Vania King has had an outstanding career since turning pro in July 2006, winning one WTA Tour singles title and seven doubles titles, including the Brisbane doubles championship just last month. A 20-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., King will be writing an exclusive blog for USTA.com throughout the year as she travels to different tournaments around the world. This week, she competed at the Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tenn.
Vania in flight.
Have a question for Vania? She will be answering questions from fans in her daily blogs and would love to hear from you. Please keep in mind, however, that due to her busy playing schedule she does not have time to answer all questions.
Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009
Today I practiced in Delray Beach, at ITA (International Tennis Academy) where Alla trains. I practiced in the morning with one of the boys from the academy (Ethan), and in the afternoon with Alla.
So in the morning, Alla and I were joking with her coach before practice that we wished that the guys would be there practicing, to give us motivation, since we both were really tired. (There is an ATP event in Delray Beach next week)
Little did we know, about 10 male players from the tournament were there to practice! It's really true that you have to be careful what you wish for! ;)
In the afternoon, Alla and I only practiced for a little more than an hour, doing mostly consistency drills (60 straight down the middle, 20 straight cross court, 15 down the line, ect), and serve/returns. Afterwards, I went jogging for about twenty-five minutes. It was the first time I went jogging in about two weeks, since I got sick. I was sick in Midland (I think I mentioned that if you read the blog way back then :)) So I really felt out of shape and luckily, my legs got numb after about fifteen minutes, but my brain, unfortunately, did not. My IPod was dead and I had no running partner, so my brain was painfully bored. However, I figure that another three or four more days of longer running and I should be able to lose all the fat I gained in Memphis.
Afterwards, Alla, Chris, and I went to CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) for dinner, and Alla and I went shopping after that. I am sad to report that I spent a lot of money. However, I got some cool stuff from Abercrombie and Victoria's Secret. My favorite is a winter hat with a puff on top--I'm not sure if I'll ever wear it, but it sure is cute!
Okay so now I'll answer a few more questions: Was it hard to choose pro tennis over going to college? Also, You said your brother was a top junior and you said he is going to business school, will he play any more pro events? Also, I researched your sister Ivana on the ITF site and she played an event in Taipei and did very well (making the final round of qualifying), will she play pro tennis as well? So will we see the King sisters against the Williams sisters?
Hi Kevin. Yes, it was a VERY difficult decision to choose pro tennis over college. Truthfully, I had no plans to turn pro, and it didn't really cross my mind until right before I made the decision. I was already enrolled to Stanford, and was in the college mindset, however I was doing so well in tennis, so it was a very hard decision to make.
My brother decided to stop playing a few months ago and pursue his other interests. He double majored at Duke in computer and political science (he is the genius-literally-of the family), so I'm sure he can do anything he sets his mind to! He is also a licensed real estate broker, so definitely a man of many talents!
Ivana in Taipei is a funny story. It was actually my mom who forced her to sign in--she was too embarrassed since she hadn't played for five months since she graduated college. (And when I say hadn't played, I mean, hadn't touched a racquet, or moved, really) She had no racquets, so she borrowed mine, and no shoes, so we went out at 10pm the night before her match and bought her a pair of shoes. Obviously she's very talented as well, to pull off some amazing wins! (She won her first match 7-6 in the third and I think she was down 5-0 and I remember her telling me that she thought she was going to throw up the first two sets because she was so out of shape!)
So that tournament was kind of just a fun thing for her, so you won't see her playing any pro tournaments soon! She is currently in Beijing interning for Nike. How was your experience representing the United States on the Fed Cup team?
Hi Eric. Actually, the first time I played, I was 10% excited, and 90% scared. Every time I played it got a little better, but it isn't until after that I really realize what an amazing experience it is, and what an honor to play for my country! I think every time I go, our team really has an amazing bond and we support each other wholeheartedly. And that's what Fed Cup is about! Which match stands out in your mind as the worst loss you have ever had? Have you ever cried after losing a match as a professional?
Hi Rebecca. Well, that's not an easy question, because it brings back painful memories! On the top of my head, I can't remember any that I dedicated as the worst, only because I probably suppressed the memory. I think, in general, I feel the worst when I don't give myself the best chance of winning either by giving up (not trying for every point), or being passive and tentative, when my best game is to be aggressive. When I lose but give myself the credit that I tried my best, then I am sad, but not that disappointed, because I know I gave it my best. However, I think that whenever I lose, I have to be able to learn something from it, or else the losing wasn't worth it!
