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As Athletic DNA’s players travel the world, they’ll check in from time to time sharing their experiences both on and off the court. Want to know more about a certain aspect of life on the road? Comment on our Facebook page and we’ll have them answer.
Greetings from Europe!
I just arrived in Arad, Romania a few days ago after a long trip over which included layovers in Detroit, Amsterdam, and Bucharest. I was a bit jet lagged upon arrival to say the least but have been able to recover and now feel like I’m finally used to the time change. I’ve had a couple days of practice with my buddy and fellow ADNA player Chase Buchanan, who recently got to the finals of the Karshi Challenger. So congrats to him!
I’m getting used to the red clay (having practiced on Har-Tru the last few weeks) and can’t wait to compete come Tuesday! The people have been nice and the food has been delicious here. The only thing I have to complain about are the abnormally sized bugs.
This critter showed up on our practice court the first day and caused a 15 minute delay as we tried to figure out how to remove it! So long for now. I’ll post again mid next week!
The clay season is underway and will end for most players at the French Open. However, for myself and many other challenger players the clay season doesn’t last for just a month. There are many challenger tournaments throughout the year on this surface (mostly in South America and Europe). And I plan on playing 8 clay tournaments over the next couple months in Europe. Although I will not be playing the French, I will have a long schedule of tournaments on the dirt.
While some players choose to play as few tournaments on clay as possible, I embrace the dirt. It suits my game quite well and I really enjoy playing on it. The biggest reason is because it allows me to play to my strengths, namely using my forehand and fitness. Although I did not grow up playing on it, once I got the movement down I have always enjoyed playing on clay. It is unique in that it allows and basically requires players to learn to slide in order to hit certain shots. It also slows the ball down which results in many long rallies. Therefore to win points a player really has to have good shot selection and be able to develop the point. Short easy points are rarely won on clay.
I only played one junior tournament on clay, so my experience on it has mainly all been in the last few years playing on tour. It’s definitely a tough transition going from playing on hard courts your whole life to suddenly be playing on a court with dirt all over it! But my biggest piece of advice for any junior or any player trying to learn how to play on clay would be to get used to sliding and all movement as quickly as possible. Learn to slide and trust the clay. Once that happens and a person feels comfortable on it, the game becomes really fun. As long as you are patient and willing to play to your strengths and develop points any player can have success on it.
How To Fight and Prepare to Win in Pressure Situations
The ability to play well in pressure points and situations is what separates a lot of tennis players from one another. Having the ability to be successful while faced with pressure can make a big different in where pros and juniors end up in their careers. Players that struggle in these situations find it difficult to take their tennis game to the next level, as they cannot ease their nerves to play to the best of their ability while in matches. If you do not succeed in pressure situations, what can you do to ease the nerves to play to the best of your ability and thrive in pressure spots? If you are strong in pressure situation, what can do continue to do to get better? This is one of the most difficult aspects as being a tennis player as you are on the court by yourself and unlike team sports, you do not have your teammates to rely on to work together to pull through tough situations.
We reached out to our ADNA Junior Select Players asking for help to educate the ADNA community on how to deal with pressure situations. One of the biggest things is how you prepare in practice for tough spots. Also, how you mentally deal with a pressure situation while in the heat of the moment can help you stay relaxed and focused to lead you to being successful.
Here are some drills our ADNA Select Juniors do in practice to you should take to your practice routine:
- Shelby Graber has two drills that she routinely practices. First, she plays one set with the server only having one serve per point. This makes the players get used to the pressure of having to make their second serves in and getting prepared for a hard return, since the returner knows that they won’t have a hard first serve. Second, the server starts each game at love-30 for a set. This gets the players used to having to come back and be more consistent in games and learn to control points and where they will hit winners.
- Andrew Dale does a drill where two people will rally 4 balls crosscourt. After that, one person will change direction and go down the line. This will continue as long as you can until someone misses. This helps with consistency and translates to success in pressure points.
- Gabe Smilovic does a drill where the player has to hit 50 balls in a row cross court and inside out in order to finish the drill. If you miss a ball out, you get a 2 point penalty. If you miss a ball in the net, you get a 4 point penalty. If you get to 10 points, you need to do 10 pushups and then start over.
