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Irina Falconi's Summer Blog - Entry #2

Rising sophomore and All-American Irina Falconi has agreed to blog for this summer. She will keep Yellow Jacket fans up-to-date on her training as she prepares for her second season on the Flats.

July 10, 2009

Entry #2

Hello again! So today is the one week mark since I came to wonderful Grapevine, Texas. The really great part about this tournament is the fact that I am staying with some friends that I had met two years ago at a tournament in Southlake, Texas, which is only 15 minutes away from here. Can you say lucky? So, the reason why I have been here so long is because I was supposed to be in the qualifying draw a week before the tournament started, therefore I figured to get in a day earlier than usual to spend some time with my housing friends. Little did I know that two days before I was leaving for Texas, while still in Tampa, I was going to get offered a Main Draw wild card!!! So that meant I wasn’t going to be playing a match for like five days!!!

Follow Irina Falconi at the Grapevine Women’s 50K Tennis Classic by clicking HERE.

So the first day at the Patterson home was great! Because I was there so early, there weren’t any girls that could actually practice, so I had the luck of playing with my friend, Moore. We played twice which was great because the heat was something you had to get used to.

The next day I decided to take it easy in the morning and then hit with recent graduate of USC, Amanda Fink. We played for a while and then went back to my housing family to go to dinner with some friends.

July 4th!! Whoop whoop!!!
Believe it or not, this was Bill’s birthday (the housing dad), so they already had plans to go to the lakehouse for the day and watch the fireworks in the evening. Fortunately enough, I was able to get a ride with Moore in the afternoon because I wanted to make sure I get two practices in daily. In the morning, I played with UCLA graduate Elizabeth Lumpkin. We played for about an hour and we were both dying in the heat! In the afternoon, I played with another friend of mine, Katie Ruckert, and that was a solid hour hit as well! Right after that, I was able to catch a ride with Moore down to Bridgeport which is where the lakehouse is. It was absolutely the most fun ever!! There were so many people and so much food to feed about 50 hungry teenage boys!! The lake was beautiful and there were so many fun activities such as diving platforms and high posts where you could jump from about 40 feet up!!! One of Bill’s friends, Bobby, had a boat where we were able to go and wakeboard from!!! It was an absolutely fantastic way to spend a fourth of July!!

So Sunday is usually a pretty chill day for me. The day started off with the Wimbledon Men’s Final between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. Fortunately, there was rain that prevented us from practicing at all very early in the morning, so I ended up playing with an old New York friend of mine, Lena Litvak. We were playing hard, but as much as we tried, we couldnt stop thinking about our phones getting new text messages on the score of the match!! It was so intense!!! After a nice lunch and some chill time, I played again with Katie Ruckert for about an hour. We played at around 3 o’clock so we were in the heat of the day. Playing for a bit afterwards with Amanda Fink was a struggle, but I managed and finished the day on a good note!!

At last! The day before I play!! That morning started off great as usual, playing with Lena in the morning, and then playing in the afternoon at four! It was a beautiful schedule because that gave me time to chill at the house all day and watch movies! When I got to the courts to hit at four, I was utterly surprised to see that my hitting partner didn’t show up. I stayed there for the whole hour and was there when she finally shows up to play at five with someone else! It was a little annoying because I had a match the next day, but I knew that if I did a workout later on in the day with some agility exercises, I would be A OK!

The first day of competition. In the draw of a 50K tournament, there is a draw of 32 and a qualifying draw of 32. Only four qualifiers get into the main draw, which means that they have to win three matches before they play a main draw match. Since qualifying started on Sunday, that meant that they had to play their last match on that Tuesday. They were on first at 10 a. m , and then my match against Lindsey Lee Waters would follow on Court 3.

The Match.
So we are warming up, everything is great. I like my outfit, I’m hydrated, I didn’t have any sunblock on but it’s all good. In about 23 minutes, I’m down 5-0 . So I take a second and start thinking in my head that the best thing for me to do (my balls were landing short and she was just sticking them down my throat) is just to whack a couple balls. Doesn’t matter what happens. just go for it. All of a sudden it’s 5-4 her. Then she serves a good game and wins the first set. It’s all good though because I figured out how to play her. So in the second set, it’s close. We are both holding. and then at 4-4, she breaks me. She’s now serving for the match at 5-4. she has a match point, loses it, and then I break her. Hold and break. I take the second set.