So cheers everyone, send me some more questions! Friday, Feb. 20, 2009
Well I'm on the road again--today was my travel/rest day, even though I really don't think it's fair to make a traveling day a rest day since traveling is really tiring! I'm not sure if I wrote about my weekly schedule, but I usually try to give myself a day off a week. If I have no tournament, I will practice Monday-Friday twice a day, an hour and a half to two hours per session, and a session of fitness, maybe an hour or so. Saturdays I have half days, where I practice one session and maybe some fitness. Sundays off, which works out really well because I can go to church that day as well! However, after tournaments I give myself between one to three days off, and I kind of messed up my schedule by coming back on a Friday! Now I need to practice on the weekend :(
Oh, and to let you guys know, you can email me questions now (remember I was thinking about that?), so anything you want to know, you can ask. It doesn't necessarily mean I'll answer, because I can pick the questions haha! Okay, kidding, I'll try to answer as many as I can. :) Oh yeah, and I am allowed to delete mean questions so don't send me any of those please!
Back to today-well, it was really boring, actually. I woke up at 8:30am to give myself 2 hours and 15 minutes to pack, and I forced myself to finish packing within 2 hours, because if I have a 2 hour deadline, I usually finish at 2 hours and 15 minutes. Basically if you break down the 2 1/4 hours, I spent 30 minutes packing, 20 minutes showering, 1 hour surfing the internet, 15 minutes reading, and 10 minutes frantically trying pick up all the rest of the bits and pieces in the room. I made it downstairs at 10:45am exactly. Alla, Christian (Alla's coach, and my former coach), and I were all on the same flight, and right now I am staying at Chris's house because I am practicing with Alla until I go to Monterrey. (Well, both of us, but since I have to play the qualifying, I will have to leave earlier)
So I'm going to answer a question now, asked by Jason Catron.
He asks: "Do you feel any extra pressure to win as you see your ranking slide? i know it's important to get direct entry in to the main draws so the ranking is pretty important." Also, he asks, "Early in your career you achieved better results than you have been getting recently, do you attribute that to the other players getting bigger and stronger or do you think there is something in your game that has changed?"
Jason, I think I'll answer the second question first since it leads up to the first. I broke onto the Tour 3 years ago and achieved my best ranking at the end of 2006, where I won my first tournament in singles and reached a ranking of 50. Until Wimbledon of '06, I had always been coached by my father. He was the one motivating me and pushing me to play tennis. It got to the point where it was too stressful for both of us, and I decided to start to play tournaments without him. At Wimbledon, I started working with Ray Ruffels, a USTA coach, who really helped bring back my motivation and refine my game. It was with him that I finished the rest of the year on the rise. Actually, my rise started at US Open 2005 where I received a wild card into the qualifying and I qualified and won a round in the main draw. Anyways, to make a long story short, Ray and I parted in early '07, and after that I had no more motivation, because my father had been the one pushing me. I struggled for a long time to find my motivation, and I really think that I only found my direction last November when I started with my new coach, Tarik Benhabiles.
He really sat me down and helped my put a plan, direction, and priorities-something I've never done before. I have to also say that this sort of quick rise and fall from players is not too uncommon, because there is also pressure to hold onto your ranking or do better. I certainly felt expectation of myself to do better, and I put too much pressure on myself.
About the strength of the other players, I certainly think that the game is getting stronger and stronger, however, I don't think that it was the reason why I dropped in the rankings. Look at Justine Henin, for example, she was the same size as I am, and she was able to dominate the sport.
So I really hope that answered your question, because my response was so long!!
So everyone, if you have any questions, feel free to ask ;)
Cheers! Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009
As you may notice, there is no exclamation point after everyone today, as I am really tired! Mentally tired. Physically, I think I've gotten fatter. Truly. I think in Memphis all I do is eat and eat unhealthy foods at that. Okay, that is a choice I made, but there are so many fried choices here that taste soo good!
And I haven't done much fitness--I blame that on being indoors (yes, although it is my responsibility). Being indoors for TWO WEEKS! I am definitely an outdoors girl. I know some people really like running and doing fitness in a gym, but for me, 15 minutes on a treadmill is like 30 minutes outside. (30 minutes outside is still like 30 minutes.)
So, I had a really lazy day, all the way up until our match, where I couldn't be lazy. I woke up at 10:45am, lazed about for about an hour, and then tried to practice my singing and remove my nail polish at the same time. I think I lost about a week of my life breathing in the nail polish remover fumes. It took me almost forty-five minutes to take the polish off! I had five different colors on my nails and I guess the layers were so thick it was like taking off another nail! I really liked my nails though. I had pink, red, yellow, blue, and green. Alla said they were disturbing. Yes, disturbing. I think she said that about five times in one hour the first time she saw them. She's very happy they're gone, I must admit. Although I thought they were really fun!
I went to the site at about 1pm where I had lunch (something fried, again) even though I had a really late breakfast. I played some Rock Band, warmed up at 4:30pm, played some Rock Band, ate dinner, played some Rock Band, and went on court to play our match at 7:30pm. This was because Krajicek, one of our opponents, was playing singles third after 1pm, and we had to wait after suitable rest to play the doubles.
