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  • Vihaan Reddy

My First ITF Experience

6 months ago, I was off in India playing my first ITF tournaments. I traveled with my mom, so I had to either make my own strategy or talk with my dad to make one. Anyways, I went there with the goal of gaining experience on the ITF tour and earning a few points to get a ranking. However, I did not expect what would come next, especially with how my stay in India started.

The first tournament I played was in Gurugram, and I arrived there 4 to 5 days early with my mom to get a chance to adapt to the time zone and the weather in India. I found an academy and one of the coaches there agreed to hit with me there pretty much every day before my tournament. I was feeling horrible before the tournament with my form even though I played well back in the US just before I left. I was in the round of 64 for my first match, which meant that even if I won, I still would not earn any ITF points.

I was scheduled to play a guy slightly older than me. I was pretty nervous because the match started 3 hours after it was supposed to, and I also missed the deadline to find a partner for the doubles event. Anyways, I started the match okay, but my opponent was going for everything and missing a lot. I won the first set 6-2 and I felt like I had to close it out easily because of my opponent’s level. However, in the second set the balls got heavier and my opponent was still going for everything, but now the balls were landing in. I had a lot of trouble and pressure on me to close it out quickly, but I couldn’t and lost the set 6-3. In the third set, we got new balls and the first two games went to deuce, but then I rolled through the next 5 games to take the set 6-1 and the match.

The next day, I played my first seeded player. The match got off to an interesting start because I was up 3-1, but I made a close call and called a ball out just past the baseline. My opponent thought it was in and a couple of points later, called a ball out on a crucial point which was quite clearly square on the line. I let it slide because he did it just to spite me. Later, he called another ball out that was in at 5-2, so I called the ref and the ref couldn’t do anything, but he did stay for the rest of the match. I won the match quite easily 6-2, 6-0.

On Wednesday, I faced an unseeded player, but he took out the third seed in straight sets in the previous round, so I didn’t feel quite ready with my tennis to face him yet. When we started, I broke him immediately at love, but he broke me back right away at love, too. That made me think I was in for a real battle. However, I was very shocked because I thought he was super consistent and physical, but in reality he missed in almost every rally that went past 10 to 12 shots. So, I somehow won with the scoreline of 6-1, 6-0.

In the quarters, I faced the number 1 U14 player in India. The coach I was hitting with at the academy scheduled a hit with him for me, so I practiced with him before the tournament. He had a very aggressive game, but with a one-handed backhand. The match did not start off well at all because I couldn’t find an answer to his aggressive game and I lost the first set 6-4. Then, he increased his level and I dropped off a little bit and went down 4-1 in the second set. However, I thought to myself, “It would be a real shame to go out so easily in my first ITF tournament.” I started to take it game by game and his level dropped off while mine increased a lot. This, combined with a bit of luck earned me the set 7-6. I was stunned that I was able to come back in any way, shape, or form, but my opponent was definitely more shocked. I used that to my advantage, and after winning the first game of the third set from 0-40 down, I cruised the rest of the way and won the set 6-1 and the match. Even after the match, I was still confused as to how I figured him out only in that situation, but nevertheless, I was ecstatic to be in the semi-finals.

In the semis, I was going to play the top seed of the tournament. I was very nervous for this match because I had to secure the special exempt spot to be in the main draw for my next tournament. I could only do so if I was playing a match on Saturday, because that wouldn’t leave me enough time to get to the next tournament’s qualifying. The match started on my opponent’s serve and he opened with back-to-back double faults. Although I wasn’t playing my best either, I earned the break and never looked back. With the start and the nerves behind me now, I played my best match of the tournament and it looked like I had an answer to whatever my opponent threw at me that day. I was super consistent, but I also was forcing him into forced errors and I probably racked up my highest winner total of my tournament so far. My opponent tried a lot of different strategies and tactics, but I was just in the zone and I cruised through the match 6-1, 6-1.

On Saturday, I played a player who was 3 years older than me. This meant it might be the toughest match-up of the tournament for me because his age would play a difference in the final. We started neck and neck up until I was up 5-4 on his serve. I won that game at 30, but was greatly helped out from 3 double faults of his. In the second set, I went down 1-3, but I stormed back to take the next 5 games and the tournament. I was very relieved to have gotten through a very tense final and elated that I had the best result possible in my first ITF tournament. I had earned 30 points for my ITF ranking, and in the next edition of the rankings, I would be ranked around 1100 in the world.

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