I have just returned back from this years Australian Open where I made my first ever Open Semi final followed by my first ever Open Final.
The weather was a little disappointing for the first few days I was there, but luckily for the entire trip we didn't see a day hotter than 33 degrees which I'm mighty thankful for!
I arrived into Melbourne late on Thursday 8th January and was straight into the club the following day to hit with Julian Snow for an hour. Melbourne is probably the trickiest court in the world that we play a tournament on. Its fast and unforgiving... It's also hot and muggy on court being summer down under even though the weather wasn't particularly hot. I continued to head into the Club from my parents place over the next few days to hit with the likes of Julian, Nick Howell (my Aus Open doubles partner), Kieran Booth and Frank Filippelli.
Tuesday was my first day off court with the start of the singles. The top 3 seeds in the draw were given a bye into the Quarter final which included myself seeded #3. I headed into the club to watch Bret Richardson vs Michael Williams with the winner taking on myself on Thursday. Bret won the match and I was impressed with how much his singles has improved over the last few years.
I had one last practice with Camden Riviere on the Wednesday night for last minute preparations before Thursday's match and the start of my tournament assault.
Quarter Final vs Bret Richardson - I was fairly nervous leading into this match. It had been 2 years since one of my worst experiences on the Real Tennis court when in the first round I struggled through defeating an injured and cramping Nick Howell as well as struggling with JetLag after only arriving a couple of days before playing. I have since learnt from that, I arrived 6 full days before playing this time.
Bret is a talented lawn tennis player and doesn't really do anything the conventional way. Top spin smash drives off the return of service for one, and when he is seeing it well theres not much you can do but to react quickly and get his return back in play and start the point from there. I dropped the 1st game in each of the 3 sets and even trailed 2/3 in the 3rd set but was able to weather the storm and play well enough for a 6/2 6/2 6/4 victory which set up a Semi final (my first) against a friend and long time rival Kieran Booth.
Doubles Quarter Final vs CJ White and James Gould - The 2 youngsters played their hearts out and I was very impressed with CJ with the little court time he has these days how well he played. Nick and I were perhaps a little casual at the start of the match and we almost paid for it facing a couple of game balls from/../ CJ and James to tie it up at 5 all in the 1st. We were able to do enough and take the set and with that the momentum to win the match 6/4 6/0 6/2. CJ a 15 handicap had taken a set of the World Number 7 Kieran Booth in the singles Quarter finals the day before...
Semi Final vs Kieran Booth - There was a lot riding on this match for both of us. For me it was a huge opportunity to gain some much needed World Ranking and World Race points after missing the Aus and US open's last year through injury and to also consolidate my recent form from the British Open.
It's funny how nerves work I was much more nervous for my first match than I was for this one and I started the match well to lead 3/0 in no time. Kieran looked a little edgy and gave me quite a few cheap points. From that point on though it was another story. Kieran really dug deep and snuck the 1st set 5/6 and went 0/3 up. I was trying to figure out why I was struggling to stay in the match and thankfully did. I kept much more patient and was able to control the service end by hitting a lot of galleries so not to get stuck down the Hazard end. Kieran was playing a very disciplined game plan and was tying me up in the F/H corner of the service end. Kieran can be a little wild with his forcing as he loves to hit the cover off the ball and I thought if I was to serve tight railroads which I was, I'd get a lot of cheap points but this wasn't the case, this therefore meant that we had some pretty long drawn out points in the heat which was tough. From 0/3 down in the 2nd set I played some of my best tennis in the match to take the set 6/4. The 3rd was nip and tuck all the way. I led 5/4 and went close to closing in out but Kieran levelled at 5 all and it was anyones, I snuck it 6/5 for the all important 2-1 lead in sets which was huge in the context of the match. The 4th was again close but I was able to keep my nose in front and edged it for 6/4 to win 5/6 6/4 6/5 6/4 in almost 3 hours of tennis. I was through to my first ever Open final and I was elated I called Carly immediately back in London to tell her the good news even though I knew she'd been watching the streaming.
Doubles Semi Final vs Kieran Booth and Bret Richardson - It's safe to say that this wasn't the most enjoyable days at the office. Nick was clearly feeling the pinch of a long week with the Roo Trophy marking as well as getting things organised for his move to Newport as the new Senior Professional, to make matters worse we could hardly take a trick with all the luck going the way of our opponents which in sport just happens unfortunately. We went down disappointedly 3/6 5/6 2/6
I hope all goes well for Nick as he heads to Newport. It should be a great opportunity for him to gain more experience to make it to the next level.
Final vs Camden Riviere - My opponent in the final (my first) is none other than the current World Number 1. In three previous meetings with Camden I was yet to take a set off him. I was hoping he'd be a little nervous as he was needing this title for a career grand slam (winner of all 4 Opens). I was a little nervous as it was my first Final but also had never played in front of such a big crowd. Some of my matches at the British Open recently went close but nothing like this. Even though I was a little nervous I was super excited to be playing in this match against such a great player. I had a game plan and tried to stick to it but the preserved pressure and actual pressure Camden puts you under is like no other in the game today. His speed around the court and his deft hands to not only retrieve balls but to get it back into such a difficult position is second to none.
I really can't remember too much of the 1st set I have to say it was over in a flash 1/6. I remember telling myself to slow down and enjoy the moment of a Final (well as much enjoyment as you can when your playing Camden). I felt I settled into the 2nd set a little better and got back to the job at hand. I was hitting my cut volley return well but balls that would of set chases against most kept coming back which meant I had to hit a number of galleries. I felt at the service end I could really match it with Camden but from the Harzard end it was a different story. I lost the 2nd set 2/6.
Even though the 3rd set scoreline wasn't any prettier 2/6 it was my best set of the match. I felt more comfortable in the points and much more patient. Camden was and is just too good at this present time and I hope I get another chance against him in a Final down the track to get at least one back on him. 1/6 2/6 2/6
I would like to congratulate Camden on his achievement of a Career Grand Slam but more than that, he currently holds all 7 of our major titles with the US, Aus, French and British Opens but also the European Open, US Professional and British Professional titles. To add to that again and will be interesting if it has been done before as Camden holds the US, British and French open Doubles titles with Tim Chisholm and the Australian open with Julian Snow making him the holder of all but the singles and doubles World Championships which I think is an amazing achievement.
I have now arrived back from Melbourne and will look to hit the ground running as the US open in Boston is only 3 and half weeks away. I have a Premier Division National League match vs Petworth (Bryn Sayers and Tom Durack) at HOME on the 31st January. To reserve your ticket please contact the Pro Office.
Thanks for all the support