- Greg Lebanowski plays games to 11 and starts points on the run instead of feeding down the middle. When you are fed a tough ball, it immediately puts you at a disadvantage. Doing this sort of a drill over and over helps a lot when you get in tight situations.
- Conner Stroud plays sets and if you win the first two points of a game, then you automatically win the game. Conner also plays a tiebreak and if a player wins 3 points in a row, they automatically win the tiebreak. If you lose three points in a row, you automatically lose the tiebreak. The forces you to focus on every point while in practice.
Here is what our ADNA Select Juniors suggest you do while in the match to make sure you stay relaxed and are mentally tough:
- Neel Raj: “During the match, I touch the back curtain with my racket to try to get my mind focused and not think too much about the critical point I am about to play. I also take a few deep breathes to calm my nerves before crucial points.”
- Armando Gandini: “When I am in a tiebreak, I always tell myself, ‘No double faults, and no missed returns.’ I say this because it makes me play steady and grind more.”
- Gabe Smilovic: “If you have a towel in your bag, bring it on the court with you. After every point you should wipe your face with the towel as this will help you stay focused and stay in the match.”
Lastly, one of the most important things is to go into matches with confidence. The best way to build the confidence is to ensure you are prepared with your fitness. Dean Zoglio stressed how having confidence with your fitness will help give you confidence that you are one step ahead of your competition. By have the confidence going in, Natasha Subhash discussed how you have to execute your game plan you had going into the match and not to lose sight of it while faced with pressure. Natasha also said to always try to stay relaxed and have a positive attitude. Getting tight and a negative body language will just lead to more unforced errors.
Making sure you are prepared for pressure situation is very important for the success of tennis players. We encourage you to always find ways to improve your mental preparation for matches so you can play to your best ability while in matches. Focusing on pressure situations and going into matches with the confidence will help you take your game to the next level.
Keep up the grind!
Team Athletic DNA
Thanks for the contributions from the following ADNA Select Players that helped create the blog: Neel Raj, Armando Gandini, Patrick Maloney, Shelby Graber, Ethan Kolsky, Lauren Seale, Gabe Smilovic, Nikki Fernando, Andrew Newell, Dean Zoglio, Tyler Vermillion, Sophia Edwards, Parker Stearns, Greg Lebanowski, Thomas Barraque, Connor Aulson, Eliott Spizziri, Michael Zhao, Natasha Subhash, Michael Kay, Ben Ingbar, Jada Hart, Andrea Amortegui, Daniel Rayl, Nishesh Basava, Michael Ogundele, Jackson Ross, Stephanie Sharge, Ryan Storrie, Conner Stroud, Peyton Miller, Anna Kern, Andrea Golindano, Gabe Diaz, Vennmukil Pothiva, Taylor Russo, Harrison Saladini
(April 24, 2014) – Three and a half months!! 14 weeks!!! It has been that long since I went under the knife, and what a journey it has been. We are almost in May, and I am right on track with my progress. I flew back out to Vail, CO where I had my hip surgery at the ten week mark and met with the doc as well at the PTs. They did some tests on me, and had nothing but good news for me. Seeing the doctors that did my surgery and them tell me that my hip was looking strong, that I was on track and making great progress was exactly what I was hoping to hear from them.
As tough as the rehab as been up to the ten week mark, they did warn me that the next month would be even more difficult for several reasons. One being that my hip will start to feel good and I will want to get back out there and back to my old self right away. Clearly that is not how hip surgery works. You have to progress with baby steps to get to where you want to be.
For example, when they gave me a running program I looked at it, looked back at my coach, and started laughing. It said running 1 minute, walking 3 minutes for 20 minutes, followed by the next week running 2 mins, walking 3 etc. Let me tell you….getting on the track doing that was almost a tease!! It seemed so easy, but for me I had to realize that running for a minute is a lot of work on the hip that the doctor just cut open a few months ago.
So things like that took some patience on my end. With each week my progression is getting more difficult, I am sore every day because my legs are trying to get back to where they once were.
