North Texas tennis takes a trip to Flushing, N.Y. for the USTA Invitational and senior Nadia Lee and junior Valentina Starkova share their and the team's experience while playing at the site of the US Open.
Monday, Oct. 10 (Valentina Starkova)
6:15 AM We started our last day in New York bright and early. All packed up and ready to check out we had breakfast at the hotel, and left for good at 7. Coach Troy had an early flight, so he did not come with us to the courts because he had to be in Denton early.
7:45 AM We started our warm up. Irina did a very good job of warming us up since coach Troy was not there.
8:45 AM Everybody went on their courts to play matches. Nadia and Franziska, Barbora and Ilona were in doubles finals. Ksenia and I played a practice match. Everybody won their doubles. It was interesting that two of our doubles teams (Nadia and Franzi, Ksenia and I) were two match points down and won the match. When everybody was done with doubles, the singles started. Nadia, Franzi, and Barbora played their finals. Ilona, Ksenia, Paula, and I played practice matches. Barbora, Ilona, Paula, Ksenia ended up winning their singles, and the rest of us lost. Barbora won a remarkable match in her singles final, because it was her third match of the day, and she was exhausted! She was the last one to finish, so we all got a chance to watch her match and support her.
2:15 PM The team was done with the tournament and the organizers of the event were very nice to take us on the tour to see the stadium. They took us to Arthur Ashe stadium's lockers, press conference room, and the stadium court. It was an amazing feeling. I remember being little and watching all the tennis stars on TV playing US Open finals, and I could not believe that I was there today myself. We took a lot of team pictures and everybody was happy.
3:30 PM We finished with the tour, and luckily had some time to change and shower before our flight. The taxi picked us up at 3:30PM and we were at the airport by 4PM. Our flight is at 6PM, so I had some time to finish up with the blog.
Overall, it was an incredible experience. I feel that the team put all the effort we had into our matches. Everybody feels tired after this weekend in New York, but it is a good feeling, because we know that we accomplished a lot. The team earned three titles and finished 28-8 overall, but the most important thing is that we showed how much we care for each other through tough times and how much dedication and passion we have for tennis.
Sunday, October 9 (Nadia Lee)
6:30 am - And the routine started all over again. Breakfast, and then shuttle bus to the courts for Day 2 of the tournament. The shuttle bus was quite an experience, and very different from the slow and steady UNT busses. Much like everything else in NY, the ride was fast and furious, and those who weren't seated were holding on for dear life!
Everyone was in good spirit, and having completed a successful day yesterday, everyone was keen to continue with the momentum. Today was going to be a long, tough day, with 1 doubles, followed by 2 singles. Two of the stadium courts were opened today and some of us were fortunate enough to have the experience of playing on "Louis Armstrong", or the "Grandstand."
9:00 am - Doubles matches began, Franzi and I played against a team from Harvard. We had a bit of a slow start, but with Irina's help as coach, we were able to build up more confidence as the games went on. Our doubles became more aggressive and we finished winning 8-5. Valentina and Kseniya won 8-5, and Barbora and Ilona won 8-4.
10:30 am - First round of singles started, I had to play another girl from Harvard. We exchanged long ralleys for many points throughout the match, and it was a challenge to deal with her style of game. I eventually pulled through 6-3, 6-1. Franzi, Barbi and Val also won their matches. Paula, Kseniya and Ilona unfortunately lost tough matches, each one came down to a 3rd set tiebreaker. Paula was lucky enough to play on "Louis Armstrong" stadium and Valentina played on "Grandstand" stadium.
12 pm - Lunch! An important part of the day for me because I am ALWAYS hungry! My teammates often tease me for having an unusually large appetite, for a relatively small person, but the turkey sandwich was enough to refuel me for my next match.
2 pm - My second singles match was against a girl from Princeton. I was able to win comfortably 6-0, 6-0. Evidently she did not have a turkey sandwich for lunch. Paula, Franzi, and Kseniya also won their singles. This time Kseniya played on the Grandstand stadium. Ilona, Barbie and Val unfortunately lost their singles, again with each match coming down to a 3rd set tiebreaker.
After everyone was done with their matches, we headed back to the hotel on the rollercoaster shuttle ride. Coach Troy placed a large order of Italian food (which I definitely approved of) to be sent to the hotel. During our dinner in the lobby, Barbora was given some good news. The computer had somehow made an error on processing the draw; she had played her match against the wrong opponent! After a heartbreaking loss to someone she wasn't even supposed to be playing, Barbora will now have a second chance to play her REAL singles semi-final tomorrow! Smiles all round! J
9 pm - Team meeting. After a short review of the day, the coaches reminded us that it is not the start that is important, but how you finish is what counts. Tomorrow is Championship day; Franzi and I are in the singles finals for our respective flights. We are also in the doubles final together. Barbie and Ilona are in the doubles final, and Barbie will play her 2nd Semi-final too. 10 pm
- A long, hard day of competing and I am ready for bed! Everyone did a great job today with team support and I am looking forward to my chance to play in the finals on a stadium court. These courts have been played on by some of the greatest professional players from around the world; it is an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to play on them. Until tomorrow, goodnight, and GO MEAN GREEN!
