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Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Wimbledon Wrap-up and Player Party Fun

Irina Falconi Pre-Wimbledon Player Party_600_1

Follow American tennis player Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she continues her journey through Europe playing Wimbledon qualifying this week. Currently ranked No. 182 in singles and 71 in doubles and traveling the tour most weeks of the year, she’s lost or damaged her smartphone more times than she wants to admit! So she’s glad she can rely on Protect Your Bubble’s Gadget Insurance to quickly cover her every need. Follow Falconi on Twitter for more of her fun insights at @IrinaFalconi! (Catch Parts 12 and 3 of her blog.)

Well friends, what are you going to do?

All it takes is a break in each set, and there’s the match. I have to give it up for my third round opponent at Wimbledon qualifying, Ajla Tomljanovic. She played great! I don’t know if she’ll read this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets to the third round of the main draw, at least.

Anyway, you might be wondering what a player does when their day doesn’t go the way as planned. Well for me, I will tell you how it went.

I got off the court after my loss, went to ride the bike and stretch, and then — I got the heck out of there. I had a sandwich to go and then I was on my way. I had my pity party for about 15 minutes, and then it was back to reality. Why reality? Because at the end of the day:

  1. It’s just a tennis match
  2. There’s still a chance for a lucky loser spot, and last but not least,
  3. There are A LOT of worse things in life than losing a tennis match

Granted, after a tennis match, you can get really upset by smashing your racquet, screaming, crying. But guess what? Life goes on.

So what did I decide to do Thursday after my match?

I went home, showered, did some homework, watched some tv, and then got ready for the Pre-Wimbledon player party. I mean, why not? I had a great time there with a few friends, and a fantastic photo booth that had way too many good props.

Irina Falconi Pre-Wimbledon Player Party_3

So yes folks, it definitely does suck to lose a match, excuse my language, but hey, life goes on! And the great thing about tennis is that there’s always next week with another tournament, and another opportunity!

Enjoy these pictures from the party as much as I enjoyed being in them. Ha!

-IF

Irina Falconi Pre-Wimbledon Player Party_1

Irina Falconi Pre-Wimbledon Player Party_2

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: One Good Week Can Be Life-Changing in Tennis

WImbledon qualies_600

Follow American tennis player Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she continues her journey through Europe playing Wimbledon qualifying this week. Currently ranked No. 182 in singles and 71 in doubles and traveling the tour most weeks of the year, she’s lost or damaged her smartphone more times than she wants to admit! So she’s glad she can rely on Protect Your Bubble’s Gadget Insurance to quickly cover her every need. Follow Falconi on Twitter for more of her fun insights at @IrinaFalconi! (Catch Parts 1 and 2 of her blog.)

What up world!

Alright, so I am listening to the most intense song right now as I write this. I have to tell you, music really makes my life so much better. I mean, when I’m doing high jumps and working out, how can I not have Eminem and 50 Cent blasting in the background ? I have other favorite artists but those two can really fire you up!

So, I totally tweeted this earlier but here it goes, “One is in da books!” Like I wrote in my previous blog, it’s all about that first win on the grass court. It’s amazing how one match can be the start of something so amazing.

Think about it. Let’s just say you’re 150 in the world. You win your first Wimbledon qualifying match, you go on to qualify, and then win a few main draw matches. Hello cash money, hello top 75, and hello opportunity!

Hence, if you’re around long enough on the tour you’ll hear this phrase more than once: “It takes just one good week.”

And it’s so true. You can have one incredible performance, and it can be life-changing, if I’m not being too bold. I mean, someone can come out of nowhere and beat a top 5 player first round on the biggest stage — hello sponsors! Fan base? Check. Media attention? Check. The list goes on and on. Suddenly, the perks are flowing like the Salmon of Capistrano. Ever heard of an appearance fee, or a free room for your coach? It can all happen in the blink of an eye.

It takes just one good tournament. Or, in the case of this picture of me in my youth (at right), one good article in a local newspaper…(Throwback Thursday? Why not Throwback Tuesday?) :-)

The bottom line: One big tournament or one great win can change your tennis career and outlook in a hurry, not to mention the number of digits in your bank account.

If that doesn’t fire you up to get on the court, I don’t know what will.

