First Pro Title in Tunisia
I had an amazing trip to Tunisia. I went there with my luggage, rackets and no expectations; and I’ve come back with confidence, excitement and 3 trophies. I’ll start from the beginning.
Prior to the trip, I’d re-located back home to South Wales with my family, to base myself in Cardiff with my new coach Chris Lewis. It was the first time I’d lived at home on a permanent basis since I was 12 years old, when I left to attend Reed’s School Tennis Academy. Anyway, I began my 3 week block, and slowly began to adapt to my new schedule. No longer was I being told what to do, unlike academy tennis, I began to have to schedule all my tennis and fitness sessions myself. Organisation was a must! Individuals in Cardiff, sets in Neath, fitness here, massage there. I enjoyed the responsibility it gave me over my own tennis. I came out of the 3 weeks at my new base with a clear vision of how I wanted to play my tennis, having discussed and worked on it in great depth over the weeks. I sharpened up with a couple days of match practice at Gosling Tennis Academy before I flew out on the Saturday prior to the first event in El Kantoui.
I stayed in Tunis on the Saturday evening when I arrived. Having collected my bags in record time, I rushed to a taxi and checked into my hotel room in time to catch the last 10 minutes of the Wales versus England Rugby World Cup match…which was an absolute thriller. The following afternoon, I had a light practice after arriving in Sousse by train and then ate my first unvarying all inclusive buffet dinner in the evening. I had one more day to acclimatise before the event started on the Tuesday. I spent the morning playing a couple sets and then relaxed and took care of my body in the afternoon.
First up on Court 1, I comfortably beat my Ukrainian opponent 6-1 6-3 to advance into round two, having served great. Just doubles the following day with my Tunisian partner Anis; winning with no trouble to move into the quarter finals. My round two singles opponent was a confident German qualifier, who knocked out the top seed in an epic 3 set battle in round 1. I took to the court against him, and after a tight start to the match, I pulled away, racing to a 6-3 6-2 win. Once again, I was great behind my serve. Into only my 2nd futures quarter final, I was to play a young Italian speedster, Tinelli. In what I though could have been a tricky encounter, I had far too much for him on the day, claiming it 6-0 6-2 to reach my first semi-final. I was beginning to feel confident and play some great tennis by this point. I was just taking it match by match, and focussing on my game and the way I wanted to play out on the court. Same story in the semi-final against an on-form Suisse player, Bellier. I came through a well contested first set before easing away in the second set to book my spot in the final.
The final was a completely different match all together. Playing a Dutch guy, Kevin Griekspoor, I had so many emotions and feelings going into the match. Nervousness being the predominant one. I prepared the same way, going through my warm up and pre-match rountines, but got off to a bad start regardless. However, I expected a nervy start. 0-2 (15-40) down, I turned the set around, got the break back and started finding my game. Next thing I knew, 6-3 me. “I could actually win this thing” was the exact thought which lost me the second set causing me to tighten a little and stop playing my game. I calmed myself, regained composure and reminded myself of how I’d got to the final, and after battling through a few tight games at the start of the third, I flew away- playing a close to flawless set of tennis to claim the title. 6-3 1-6 6-2. Yeyyyyyy! Later I also won the doubles title to complete a brilliant week for me. I celebrated the following day with a boat trip, on which we swam, saw dolphins and enjoyed the sunshine with a good crowd of people. It was a high quality rest day! Haha.
By week two, I began to struggle with the food; same meals every day. Omelette, melon and cereal for breakfast. Beef stew & rice or Pizza & chips were the only decent options for lunch and dinner. The all you can eat ice cream cheered me up though…so no, I’m not on a strict diet. At least not in Tunisia. After winning by my opponent retiring at 6-4 3-4 in my opening match, who happened to be Kevin, my opponent in the final of the previous week, I took on an Italian seeded player called Vilardo. Not serving as well as I had been and a bit of fatigue in the legs, I fell in a tight 3 sets to his game of much variety. It was a blessing in disguise though, as it gave me a little time of to freshen up and take my mind away from tennis, so I could focus in on the third and final week.
With my few days off, I practised lightly and took care of my body, booking myself in for a massage at the hotel spa. The spa experience was fabulous. Wearing my robe, I entered the relaxation room where I sipped green tea and dozed off a little before I was taken to a treatment room and given a thorough (painful at times) sports massage. I proceeded to the jacuzzi and hot room before heading to eat some more Beef stew and rice. On the Sunday, I took a rest day to watch the finals and then I gathered the troops for a 2 hour catamaran trip in the late afternoon. There were so many of us we were able to hire a private boat to take us out. It was way too good!
Partly rested and ready to give it my all in my final week, I took on a tough french opponent in the first round. Carrying niggles in my arm and toe, I called the physio on twice in the first set to treat me. I came back from a set down to win 4-6 6-4 6-0, playing some high level aggressive tennis. I hit 25 aces in the duration of the match. Similar story in round 2, where I took on an in form Belgian 4th seed, Michael Geerts, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-1 6-4. By this point, my arm was giving me a bit of trouble, so I had no expectations for the rest of the tournament. However, I was playing very confident tennis and knew I was still going to be tough to beat. Yet another thrilling three set encounter saw me advance past Tunisian Anis Ghorbel, and into the semi’s once more where I took on 290 ATP ranked Austrian, Bastian Trinker. Tired and a bit broken, I somehow managed to put in a ruthless performance to topple him 6-3 6-1 to reach my second singles final in 3 weeks. I was a happy chap. I gave it my all in the final against French top seed, Jankovits, but I didn’t have enough on the day. I lost 4-6 7-6(5) 3-6 in 2 hours 30 mins. I was gutted!
In the days following the conclusion of the tournaments, I had a little fun on the beache of our resort. It began with an epic para-sailing trip with my American buddy Brandon. It was my first time being pulled along in the air by a speed boat, and it was amazing. The cable attaching us to the boat must have been at least 300m long which left us suspended a 150m above the sea with an amazing view of the coastal area. We took full advantage of the photographic opportunity, by making use of Brandon’s GoPro, taking many snapshots. The next adrenaline filled activity I did saw me try my hand at water-skiing. It took me 4 attempts to successfully stand up, but once up, I rocked. I’m contemplating taking it up as an alternative career path…haha! Lastly, I spent my final afternoon relaxing on the beach with a few friends, enjoying the sunshine, before returning to damp old Wales.
This trip was truly special for me; mostly because I’ve had a pretty tough year. This was a massive leap in the right direction, having been pretty down about how things were going in the months before this. I felt like I was going nowhere, not sure of where I was heading, and it felt like a career in this sport was a long way off. Now, I feel the ladder is not such a hard climb. It’s given me confidence and actually a feeling of relief. I’m looking forward to the challenge of continuing on this positive path, and keeping things rolling forwards. I’m viewing this trip’s achievements as a great start to my journey, with much work left to do.
Following the success of these three weeks, my ranking will surge to roughly 700 in the ATP rankings, with a career high in doubles too at 528. This week, it’ll be time to re-evaluate and adjust my goals for the coming months and come up with a solid schedule for the end of the year. I’m excited about the future and the challenge it holds for me.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.