Saturday, October 8 (Valentina Starkova)
Today we woke up at 6:10AM, and went to breakfast at the hotel at 6:15. We had to make sure that we get good food for the long day of matches. We headed to the courts at 7AM, the shuttle took as straight to the courts. We had sometime at the courts to change, grip our racquets, and make sure we are ready to start the first day of tournament. Coach Troy Ramsey did an excellent job of warming us up and stretching. We all were wearing same outfit green shirt and black skirt, while other teams were wearing whatever they wanted, so we all looked really professional. Everybody warmed up with their doubles partners. After warm up we had to check in at the tournament desk at 9. Kseniya and I played on court #17 our first match. We played against Yale girls, and we lost our first match 8-4. Our second match we played against some girls from college in New Jersey which is only 30 minutes away from NYC.
We finished our second doubles match and we won 8-4, the rest of the girls won their matches too. It was difficult to watch every match of my teammates because we all were playing at the same time, however as soon as we got done, I could support Barbora and Ilona winning their super tough tiebreaker match. They did good and played incredible tennis. Franzi and Nadia won their matches too, unfortunately I did not get to see them playing.
We did not have time to eat lunch before matches, but we got some snacks such as bars and bananas before our singles matches. I played my match at 1:30 PM against the same girl that we lost in doubles. I won 6-3 6-7 10-6. It was a long match and we played a tie breaker instead of the third set. Yale girl had a big crew to support her, however it was nice to see my teammates supporting me as well. I think they were louder than my opponent's crew. When I finished my match coach said that he is proud of me because I made a comeback on the tiebreaker, I was down 2-6 and won 10-6. I am proud of the team because everybody won today. We took care of our business very well. Also, we had one of our fans from Denton coming up here to watch us playing. Her name is Gladys, and it was nice of her to watch our matches.
We were done with icing, stretching, changing by 5 PM. Everybody was really hungry, so we decided to go to NYC Downtown to eat and take some pictures after very successful day at the courts. It was my first time in the NYC subway. Fortunately Irina has been in New York before, so she did a great job with figuring out what train we should take and where to go.
We got to downtown and took some pictures. We agreed on eating at Ruby Tuesday's. It took a while to get seated, because it was a Saturday night and New York is crazy at this time. After we ate, we went to Times Square and took some more pictures. New York is a crazy place, it was so crowded, people were everywhere.
We got back to the hotel, tired after a long day and ready to get some sleep. It was an exciting day. But the most important thing is that we represented the University of North Texas in a very good way, and I am proud of my team for that.
Friday, October 7 (Nadia Lee)
4:55am - 8 sleepy tennis girls were packed up into "The Scooby-doo van", headed to DFW airport. Everyone showed up punctually, and this time nobody got left behind... so-far-so-good. Our van made it down Bonnie Brae Street and to the lights at McDonald's, when Barbora realizes she has left her passport in Irina's car! U-turn back to get that, and the team set off for the second time.
6:00am - You would assume that at such early hours of the morning nobody would be hungry... wrong! Thankfully TGIF Friday's was at the rescue.
First flight Coach Lama was fortunate enough to have the loudest snorer on the plane sitting next to him, while Coach Troy got 101 questions from his fellow passenger.
1:15pm - 2 flights later and we finally arrived, NYC! Most of us had never been to New York, so we were all pretty excited. Our noses pressed against the windows as we flew in to land. We could see the statue of liberty, the empire state building, and the US Open tennis facility from the plane.
The bags arrived safely, our transportation to the hotel, did not. A minor technical difficulty involving a flat tire delayed the arrival of the bus, but eventually we made it to the hotel.
3pm - A bus took us to the US Open facility for practice. Everyone immediately felt the hustle of city life, even in the suburbs. The streets were busy, buses packed, traffic rushing everywhere... we sure felt far away from Denton, Texas!
5pm - After many pictures of the team with the facility's statues, ornaments etc. practice commenced. An hour of solid hitting to allow us to become acclimatized and we headed back to our hotel for some food.
8pm - Italian food was delivered to us for dinner, which was followed by a short team meeting. Everyone was tired from an early start and long day. We are all looking forward to the beginning of the competition tomorrow. There are a total of 25 teams from all over the nation. Tomorrow morning's matches will start at 9am with 2 doubles, followed by 1 singles. 9:30pm
- More news tomorrow, hopefully some good results to share! Good luck to our fellow teams competing this weekend. Goodnight, and GO MEAN GREEN!