Shuttling to the player lounge every morning, brushing shoulders with some of the top players on tour, and practicing on the US Open courts are just a few highlights that have me already looking forward to my next time at Flushing Meadows. My first Grand Slam as a professional player did not disappoint. I am fortunate to have experienced what it’s like to be part of one of the biggest tournaments in the world, if not the biggest.
The first day was definitely the most exciting but also the most intimidating. While waiting in line to get my credentials, Stan Wawrinka and Benoit Paire casually walked by. I couldn’t contain my smile. I have dreamt of this day since I first started playing tennis. The Grand Slam is the ultimate measure of a player’s success. Even though I wasn’t there to play, I felt like I was one step closer to realizing my goal. All of the hard work that I have put in on and off the court is paying off.
The opportunity to practice and warm up with some of the best players was worth every minute I spent on the court over the past 18 years of my life. At the beginning, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I felt nervous and out of place. But when I began hitting with them, it became clear that they are just like every other player. For most of the players I met, I had previously watched their matches on TV or followed their results online. Just being on the same court as them gave me a confidence boost. We are on the same path, and one day I plan on catching up. All the best players started where I am now and hustled to the top. Understanding this was the most important thing I took away from my week in New York. I can happily walk away from this tournament knowing that I will be here next year with the opportunity to prove myself as a player.
The most memorable experience was when I watched Nadal practice. The biggest difference I noticed in the top players was their level of consistency. The intensity during every warm up and every practice set was electrifying. Nadal missing shots and visibly expressing his anger shows how much day-to-day practice means to the best. Every shot he hit even during warm ups was hit with the same intensity as he would hit it during a match.
The day-to-day operations of the tournament were incredible to see for the first time. Everything is done on such a grand scale compared to my usual tournaments. It is all perfectly organized – down to the schedule for practice courts, allocation of practice balls, and match court assignments. The day-to-day routine of each player was also fascinating. It was also very valuable to see that each player had their own warm up in the weight room and on the court with pre- and post-match treatments. Every player has different needs and prepares in their own way before matches, some showing more nervousness than others while some being super loose and joking around before they went on the court.
I had an incredible time at the US Open and the whole week was inspiring, motivating me to push myself to the limits and reach my goals. The moment I will always cherish is the first time walking on Arthur Ashe stadium and looking up into the stands with the roof closed. Without a doubt the thought of being able to play on Arthur Ashe one day in front of thousands of people will keep me motivated in the upcoming weeks and months of practice.