Cheers from the rainiest city in the world (other than Forks, and maybe Seattle…) Hmm, maybe I should just say rainiest tennis tournament city in the world? Does that work? Today it will…

-IF

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Wimbledon Scoop on Qualies vs Main Draw Luxuries

Irina Falconi

Follow American tennis player Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she continues her journey through Europe playing Wimbledon qualifying this week. Currently ranked No. 182 in singles and 71 in doubles and traveling the tour most weeks of the year, she’s lost or damaged her smartphone more times than she wants to admit! So she’s glad she can rely on Protect Your Bubble’s Gadget Insurance to quickly cover her every need. Follow Falconi on Twitter for more of her fun insights at @IrinaFalconi! (Catch Part 1 of her blog here.)

Happy Monday everyone!!

Before I get started, I want to just suggest a music video for everyone to watch. The name of the song is “Waiting All Night” by Rudimental ft. Ella Eyre. No, they didn’t pay me to promote them on my blog, I just think it’s an awesome video about overcoming a life change. The video is based on a real life-story so it’s pretty intense, but the song itself is super as well.

Now that we’re all inspired, back to a little something called Wimbledon, right?

I’ve been in my place for a few nights now, and I’ve already started calling it “home” oddly enough. The reason why any tennis player has a hotel room is to sleep pretty much. I’m not trying to state the obvious but there can be days (especially during Wimbledon) where you can stay on site the entire day.

Two years ago, I remember finishing a match, and about two minutes after I was done, the rain started. It didn’t stop for three days. How do you think us tennis players possibly deal with that? The answer is internet. And books. Lots of music. And games. Cards, Uno, backgammon, and the wonderful Skype. I mean, how do you say “decline” to a Skype video call from your cat? I don’t think that it’s possible.

Anyway, so here we are, playing in Roehampton. Not in Wimbledon, you ask? Oh no, sir. Wimbledon is so prestigious that you HAVE to be in the main draw (whether doubles or singles) to have access to the Wimbledon grounds. They don’t play around over here. Granted, the Roehampton courts are super nice, but there’s something almost magical about Wimbledon. It’s a combination of tradition and prestige, along with the amount of history and the all-white code. Gets you every time. I have discussed with players before about which Grand Slam they would like to win if they could choose, and a lot of the times it’s Wimbledon.

Roehampton is about ten minutes away from Wimbledon. At first it looks like there is just a huge grass field, and nothing but fields. But if you look past the field, you’ll see these green six foot curtains that hide the beautifully kept grass courts. The practice courts are even past that, and they too, have been kept nicely until us crazy tennis players come, and go nuts on the baseline. The baselines and service lines look like dirt patches by the end of the qualifying tournament.

There are a few differences between Bank of England (Roehampton) and the All England Club (Wimby.) For one, the facilities. Two, the size. And three, the most obvious: it’s NOT Wimbledon.

Now, now, I don’t want to step on any toes here, or make anyone upset, but I have a feeling the fans should know the difference between qualifying and main draw.

The joy of qualifying at Wimbledon is super thrilling. I remember two years ago when I qualified, it was the best thing ever. I had never been so happy. For having only played one pro tournament previous to Wimby qualis that year, it was truly amazing. For me, it was more the idea of being able to be at Wimbledon that gave me the most incentive. The locker rooms are nicer there, the atmosphere is brighter, and you stakes are higher.

As many will attest to, qualifying is amazing. That last match, that last point, is legendary. But think about it, it’s all about that first match! Once you have that one under your belt, I feel that it’s anybody’s game. Why? Because grass is so different from any other surface. Clay can be grindy. You can get it together in the third set if need be, and get it done. Hard can be anybody’s game as well, depending on how fast the hard court is. Grass? I mean, it can change in a second. I know that overall the women’s game is just a game of momentum, but it can go so so quick. There are matches that could have gone 6-2, 6-3, and finished in about 40 minutes. That’s unheard of in a clay court match due to its slower pace.

It’s all about the first match. That first point. That first serve or return. That is when the tension is most high. By the third match, you have found a sort of grass groove, and it’s anybody’s game. But get that first match, and as British recording artist Ellie Goulding would say, “Anything could happen.”

-IF

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Touched Down in London Town!

Irina Falconi grass court 1_600

Follow American tennis player Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she continues her journey through Europe, playing warm-up events on the grass in preparation for Wimbledon qualifying. Currently ranked No. 159 in singles and 70 in doubles and traveling the tour most weeks of the year, she’s lost or damaged her smartphone more times than she wants to admit! So she’s glad she can rely on Protect Your Bubble’s Gadget Insurance to quickly cover her every need. Follow Falconi on Twitter for more of her fun insights at @IrinaFalconi!

