Mackenzie Soldan has been on a tear in Guadalajara at the 2011 ParaPanAm Games, winning her first two matches.
© Jeremiah Yolkut
By Mackenzie Soldan, special to USTA.com
From the 2011 Parapan American Games, 19-year-old Mackenzie Soldan is blogging her thoughts and experiences from the event site in Guadalajara, Mexico, exclusive to USTA.com. Hear what the this up-and-coming American star has to say on her way to a gold medal!
Oh, Guadalajara. I didn’t know quite how to start this blog entry, so I just went with that. What can I say? I’m good with words. Anyway, let’s go back to opening ceremonies, which was on Saturday night. Here’s a quick recap: We took the buses over to a track venue, where we then waited for a couple hours because of the number of people having to be bused over and then organized by country. Then we all lined up six-in-a-row and began the stroll around the track. The crowd was, I’d say, at least several thousand people - an awesome turnout for our Games! In that moment, I felt really proud to be representing my country here at the "Parapans."
After all of the countries did their rounds, the ceremony began with some singing, speeches and a lot more singing. I don’t know who the performers were but I’m sure they are very famous in Mexico, as a lady wearing a hat with horns on it starting singing and flailing her arms about. Oh, and don’t forget the lighting of the torch! That was probably my favorite part because I’ve never been to a competition of this magnitude, therefore I’ve never experienced it before. While the torch was lit, fireworks also went off and it was now the official start of the 2011 Parapan American Games.
Now to my first match against Mexico’s own Claudia Taboada. I found out that I would be playing in the stadium court - which made me quite nervous, I have to say. What's more, it was my first match in months, and I was going to be playing a crowd favorite. I remember the night before my match I probably woke up at least 10 times having mini panic attacks. I’m not kidding. I was extremely nervous. Then, the time came for me to go on court. I struggled to put my overweight tennis bag on my shoulders and pushed onto center. The chair ump announced my name as I heard some cheers and waved to the crowd, pretending like I wasn’t about to throw up on myself.
The first set I played very tight and timid, and Claudia capitalized on it with some good serves and consistent strokes. After losing the first set in a tie-break, I decided to just start swinging and hitting my shots since I wasn’t really before. And what do you know - it worked! 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. The crowd was great and I really enjoyed that experience. To this day, I am still thrilled about this win. Yes, it’s only been two days.
Next match: Johana Martinez, no. 2 seed. Johana and I have a rocky past. I have played her I think three times before and lost each time in three sets. So, coming into this match I knew I had to bring my "A" game. On that morning, I was a lot less nervous since I had overcome such a struggle of a match the day before. For the first set I came out timid once again, and I was not sure why, since I wasn’t really nervous. After getting crushed the first set 1-6, I did the same thing as yesterday, and just started pushing my chair a lot more and hitting through the ball - and oh yes, it worked once more! Amazing how that works. So, today’s match is against Francisca Mardones of Chile and I am pumped! She is a lefty which is a little different and also a very good player, so we will see what happens!
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