I am at week 14, and starting to play tennis!! I am moving from the baseline, hitting some serves, doing some lateral movement and tennis specific drills. To think that I am three and a half months out and making this much progress makes all the early mornings and painful rehab worth it!! My first tournament is scheduled at the end of June/beginning of July, and the doctors and physical therapists all think I will be ready to go by then!
I couldn’t be more thankful for the group of people I have had behind me. My progress has not just been because of me. It has been the hard work of my trainer, Kelly, here and all the trouble I have given her. (just kidding). Also the support of my family and coaches, Roland calling me “gimp” every day I walk in has motivated me to kick his butt even more when I get back! I plan to go to NCAAs with the team, and then from there train out in California for a while.
Oh yeah, last thing.. I’m GRADUATING!!! May 3, I will walk across the stage as a University of Florida graduate and I couldn’t be more excited. Although being at Florida and playing for Gator Nation has been the best five years of my life, I cannot be more excited for what’s in store for me in the future.. GO GATORS!!
(February 25, 2014) – HAPPY WEEK 6 TO ME!!!! I know six weeks seems like not that long, but it feels like a whole new milestone to me. From week 3-6 when I last wrote, not a whole lot has changed with my exciting life! Today was the first day I could do the elliptical and I had permission from my PT to do some bike intervals on a low resistance. Another exercise that made me happy to hear I could do was body weight squats, and some bodyweight RDLs.
A lot of my rehab is stretching, which has never been my strong suit, so after all this is over if I’m not more flexible then we did something wrong here. Swimming has been my main form of exercise besides some upper body lifting, and it has been a lot of fun, but also very difficult. I am not quite sure what I would do without my athletic trainer here at Florida, she is with me from 7:30-9:00 in the morning and then from 2-4 in the afternoon, helping me with my rehab, and then comes to all my PT appointments that I have. SHE IS THE BEST to say the least (It’s a good thing I like her) =). Six weeks down, six more to go!!
Last thing….my college coach, Roland thinks it’s funny to write sticky notes saying things like “GIMP” and then post them on the windshield of my car. See this is funny…..but he makes a joke every day about how he can beat me in a sprint now, or beat me in a baseline game….Yes Ro, you can beat me when I have one leg….but I can’t wait until I am back so I can beat up on the old man again just like old times!!
(March 13, 2014) - WEEK 8- YES, WEEK 8!!! I can’t believe it has already been two months since my surgery! I remember week two saying to myself two more weeks of crutches, this is awful….now only another week or two before I can ease my way into running again! My rehab has been getting more challenging everyday for me because we are adding a lot of dynamic stability exercises to strengthen my muscles, and some agility work, which I’m a little rusty at!! One thing I will admit is that I was not very good at stretching before this minor incident, and now my trainer told me I went from least flexible on the team, to most (So yes, I’m going to brag about that)!!
I am going back to Vail next weekend for my follow up. That will be the ten week mark, and after this visit I will have more of an idea of how much I can push myself with running, and agility exercises. Being an athlete, which I am sure some of you can relate, you want to push yourself all the time, and since my hip is feeling better I sometimes think I can just hop right back into training. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work that way, so I have to be constantly reminded to slow it down a little, and follow the rehab program that was given to me. For those of you that know me, I can be a little stubborn at times, so when my trainer says to do 3 sets of 15 clam shells, I ask to do 20, and we some how compromise to 17 or 18, which makes me happy.
This entire journey has been up and down every single week. I have some really really good days where I think I can go run stadiums for hours, and then some really really bad days where I wake up and my hip is so sore, I could have thought I just woke up from surgery again. Also there are days where I don’t want to wake up early before my internship to get rehab in, but you have to look at the big picture and think each time you do rehab is one step closer to getting on the court! It can get frustrating, but with the right mindset and dedication to rehab, having a positive outlook, and people around you who encourage you every day, it really makes things a lot easier! I have been lucky enough to have a great support system around me, and help from a lot of people to keep the spirits up when things get a little rocky! I cannot WAIT until I can hit that little yellow ball around again!