Well, hello there peeps!

It’s been a while! And, YES, I have totally missed every single one of you – promise!

Anyway, guess where I am writing you from?! Yup, “Just touched down in London Town!” What a great song. But I’m actually not listening to that. I’ve been on this Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris thing—yeah it’s been going on for a while, and on repeat really. YouTube has these awesome mixes with great music that you can just listen to all day long. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

But back to London. I’m here already getting ready to try and qualify for this one tournament called Wimbledon. Yeah, it’s got, like, lots of tradition and stuff. Something about strawberries and cream?? I qualified two years ago and then last year had the distinct honor of drawing Victoria Azarenka in the first round. Quality opponent.

This is random but have you ever had falafel? I’m going to go ahead and tell you that it’s awesome, truly legendary. I’d never had one until I arrived in Paris three weeks ago, and I just found a place right next to my apartment that has AMAZING falafels. I’ve been in London for about 7 hours, and I’m already a regular.

This morning, I left Birmingham which was my first grass tournament this season, and apparently it was good timing because it’s been raining there all day. But then again, this IS England! Rain delays, anyone?

Before I continue, I’ll go ahead and say that I welcome your questions about the goings on of the tour and all that fun stuff. You can expect more in-depth coverage from the insider-scoop book I am working on about all things professional tennis, but these blogs are a great way to just give you some info of what really goes down.

For example, did you know that just like most people, we indeed need to do laundry? Yeah, I was being sarcastic there, but still … I’m pretty sure Roger Federer doesn’t do laundry. He probably has an outfit for every hour of the day if need be. Which, Fed, if you’re reading this — THAT’S AWESOME!

Another thing that the British do well? Television. I think that their  shows are absolutely hilarious, and I have thoroughly been enjoying every single channel. I think The Simpsons over here is actually funnier, although one has to wonder why they don’t have British accents.

Wimbledon starts next Tuesday for qualifiers, so this “Quest to Qualify” blog shall surely be continued!!

-IF

Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Unwritten

Bethanie Mattek-Sands has had a career run at this year's French Open. The best part about this feel-good story? It's only just beginning.

One of my earliest tennis-related memories involves me truncating a fifth-grade journal entry to watch a night match during the 2002 US Open. At the bottom of the page, I wrote “CAPRIATI VS. MATTEK” in purple gel ink before apparently going off to watch then-top American Jennifer Capriati double-bagel a young Bethanie Mattek-Sands under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

I don’t recall anything from the match (least of all what the now-infamous fashion rebel was wearing), but looking back over the last decade, it was undoubtedly the last time the American veteran could be described as anything other than “memorable.”

In her early 20s, she turned the large shadow cast by compatriots like the Williams sisters and Davenport into a whacky sideshow act. Over the years, the WTA’s resident couture maven has played matches in leopard print, uneven sleeves, and knee socks (not to mention her signature eye black). Despite failing to rack up big wins in her early years on the Tour, she became a player who commanded attention in other ways, and her honest quirkiness ended up gaining her a cult following. Her showman-like style, however, belies a tidily efficient all-court game, honed by her frequent success in doubles. Where she may lack the wattage of her contemporaries, she nonetheless is more than capable of out-aggressing her peers by taking the ball on the rise and finishing off points at the net.

Looking to join the long roster of her generation’s late bloomers, Mattek-Sands hit her stride in 2011, reaching only her second Slam third-round, but arrived at Wimbledon two weeks later ranked in the top 32 at a major tournament for the first time in her career. Arriving to court in a tennis ball-embellished leather jacket designed by Alex Noble, Mattek-Sands let a three-set heartbreaker to Misaki Doi slip away; from there, the American went on a downward spiral of injuries and early losses. As recently as this January, the American was ranked outside the top 150.

Unbeknownst to many in the tennis world, what seemed like rock bottom for Mattek-Sands was the start of a truly inspiring comeback. Much like current ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic, she discovered a host of food allergies were contributing to the fatigue she had been feeling last fall. Now carrying a trusty “Do Not Eat” list wherever she goes, Mattek-Sands has revolutionized her diet and fitness. The results were not too far behind. After making the finals of an International event in Kuala Lumpur, she turned things up a notch during the clay court season, the site of her triumphs from two years ago. Sporting a blue tint to her blonde hair, she recorded an emphatic victory over Sloane Stephens in Charleston and a dramatic three-set win over Sara Errani (last year’s French Open finalist) en route to the semifinals of Stuttgart, where she lost to Li Na.

