I had to have another practice session that day to get over what had happened so I worked my tail off and practiced for a good two hours, but no prize money in this event meant I needed to be even more stingy with my money. My other two friends also lost in the first round, so all in all it wasn’t the best day of tennis for us. As it got closer to the evening we needed to make a decision about a place to stay. We had a few friends who lived in Southern California but they didn’t have enough room to help out all three of us, so that wasn’t an option anymore. We couldn’t come up with any ideas on trying to get free accommodation at that time so we did the next best thing we could think of―a hostel. We searched the internet and ran into a hostel in Santa Barbara not too far from the beach or our public tennis courts we were practicing on. What a catch, we thought! A private room for the three of us cost about $70 per night that we all shared, and one of us had to sleep on the floor, which wasn’t too uncomfortable actually. We calculated how much money we would spend in the next week if we stayed at the hostel and we came to the conclusion that we had to make some extra money, or else our tennis trip would be cut short. We felt like kings in our new private dorm room: we had fresh towels, a kitchen nearby, pool tables and all in a prime location, we loved it!
Another week of tennis training went by at Santa Barbara, and the next tennis tournament was approaching quickly. It was in a city named Chico and up in the Northern part of California. So we moved out of our luxurious hostel and continued to do our best to find free accommodation somehow, because with our food almost completely running out, the price of gas and oil changes for the van, tournament entry fees, and any necessary tennis gear that we needed such as new tennis balls to practice with we knew we had to cut some expenses. The worst part about it was that both of my shoes had huge holes on the bottoms, which were wearing out my socks every time I was training on a tennis court. I did my best to cover up the holes with what’s called “shoe goo” which forms a protective outer layer over the hole, but even that was no match for the constant pounding on the hard courts.
I was put in the qualifying round in the tournament in Chico because if you don’t have a high enough ATP tennis ranking, you have to work through at least three gruelling rounds in the United States just to get into the main event. My first two rounds were a breeze; I was playing well and my body was feeling great. My third round opponent was another collegiate player. I got off to a flying start and took the first set in 40 minutes. A tendency I had was to relax too much when a match was going in my favour too easily, so of course I let my foot off the pedal and my eyes started to wander around the facility. Bad move. My American opponent came back and won the second set by 7 games to 5. At this point I became very tight, because when you are so in control of a match and loosen up too much, your opponent can easily build up lots of momentum, which he did. He started to grow in confidence and had an answer to every shot I threw at him and I eventually lost the match 6 to 4 in the third set. I proceeded to find a sturdy tree after the match and break two out of my three racquets out of frustration, to the enjoyment of everyone watching. I was so angry with myself for letting my opponent back in the match and an opportunity to get into the main event of the tournament passed me by. In the past if an opponent was too good and blew me off the tennis court completely convincingly I was OK with it, but when a professional tennis match was decided by just a few important points and my mental toughness was the result of the loss, I was really hard on myself.
That night after we all were out of the tournament earlier than expected again and our moral down, we decided to have a night out. We bought a large case of the cheapest beer we could find, found a parking lot near the tennis facility and drank until we were numb. At that point I had one racquet left in my bag for the rest of the trip, $150 in my pocket and one small case of shoe goo left for my beat up tennis shoes. We got out of the van and started walking towards the nearby university campus hoping that there was a party somewhere that was free and we could get in. We were in luck…