan. They are going to show me around the small towns around Madrid. I am very excited to see some of Spain, besides their tennis courts! Sometimes it is tough to actually see the places that I travel to because I am so busy playing and getting prepared and resting. And sometimes you just don’t have the transportation or opportunity. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of Lleida. Well, I think my first blog entry is extremely long, so I better end it. I will write again soon! Go Jackets! I will be there in spirit as the GT women’s team hosts their first tournament soon. Thinking of you all!