Here in Paris, Mattek-Sands has already completed her career renaissance with revenge over 2011 French Open Champion Li and solid wins over competent clay courters in Lourdes Dominguez-Lino and Paula Ormaechea. Twice coming from a set down, the American has shown tremendous resilience and has translated her willingness to overcome adversity off the court to her matches. She will need all of that fight against the relentless Maria Kirilenko if she hopes to keep the run going and make her first major quarterfinal.

I think about my old journal when I think of Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Every entry was written in a different color of (glittery) ink and, lacking any air of pretension in its prose, its voice never took itself too seriously. But that journal was left unfinished. The best part about Mattek-Sands’s story is that, having already made up so much ground, she has the opportunity to go even farther, to rewrite pages that nobody ever thought would be written in the first place. No matter how or when this French Open chapter ends, Mattek-Sands has made it clear that her story is far from over.

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Oh Hail Yes!

Irina Falconi - Roland Garros and Asics

Follow American Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she competes in Europe, and now, the French Open qualifying. Currently ranked No. 135 in singles and 72 in doubles, she is now 11-2 in her career in Grand Slam qualifying and looking for another main draw berth in Paris this week. (Catch Parts 12345, and 6, and follow her on Twitter @IrinaFalconi)

Lucky number blog 17 — I mean 7. I guess I’m thinking 17 because I just took my Chapter 2 test on my “Intro To Science” course, and I got a 17 out of 20. Not exactly thrilled with that result but my multitasking skills are getting a work out: I’m studying for my degree, writing blogs, and doing the tennis thing in Roland Garros. All in a day’s work. :-)

It’s been another great day in the office here in Paris, but today wasn’t actually THAT much different from yesterday strangely enough.

Well, I take that back in two ways: the Paris weather was unpredictable, as was the time of our match. You just never know what time you will actually get on court to play when you are scheduled as the second match. The rule of thumb though is to typically give yourself an hour and a half. But even then, what if someone sprains their ankle in their warmup? What if someone were to retire after one game. The matches are so up-and-down and totally random, that, as a player, you have to be prepared to go on court at any moment.

Given all of this, I made sure to warm up at 9 am, and anyone that has been around me when I’m not the first match on a court, knows that I like to follow LOOOOONG matches. So, today I’m chilling with my sister at 10:15 am when I realize that it’s already 3-0 in the first set of the match before mine. I’m like, “Come on (other player), get it to 7-6 in the third!” Well, suffice it to say it didn’t go to 7-6 in the third, but they did split the first two sets. They took their time, and I enjoyed mine.

At around 12 pm, it was go time. But as I have been accustomed to this week in Paris, the weather decided to freak everyone out — especially the WTA and ATP staff. There were a few of them on my court already using their amateur meteorologist skills to correctly anticipate the rain that started shortly.

We were all expecting a 50% chance of rain from 12 until 3 pm: it was going to be in spots, and it was going to be quick, but it was going to come no matter what. At 12:12 pm, after my opponent won the opening game, we were forced to stop. And it wasn’t because of the rain. Oh no, my friends. IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE HAIL! That was certainly a first.

As I was about to serve, cold spheres start falling from the skies. I put my hand out expecting rain, but sure enough, hail starts collecting in my hand! Now you see why I just HAD to name this blog “Oh Hail Yes!?”

Back on court after the, um, hail delay, there was no rest. We continued with another three or four more delays after that, but no big deal. After a long two and half hour battle, I got a spot in the last round of qualifying where I will play Zuzana Kucova.

After the post-match recovery, the scouting report for me next match, and some food, it was time to simmer down and enjoy a nice cappuccino. Ah, the pleasant life.

Tomorrow is another battle! Alleeeeeeezzzzz!!