The third set comes and I win the first game, and then the trainer is called. something is wrong with her ankle or something. No biggie. Medical timeout. so again, everyone is holding. no breaks AT ALL in the third set, ridiculous. Oh and let me mention that this match was the best I ever served . I hit about 10 aces or something around there. It was legit. I was winning over 80 percent of my first serve points. Ridiculous! So then, I am ready to break at 5-4, and 6-5, but she holds strong. I am ok, but I know that it’s a third set tie-breaker. Real intense stuff. So I win the first point, she wins the next, I win the next. (I started serving) Five points later. I win the breaker 7-1. Phew. that was intense. Trust me. The score was 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-1).

As much as I would like to think that that is enough stress to handle in one day, I had doubles in the afternoon with my doubles partner, Amanda Fink. We were going to be playing against the No. 4 seed. They were two Japanese girls, Ryoko Fuda and Yuri Numigata. So Amanda and I had never played before, and we both knew that we could win, so we went out there to win but most importantly, have fun! The first set goes by quick and goes to the Japanese duo, 6-2. The second set, we start playing more aggressive and focused on coming into the net and win 6-3. So, in doubles, for the ITF Circuit Events, the third set is replaced by a 10 point tiebreaker. So we start that, and we are doing well. We get up to 6-0, and then in about two seconds, its 8 all. It happened so fast! We end up losing the tiebreaker 10-8 and to say the least, Amanda and I weren’t two very happy campers. I end the day knowing that eight hours of tennis, is just awesome to do in 100 degree weather!!!

The beautiful thing about playing first round on Tuesday is the fact that you get to have Wednesday off and get to play on Thursday. So Wednesday was more of a relaxed day for me. I woke up feeling very sore. I had agreed to warm up Katie Ruckert for her doubles match near noon, so that gave me time to sleep in. After playing with her, I decided to stay and watch my opponents play on centre court, Mashona Washington and Megan Moulton-Levy. According to one of the Court Officials, the court temperature was 118! Can you say, HOT?!?!?! After watching the match, I went home and decided to do my same little return that had worked for me the day before my match with Lindsey. I did my routine and felt great! Some good food, a fun movie, and I was ready to call it a day!

Thursday: Let the Match against Mashona Begin
So the morning starts out like usual with my fantastic breakfast, followed by some really great warming up. Katie was awesome and told me that she would warm me up for my match which was great! I was supposed to play at 10, but the clouds didn’t let us. A little rain prevented us from playing as promised, and the matches were all delayed by an hour. Thankfully, the rain stopped and were able to indeed start the match at 11 o clock. Mashona and I walked on court and started warming up while the sun was shining. It was already sizzling at 11 am in the morning. I start serving the match, and I hold easily. Hit a couple big serves and win the game fairly easily. Mashona hit me right back and decided to hold strong as well. For the next couple of games, I wasn’t able to hold again and she was able to hold easily for the rest of the set. I manage to sneak in another game before dropping the first set 6-2. In the second set, I had realized that, 1. I needed to return well. And 2. I had to make sure I was making the rallies longer than three balls. The first two games, the streak continued and she held and break. After that, just like a switch, my streak began. I was able to break and hold and a few times, and then all of a sudden I was faced with a chance to take the second set. I was serving for the set after she held at 5-2, so at 5-3, I was faced with a couple of set points, and after a solid out wide serve in the ad followed by a deceiving short slice cross court, I took the second set.

Since the heat is absolutely ridiculous here in Grapevine, Texas, the heat rule was in effect for our match. That means that between second and third sets, there is a 10 minute break before you play the third set.

So the third set starts, and we are both ready to go. We both hold up till 2 all, and then I am faced with the first break point in the third set. I manage to execute, and then I am able to hold right afterwards. She comes back with a strong service game and then the score becomes 4-3 for me. I hold after about six deuces, and then its time for her to serve. This is the most important game for her. If she holds, she provides me with pressure on holding my serve and if she doesn’t— I win the match.

First point, she serves wide and I hit a penetrating return, and she shanks the ball long. One down. Big serve, penetrating ball, winner from her part. Fifteen all. Again, big serve, deep return, a couple of cross court exchanges and she slaps the ball long again. 15-30. Two down. Two to go. On this point, I manage to win the point with a winner, which gives me three break match points. I manage to lose those two and bring to deuce. Again, big serve, WINNER return. Yes. Match point again. Coach, this ones for you-third times the charm. And just like that, I am in the quarters. Till tomorrow!!!

Entry #1 – June, 26, 2009


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