Be sure you have liked Lauren’s Facebook page to keep up with all of her rehab: https://www.facebook.com/EmbreeL
(January 28, 2014) – Well I have completed two full weeks of rehab, and good news…. I get to start some new exercises today! After my swimming session early this morning, I was informed about this arm bike I should give a try, because I needed to get some sort of sweat going for my own sanity. The arm bike is very underestimated. I will admit after a good 15 minutes on that thing, with a pretty high resistance, I had drops of sweat coming down my face so I was feeling a little better. I was also able to get an upper body lift in today which tomorrow I will probably feel the affect of.
One strange thing about this surgery is that they tell you there is a possibility of your foot or leg becoming numb from them pulling so hard on it. The nerves tend to get aggravated and that could have some affect to your leg. , Well..that happened, and I still have no feeling in the top of my right foot, which is strange to me, but I guess things could be worse right? I just hope it comes back at some point, but right now I don’t really need my foot, so I’m not too worried about it =)
I had my coaching debut this weekend with the Gator team, and it felt so good to be back out there and in that environment. Roland jokes to me all the time how now I will get a taste of what it was like being on the other side of trying to coach when emotions are flying high….he likes to remind me I wasn’t the easiest one to deal with, and I will be the first to admit that, but I enjoy helping these girls any way that I can!
(January 30, 2014) – Coming up on the end of week 2…about 10 more weeks to go before I can do really any physical activity with my legs, or have a tennis racket in my hand!! Being in Gainesville with the amount of support and help I have behind me definitely makes time go by a little bit quicker. I have to give a special shout out to my athletic trainer here, Kelly. She has been doing two a days with me since I got here, stuck with me every morning and afternoon, and she is really making rehab as fun as it can be!
Next week (week 3) is when I can really step up my rehab… I can start doing a tiny bit of resistance on the bike (like maybe turn it on!!!!) I also get my stitches removed, get to add some new stretches, and three weeks means only one more week left of the crutches I was always told I needed to make my triceps stronger, maybe the crutches helped them out?? I also get to get rid of the brace that I have been sporting…this is good news because the brace really clashes with the dress I am wearing for an event next week. =)
I will check in next week….and for all of you who are gator fans, the gator girls play Baylor this weekend…GO GATORS!
(February 7, 2014) – I am coming up on week four my one month mark, and actually feeling really good! I can lose the crutches next week, which is a big step for me. I have been doing some walking in rehab, which is kind of painful because my hip is so stuff from being on crutches, so working on trying to get my walk back to normal! I can also lose the CPM machine I have been in for a month, so now I can sleep normally at night. Right now, I am at National Indoors with the team, and play a really tough Virginia team today. I am really enjoying being on the sidelines this time around and helping the girls anyway I can. It is also keeping me busy and my trainer has been amazing helping me get in my rehab sessions twice a day around our schedule…nothing like a few night swim sessions in the hotel pools and some Gold Gym appearances (because we don’t have a gym in our hotel) on the road…But we have a match to play…be back soon!
Well….first week of surgery….
(January 5, 2014)–In my 15 years of playing and competing in high-level competitive tennis this is my first serious injury. (I have been relatively lucky). I was training for my first full year of playing as a professional tennis player this Winter break, when I felt some serious pain in my hip. Of course, being the stubborn headed person I am, I was thinking it was just really sore, or a minor strain at the worst so I kept trying to play through it. As a few weeks passed, tournaments grew closer; I knew I probably should take care of this by at least going to see a doctor. While I was in Boca for a camp, I was convinced to the local ER to get an X-ray….came back fine. A few days later went for an MRI and a few days after that, got a phone call that I had a torn labrum along with a few other issues in my hip that required surgery. Getting the news really shocked me because I was going in thinking maybe just some tendonitis. Here I was all ready to play tournaments and get my career started, and now I was told I can not play tennis or do any physical activity for me seemed like an eternity.
After talking to my coaches, emailing my sponsor ADNA and filling them in on what was happening with my career, I was ready to take the next step on getting this injury taken care of!
I asked many questions, of course the main one was how long until I can play again. When it all was said and done, the final answer was 4-6 months as a guideline until I can start playing full-go no restrictions. Lets just say I have had better days, but I was ready to have this procedure and make the progress to getting back where I left off!