-IF

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: A Jam-Packed Match Day at Roland Garros

Irina Falconi during her round one qualifying win over Julie Coin

Follow American Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she competes in Europe, and now, the French Open qualifying. Currently ranked No. 135 in singles and 72 in doubles, she is now 11-2 in her career in Grand Slam qualifying and looking for another main draw berth in Paris this week. (Catch Parts 1234, and 5, and follow her on Twitter @IrinaFalconi)

After coming to Roland Garros for the last couple of years, I must admit that I really do love the atmosphere here in France. The U.S. Open crowd and fan base for American players in New York is incredible, but you have to give it up for France as well. These fans live and die for their players. Today, I straight up watched a fan cry out of happiness after one of his favorite female players won the match. I mean, what do you even say to that fan if you’re her — “Thank you. Here’s a tissue?” What a unique sight to behold.

Today started out like any other day — just a bit earlier. I’m not the kind of player that has the luxury of allowing herself a ridiculous amount of sleeping hours, but I will spoil myself with 9-10 hours of sleep on occasion when I get the chance. However, today was not one of those lucky days.

This morning, I had David Guetta’s song Titanium wake me up bright and early at 6:40 am. You might be thinking ‘That’s crazy early for a 10 am match!” but let me divulge why I needed to be up that early, and it may not sound so strange afterward.

1. Getting ready: I’m not one to take an hour to get ready in the morning, but I definitely like to take my time before a first round match at a Grand Slam.

2. Breakfast: As some of you may know, breakfast is my most favorite time of the day. I don’t ever go without breakfast and today wasn’t going to be any different. We had a car scheduled for 7:30 am so I wanted to make sure I was at breakfast by 7. Why so early again, you might ask? Well, because the boiling machine that the hotel uses to hard boil eggs is technologically challenged, and it has decided to hard boil eggs in no less than 18 minutes — on a good day. So sure enough, the first day when I prepared a few eggs, I ended up just having embryo on my plate. Ewww, sorry about the visual! I really didn’t enjoy writing that! I’m just going for effect, promise!

3. Traffic: Paris traffic has been voted somewhere in the top 5 of worst in the world, so why wouldn’t I want to make sure I give myself enough time to make it to the club?

4. Getting sorted on site: Anyone that has ever been to the Roland Garros site will attest to the fact that this place is huge. Ok, let me rephrase. It takes a while to get from point A to point B. You literally have to give yourself at least 10 minutes to get from the locker room to your court. And mind you, there are TWO locker rooms. So depending on what court you’re playing, you might have to give yourself more time. So once I got to my locker and picked up my racquets can of balls, it was already 8:10 am.

5. Warm up for the warm up for the warm up: As players we always need to warm up, and even more so when it’s 50 degrees Farenheit (10 degrees Celsius) outside! It was so cold that I needed to give myself at least 20 minutes to warm up for my warm up. Yes, we don’t mess around with our warm-ups.

6. Shower, food, hair: So by now, I have warmed up for 30 minutes, taken the 10 minute walk back to locker room, then showered, changed into new clothing, and finally grabbed some food. Some people don’t like to have too much time in between their warm up and the match (some players even warm up in their match outfits) but I personally love to have a little snack before my match. I go for a light protein shake that gets me going before the match. And last but not least, the hair. You have to make sure your hair looks good, right? My sister, who is with my in Paris this week, went ahead and volunteered to be my personal hairdresser so I just couldn’t refuse her the brush.

7. Warm up again: By now, it’s already been a bit since I was last warm, so I have to warm up AGAIN to make sure I don’t get injured once I go out there in the first game. Trust me, it can happen.

Phew. Well, that was just my morning. Now you see why I woke up so early! :-)

You would think that after my match win against Julie Coin, things would start to slow down, but alas, you would be wrong. You want to know why? Here we go again!

1. Scouting: It’s very difficult to scout a match when you are both playing at the same time. In my opinion, that’s one of the best rules that the Grand Slams have, because you don’t feel an advantage or disadvantage over another player. Luckily, I was able to go to my opponents’ match and scout their last set to gather a little bit of info for my match.

2. Post-match recovery: I make sure to bike and stretch after my matches, and sometimes I’ll even do a workout if I’m feeling up for it. After at least 20 minutes in the gym, my stomache calls to me and I know it’s time to get some food in me. Not before I shower though.

3. Food, glorious food: I’m sure you’ve heard about protein recovery after a workout and stuff like that, right? Well, same thing here! I try not to let 30 minutes go by before getting some food in me. I was happy to have some chicken, cous cous, and broccoli for lunch — yes, it’s only lunch time!

