World University Games
The World University Games (WUGS) is the second biggest sporting event in the world and is run in the same format as the Olympic Games, however only athletes who are currently at university or who have graduated in 2016 are eligible to represent their Country. Thankfully I just fitted into the criteria. The British team consisted of about 180 athletes from over 10 sports and I was one of 6 tennis players’ selected (3 females, 3 males.)
We headed off to the beautiful city of Taipei for the 2017 Universiade, a couple of tough days travelling did not dampen our spirits as we knew we were in for a special couple of weeks. On arrival there was one thing to hit us all like a brick wall, the humidity. The temperature was around 30-35 degrees but then the heat index was around 40-47 degrees. In the lead up to the start of the games we practiced and acclimatized as much as possible within 4 days, but luckily my partners , Jack Findel-Hawkins in men’s doubles, and Olivia Nicholls in mixed doubles and I gelled right away.
In both events we comfortably went through the first couple of rounds, but then the highlight of the tournament for me was when Jack and I beat the home countries number 1 seeded pair who played Wimbledon earlier in the year. In front of the home crowd, dealing with adversity and being able to close out a great pair in a second set tie break was very satisfying. We then made it to the finals where we lost to a Russian pair in a close match tiebreak in the 3rd set. In the mixed doubles we lost in the quarter finals to an American pair, again in a 3rd set match tie break.
To come away with the silver medal when representing my country is something I am very proud of, but I’m also very grateful to Alistair Higham and Barry Scholo who selected me for team GBR.
The quote for the trip was “you only realize once you arrive, that the journey is the prize.” And that couldn’t have been more true, although I am very proud to have got the medal, it was such an honor to wear Great Britain on my back and to compete with all the other teams in team GBR.
It was then time to get home, get over the jet lag. I had a great weeks practice back at base with my coaches and trainers down in Bath preparing for the 3 British futures in September. So I headed back up north ready to play the first one that was being held at Nottingham tennis center. I got straight into main draw and was drawn against seeded British player (who played Wimbledon qualifying this year) Neil Pauffley. It was a tough match in the windy conditions but I came out on top in a battle, eventually winning 5-7 6-4 7-6! In the second round I lost a close match to a good Italian player 7-6 6-4. In the doubles I made the finals alongside my partner Pete Bothwell from Ireland, where we lost in a third set tie break.
The second tournament was in London at the National Tennis center, due to bad weather my qualifying match was moved indoors and I struggled with the faster conditions coming up short against Barney Smith. I played with Pete again in the doubles, making the final for the 2nd week running before losing to a pair who just simply played faultless doubles in the final.
After a great week of practice with one of the new coaches at Bath who was at the NTC with me all week, I headed down to Barnstaple. In the first round I played an American and in a long match the first break of serve went my way when I was 7-6 6-5 up to take the match ! In the second round I played my doubles partner from the first two weeks, Pete. It’s always tricky playing someone who you’ve played with a lot, but we had a good match and I came out on top winning 6-2 2-6 6-2. In the quarter finals I was struggling with an injury but I can’t take anything away from my opponent, who after beating me went on the win the tournament.
All in all a good 3 weeks, the points I made in singles and doubles have put me into the top 1000 singles at 946 and doubles upto 534. Both new career highs. I have had 2 weeks training before heading off to Israel for a stint of 3 tournaments. With my new ranking I have already made it straight into Main draw for the first 2 weeks. My hard work and results are paying off as not having to qualify for main draws certainly makes life a bit easier……..and cheaper !!