“Here’s looking at you kid”
Tennis must surely involve one of the more challenging travel schedules of any professional sport.
As I found out during the most recent North American hard court swing of tournaments, sometimes the better your results, the worse your travel arrangements.
After a thrilling week in Delray Beach, where I reached the final, I was on the road to Mexico less than eight hours after stepping off court.
Said itinerary included a 3:30am wakeup call, so that my wife Kelsey and I could drive down to Miami in time to catch an early morning flight to Mexico City and then on to Acapulco.
While a positive was that matches in Mexico began at 4pm each day, there was no rest for the weary that week, as I competed in the singles and doubles events and reached the final of both.
En route to the doubles final, Matt Ebden and I competed against local wildcards in the semifinals. It proved to be one of the liveliest crowds I have ever experienced in my career. We managed to prevail in an incredibly close third set super-breaker amidst chants of “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!”
After competing in the singles final – where I lost a close encounter to Grigor Dimitrov – we took to the court for our doubles match at 2am! Even in the wee hours of the morning, I was amazed by the fan turnout. There were probably about 1000 people still in attendance.
While it was difficult to put my feelings of disappointment from losing the singles title aside, I possessed a great doubles partner and I owed it to him to play my best tennis in the final. In the end, we were victorious and I was able to take home my first ATP doubles title.
Travelling to Indian Wells proved no easier than getting to Acapulco. The flights were booked solid and I was unable to travel on the same itinerary as my coach. My doubles partner, meanwhile, stayed up all night to catch a 6am flight, which was feasible since the final only finished at around 3.30am.
Despite the harried travel, I still did well in Indian Wells and was very pleased with my quarterfinal result. I defeated world number three Stanislas Wawrinka, which ranks as one of the best wins of my career. Ultimately, my journey came to end with defeat to Roger Federer on a packed stadium court. I then jetted off the next day Miami-bound.
In Miami, I lost a close match in the third round against Richard Gasquet, who played very well. Afterwards, I headed home to Delray Beach for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
As I reflect on the past few weeks, I realise that there were a few key elements which allowed me to relax and focus on tennis, despite the hectic nature of my travel schedule.
For one, being able to stay in a home-like setting for four of the five weeks on the road proved pivotal. Staying at a house allows one to unwind and enjoy the comforts of home-cooked meals, private swimming pools and hot tubs.
Another factor which I found really contributed to my success was working with my new coach, Neville Godwin. Neville flew over from Johannesburg to spend a week training with me before the Delray Beach tournament commenced.
I find these training blocks to be some of the most important weeks of the year in order to make improvements and adjustments to my game. I always feel I do well after a good training block.
Neville’s brought some great new ideas and a fresh voice to my coaching, which has helped tremendously thus far. He and I get along very well, and I look forward to continuing to work with him this year.
The final aspect which contributed towards my positive results was the fact that I focused a lot of energy on rehabilitation.
In Delray, I continued work with massage therapist Kim Rodormer, who is a great help during my ‘off weeks’ at home. While in Acapulco, I made use of ATP physios, even if it meant getting treatment late at night after my matches had ended.
Finally, I’ve leveraged the use of a phenomenal physiotherapist, Murray Hing, whom I have worked with consistently over the last few years. The only way I was able to compete at top level was because I felt fit and healthy throughout.
As I make my way into the clay court season, a continued emphasis will be placed on the aforementioned elements that have fueled my success.
I begin the campaign in Casablanca, where I reached the final one year ago. To quote Humphrey Bogart in the infamous 1940s film bearing the same name as the city, “Here’s looking at you kid.”
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