4. A little extra: After a few more errands, I got my butt back onto the court again. Depending on what the next match brings, sometimes I’ll get back on the court to make sure that I can close the book on a specific something that maybe didn’t feel so great that day, or something that I can improve on. It’s good to know when you get a little more in. A little sense of confidence creeps into your spine.

5. Miscellaneous: After all is said and done, there is still more to do! I met with my amazing sponsors, Babolat and Asics, who just make my career so freakin’ good! Trust me when I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to find Player Representatives better than Seth McKinley and Ryan Broccolo. Totally just name dropped! Boo-yah!

6. Sorting for tomorrow: Just when I think I can go home and get ready for a low key night — BAM! I still have to set up a practice court for the next day, find someone to hit with, get more racquets strung, get transportation to and from the hotel, and … and … and. Wow. I need to just take a breather for a second …

Well my friends, alas! I’m home! Well, this week’s home anyway.

ALLEEEEEZ!

-IF

P.S. Here’s a quick video of Court 14 during my match today!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7W9FupNLXE

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Waking up in Paris

Irina Falconi practicing prior to her French Open start

Follow American Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she competes in Europe, and now, the French Open qualifying. Currently ranked No. 135 in singles and 72 in doubles, she is 10-2 in her career in Grand Slam qualifying and looking for another main draw berth in Paris this week. (Catch Parts 123, and 4, and follow her on Twitter @IrinaFalconi)

That awkward moment when you wake up, and have a mini heart attack because you don’t recognize your environment.

Yeah, that happens to me nearly every single week. I have now not only gotten used to having these little attacks, but have decided to embrace them. They represent the fact I get to travel to really awesome places and stay in cool hotels, so I can’t really complain in the end. :-)

Anyway, bonjour everyone! Salutations, greetings, and a cold welcome from Paris, France. Oh yes, not warm, but cold. Very, very, very cold and rainy. Come on mother nature, we are going into June next week! What’s going on?! I mean, I brought a bathing suit for crying out loud. Even a dress! But a dress is unheard of in this weather. What I really should have brought was my winter jacket. I mean, no joke.

Granted, I’m a warm body. I thrive with the heat and avoid cold weather at all costs. I can handle cold weather when well prepared, but I was not prepared for this kind of chilly weather in Paris. Allez Paris, come on and bring on the heat!

I got into Paris yesterday afternoon, which was Sunday, if you’re keeping track. I took a pleasant and quick flight from Prague to Paris — as one does — and then had a nice cab ride to my hotel. Luckily, I had put my sister’s name on the reservation, so I was able to go straight to the room and find her all showered, hungry, and ready for Paris!

We decided on a cute little Italian place that gave us just what we wanted, and provided us with awesome service. We clinked glasses (water, don’t worry) to our first night in Paris, and then called it a night.

Today was a bit uneventful but relaxing. Though early, I had sorted practice for 9 am and it was one of the best decisions ever. Why? Because at 10:03 am, right when we finished, it started raining. I’m writing this at 5:30 pm, and guess what, IT’S STILL RAINING!!!!

Probably going to enjoy the local French cuisine for dinner tonight, and once again, call it an early night.

Tomorrow, the men’s qualifying starts so we will definitely go and support our American boys that are all competing for main draw berths. Let’s go USA! Git ‘er dun in Paris, oui!

Bonsoir!

-IF

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Goodbye Prague, Hello Roland Garros!

Sparta Prague Open - Irina Falconi_600

Follow American Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she journeys through Europe, playing warm-up events on red clay in preparation for French Open qualifying. Currently ranked No. 156 in singles and 76 in doubles, she  is 10-2 in her career in Grand Slam qualifying and looking for another main draw berth in Paris this month. (Catch Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and follow her on Twitter @IrinaFalconi)

Oh, what a shame that all good things must come to an end. I have a feeling I’ve said that before — even though I don’t exactly agree with it. I mean, not ALL good things come to an end, do they? Well, let’s not get super deep and philosophical with that comment … I’m just going to stick to my good old blogging guns.

It’s been a good week for me here in Prague: finals of doubles and semifinals of singles. My opponent Alexandra Cadantu played a great match — so good, that I hope she wins in the finals so I can say that I lost to the tournament winner. That would feel pretty good.

As all of my days have been in Prague, yesterday continued the trend of being another interesting one.