I could not be more thankful for the support I have received from all my close friends, and everyone involved in my tennis for helping me along the way. ADNA has been nothing but supportive and had full belief I would make a speedy recovery. My coaches, family, and close friends will never know how much they are appreciated and I know they will be here for me every step of the way!
(January 9, 2014) –Fast forward to a couple days later….After a lot of communication with doctors, parents, friends, coaches, I decided to have the surgery out in Vail, CO with a hip specialist. I flew out there with my dad for a week, and was planning for the surgery to happen on January 14, 201.
(January 14, 2014) A few hours after surgery. as I sit in my hotel bed, not feeling any pain what so ever, I look up at my leg in some sort of high-tech machine white calf pumps on each leg to prevent blood clots, I have no idea what time it is, what is going on, who is looking down at me, all I know is that I am STARVING, and I NEED FOOD! My dad is at my bedside with a few nurses going over my 8 bottles of medicine I will be on, how long they are keeping pain meds in me, how long I need these fancy crutches for etc, and all I know is that I want some dinner. As time passes, I get my delicious hospital food that I ordered and was in and out of sleep all night. The doctor comes into my room to tell me how well surgery went, and in about a few hours I am going to be in some pain.
3:35 am- The nurses are back …and I am in some serious pain!! Need to try and sleep this off.
6:45 am- Time to TACKLE THE DAY! My dad is picking me up at 7:15 to take me downstairs to start my road to recovery!
7:15-9:15- REHAB. I won’t bore you with all the rehab I just did, but the 20 minutes on the bike with NO resistance..(so basically the bike is not even on) felt like I was on an incline of 10 and pedaling at a speed of 20….it was a rough bike ride. Time to go back to the hotel, put my leg up in this CPM machine and PASS OUT! Rehab again later today and the rest of this week.
(January 18, 2014) Its time to go homeeeee!!! I have never been more excited to get out of a hotel room, leave the amazing room service I was spoiled with for a week, leave the brutal cold weather, and get back to Gainesville. Little every day things like getting into a car, getting up to get food, rolling around in bed, putting on shoes and socks, was all either very difficult to do by myself, or non existent at the moment. Thank god for Poppa Embree who was helping me with everything you could imagine.
10:00am – Traveling with crutches, 2 machines, 2 bags, and a backpack is not ideal considering I can only carry my crutches (so its worse for pops) and in no way easy to do in an airport. Good news though….I get to board with everyone who “needs extra time on the jetway.” Never thought I would say that at 23, but it happened!! I will put in my headphones, watch some Prison Break, and hopefully wake up when we are in Florida.
9:45 pm- WE MADE IT! Having my hip sit like that was not a great feeling, but now I can look forward to my own bed and some sleep!
(January 20, 2014) MONDAY!! Rehab sets in again with my trainers and PT here in Gainesville. Instead of playing tennis twice a day, I am doing rehab twice a day…a nice little change up for a few months right?? What I am most excited for is my swimming rehab that I get to do twice a day….not only does it feel like I can use my hip with no pain, but I get to “workout” and be a little bit active!!
(January 22, 2014) Long days ahead of me, rehab twice a day, plus finishing up my internship here in Gainesville to graduate….everything does happen for a reason so as bad and unfortunate as this injury is, trying to look at the positive it happened at an okay time. I get to lift some upper body weights today; it is now the little things that I probably get overly excited about. Just to be in a gym, and still be able to do something satisfies me a little bit. My mom also left today, so now I am really on my own. Takes me an extra three minutes to do something, but hey as long as I get there I am happy!
(January 24, 2014) Wake up call this week is 6:45 am, in time for some SWIMEX therapy on campus. I am so thankful for my trainer Kelly, and PT Susan taking great care of me while I am here. I just finished getting my Nemo like swim on, now in time for my internship, then back to rehab at 3 pm. Also another positive is that I was given a handicap pass that allows me to park very close, which I know seems like not a big deal but helps tremendously!
I am excited to announce my college coach, Roland Thornqvist asked me to be the Volunteer Assistant while I am rehabbing and recovering here in Gainesville and I could not be more excited to have some extra time with the team. It will also keep me busy, and get my mind off some things, also make the time pass until I can get back on the court again!