I woke up already knowing that I had a bit of a different schedule than the previous days. Instead of my usual mid-morning routine where I would wake up and head to the courts, I actually had time to CHILL. Now, ya’ll may think that I chill all the time, but my match wasn’t till 3:30pm. What to do to until then?

Well, I’ll tell you exactly what I did:

1. Homework: I am finishing my degree! Indiana East University is hooking me up with an awesome online degree program that goes through the WTA that I just couldn’t resist. Pretty cool, huh?

2. Receipts: Us tennis players get to write off almost all of our expenses. It’s great, but it also means we have to literally keep every receipt, and write every single little thing down.

3. Oui, oui: A friend of mine lent me Rosetta Stone in French which means I get to touch up on some of my French before I head over to Paris :-)

Alright, so that was actually just my morning. Want to hear about what I continued with after my match?

1. Stretching: No matter what, I always stretch for a long time after a match. It prevents me from getting stiff, and also releases the lactic acid buildup.

2. Flights: I had to book a flight to France — and with less than 24 hours before take off! No sweat …

3. Hotel: Confirm that (a) My current hotel in Prague is not charging me like crazy, and (b) Make sure that I have my France hotel taken care of.

4. Collection: I had to pick up my prize money (which is always nice), then get my string from the stringer, and also make sure I didn’t leave absolutely anything in the locker room.

5. Food: I always try and make sure that I have some food no later than 30 minutes after a match. They had some fabulous food for the players here. But this time, they decided to treat me with a little something special for having a good week. :-)

And last but not least.

6. The Goodbye: I had to make my rounds around the club thanking every single person with a handshake, a hug, or a wave. I leave with fond memories and Prague will definitely be missed.

Well friends, I’m off to Paris! I tell you the same I told my sister yesterday: “I’ll see you in Paris, tomorrow.” You know, as one does when they travel. I will write you guys from Roland Garros!

Au revoir!

-IF

Quest to Qualify with Irina Falconi: Just Add Chocolates

Irina Falconi and doubles partner Eva Hrdinova

Follow American Irina Falconi in this “Quest to Qualify” player blog as she journeys through Europe, playing warm-up events on red clay in preparation for French Open qualifying. Currently ranked No. 156 in singles and 76 in doubles, she  is 10-2 in her career in Grand Slam qualifying and looking for another main draw berth in Paris this month. (Catch Part 1, Part 2 and follow her on Twitter @IrinaFalconi)

It’s Friday right? Wow, when I tell you that I lose track of time whilst on the road, I’m not exaggerating one bit. I’m to the point where I need to have a calendar as the background on my phone — not joking!

I’ve been in Prague for what seems like two months already, but alas, it’s only been a wonderful … umm … ten days? I think? Maybe …

But hey, I don’t mind, because I’m pretty much loving Prague!

Today was another good day at the office. I got a victory in singles over Maria Sanchez, booking my spot in the semifinals against Alexandra Cadantu. It was definitely a war today as we battled for three hours, went 7-5 in the third, and in the middle of the day with the crazy wind.  Then there was shade and plenty of clouds. Then a little drizzling. Pretty much, it was relentless European weather.

But if you’re a tennis player — or an aspiring one — you will hear this from your coach pretty much 100 percent of the time when you start complaining about conditions outside: “Your opponent is facing them as well. Are you tougher than they are?”

And it’s so true. I mean, today all those different and unique weather variables affected both my opponent and I. So, it’s a matter of being able to handle adversity. At the end of the day, that’s pretty much life, isn’t it?

Already back on court a couple of hours after my singles, my girl Eva Hrdinova and I played in the doubles finals. We didn’t get the title, but hey, we got an awesome piece of hardware, a super-sized bottle of champagne, and a bouquet of flowers. (Which, coincidentally, is pretty much the recipe for a man trying to please a girl in his life. You would just need to add the chocolates as well FYI.)

Anyway, tomorrow is semifinals day. I had originally planned my Europe trip to include another tournament before the French Open qualifying, a WTA Tour Event in Brussels, but hey, I’m going to have to miss it. Prague just doesn’t want me to leave it seems!

The funny thing about this situation is that I had told my sister to book a flight to Brussels so we would meet up before Paris. So … I’m in Prague … while my sister is in Brussels without me … OH HOW AWESOME TENNIS IS SOMETIMES!

Ciao friends. Ya’ll have been way too kind. ;-)

-IF

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