—Well it has been about 12 days, I am off all my meds except two, I can get around on my own a little bit better, thanks to my friends and everyone here for helping, each week is getting better and better in PT. Considering I could not walk on crutches without pain, I can ride the bike (still when the bike is literally off) with no pain, and be able to swim with the help of some floaties is all progress to me! This is all a process and a very slow one. It helps me work on my patience skills, and I can’t wait to tackle my rehab next week in hope to be feeling better by the end of week 2! I will keep you all posted =)
Being injured really puts things in perspective and humbles you a little bit. You have to keep having a positive outlook on the cards you are dealt, and I promise I will be back stronger than ever come summer or fall.
It’s been awhile since I blogged last, but after a tough loss this weekend in Charlottesville, I wanted to blog about something positive. Within the last month, I accomplished two results that I had yet to do since being on the Circuit. I qualified for my first 100k Challenger and made the finals of my first 15k Future.
Challenger qualies can be a tough transition going from Futures main draws as the cut is usually higher and you don’t get any points until you actually qualify. When I decided to skip the 10k Future in California and go play my first 100k qualifying it was somewhat frowned upon by my coach. This was largely due to the fact that I had won just one match in the previous two Futures. It’s true I didn’t get the results I wanted at those Futures, but I felt like I was playing well and just happened to lose a couple of tight matches.
Against my coach’s recommendation, I headed up to Sacramento for the Challenger qualies. During the first day of practice, I realized the courts were much nicer and slower than the ones I had played on in Costa Mesa the week before. I felt this would set up well for my game style so I was looking forward to seeing my draw.
That night I looked at the draw and saw I was set to face the three seed from Italy, Salvatore Caruso. I went in to the match knowing nothing about him or his game style. In the first set, this did not play a role as I played confidently and won the first set 6-2. Things got a little trickier in the second set as I put myself in a 5-2 hole. I didn’t give up and I fought back to force a breaker, which I won 7-4 to win the set and the match. This was a solid win and had me ready for the second round.
My match up in the second round was Philip Bester. On paper this did not look good for me. He was coming off a Futures final appearance his last tournament, plus he had beaten me the last three times we had played including a month earlier in Calgary 6-3 7-6. If that wasn’t enough, he had beaten me at the same club badly six years prior…yes, six years prior, I don’t forget… This time was different, it was in California and I felt the conditions suited me a bit better.
I started off very solid, but gave a break back and found myself in a tight tiebreaker. Some luck was on my side as I sneaked out the breaker. The second set was not one to remember as I was beaten fairly easily. It was in the third set though where I dug deep. I managed to save a handful of match points before I ended up prevailing in a three hour marathon match. So it was on to the qualifying round.
My opponent in the qualifying round was a good friend of mine, Mico Santiago. He is a bit younger and less experienced than my first two opponents, but I knew I couldn’t take him lightly. Fortunately for me I won 6-2 6-2, but with it being the qualifying round I’ll be honest, I felt a little more tension throughout the match. I was happy about qualifying, but I didn’t have too much time to celebrate as I was scheduled first up the next day.
I drew fellow American and tour veteran Bobby Reynolds in the first round of the main draw. Luckily I was pretty familiar with his game since I was able to see him play a lot at the Challenger in Champaign back when I was in school. We had a roller coaster of a first set. We both had two breaks over the other person. I was feeling good, I felt like my return was on and I was moving really well. After twelve games, we were tied six all and headed to a breaker. Sadly, he played the big points a little bit better than me pulling away 7-4. My good play carried over to the second set. I jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately though, I wasn’t able to hold on to the momentum. Bobby fought back and won the second set 6-4 to win the match. I felt like I did some things really well in this match, but going into the indoor Challenger season I realize I need to play the bigger points a little smarter in the future.
This event happened to be a great experience and confidence booster for me moving forward. I really think the momentum in Sacramento carried over to Texas and gave me the confidence I needed to make my first 15k Final. Losing a tight match this weekend in the first round of qualies in Charlottesville hurts, but I have a week to make some improvements and get ready for Knoxville qualifying.
Peace out ADNA readers!