Unfortunately, we lost, and I really can't go into any detail because it's still really painful. I really thought we had a great chance, but what happened, happened, and no use looking back!
So I've booked my flight to go back to Florida (my happy training ground), and I'm also talking to my sister, Ivana. I have to quote her because she is too funny. She says, "Every time I see a loss [when she checks the scores online] it's like a little piece of my soul and heart disappears into nothing-ness."
I replied, "You must have a big soul then. REALLY big." And she said," Yeah, I realized that as the months passed."
Because if she lost a piece of her heart and soul everytime I lost, it's unfortunate, but she's lost many, many pieces! I think that may be partly why I have such a bad memory--I forcefully suppress losses so much that it reflects on my everyday life! So THAT'S why!
My sisters are funny. I have two sisters who are fraternal (non-identical) twins. They are twenty-two right now, so about two and a half years older than me. The elder, Mindy, is 5'7", "supposedly" really sweet (she was, but now she's the mean one to me), and for the most part, more reserved. The younger, Ivana, is 4'11", really outgoing and cheerful (I mean, always smiling), and her head is for the most part, in the clouds. I once asked her how she could smile all the time, I mean, isn't it difficult? She said that it is really difficult sometimes, but people expect her to be happy and it makes them happy, so she does it. I thought that was pretty impressive.
I have an older brother, Phillip, who is twenty-seven, so almost eight years older than me. You may have heard of him, because he was a two-time champ at Kalamazoo (Boy's 18s Harcourts), and the #1 junior player in the U.S. for two years. I can't remember exactly because I may also implant false memories into my brain, but I don't think my brother and I had many conflicts when I was young, as opposed to my sisters and I. We were like the Three Musketeers, except with wayy more arguing and fighting. Whenever my parents would try to sort us out, our mom would ask me, "Vania, what did you do this time?" And I would protest, how could they blame me if they don't know what happened? And she would say, "Because it's always you." Which was for the most part (okay, like 98%) true. Maybe 99%. I was definitely the most bossy, adamant, and stubborn one there.
Anyways, my brother ended up going to college (Duke), my sisters as well (Princeton and UPenn), and now Phillip is traveling and I believe going to go to business school, Mindy is at USC's grad school for architecture, and Ivana is in Beijing interning for Nike. I'm not sure if they are pleased with me giving out all this personal information (Ivana once cautioned me from putting my name on my Myspace page--btw, I don't use it anymore) but I, myself, have nothing to hide!
Okay, so I guess talking about my family made me a bit happier, because I'm not as brain dead as when I started! I realize more and more when I am away from my family, and alone, that I really miss them and love them and appreciate (my parents) how much they do/did for me.
So I think I'm going to end it there, or else I may be giving out my SS number soon!
Cheers everybody! Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009
Well today was another long day--I left to the courts at 8am for an 8:30am warmup. I played my singles match first at 10am against Lucie Safarova. I lost, unfortunately, 7-6, 6-3. I actually thought I played really well--she also played very well too. So I am a bit sad that I lost, but not too disappointed because I felt like I did the best I could. However, since I am playing well and losing--that means (I think) that I need to either have a better game plan, or I just need to improve more. Although both are probably the case, the latter obviously will take longer! Well, usually.
I am happy to report that I was able to eat breakfast today, thanks to my new bowls, forks, spoons, and knives. I have enough in my room to last me a month. Yesterday I was trying to eat my cereal for breakfast (I bought the wholesome, nutritious Reeses Puffs, my favorite :)), but I had no spoon! I was already eating out of a glass so I was trying to pour milk down my throat and pop some cereal in, but it didn't work. I bought a box full of bowls and a mixed assortment of eating utensils while at the supermarket yesterday (I forgot to mention that). I must mention that when I asked room service (btw, we are staying at the Hyatt) for a spoon, they said that I had to wait 35 min because I would be put behind five other orders that were before me.
So after my singles match I had some lunch, played some Rock Band, and then played my doubles. We won our doubles I believe 6-4, 6-4. I have trouble remembering the score. Actually, I have trouble remembering a lot of things. In our first round of doubles, we played a tie-break in the first set, and for some reason, I thought that we could switch servers (like after the first set you can choose who starts to serve), and I was ready to serve when our opponents questioned us. I was so embarrassed. I also went to the chair to sit down after only one game somewhere during that match. Although it sounds quite silly (okay, the first one is a bit much, even for me), but I do these things quite often. I think I have an mediocre intellect if you average all the smart and stupid things I do!
After the doubles it was already around 5:30pm, and I went to see the physios (trainers) for some treatment because I had some pain (which is probably just because my muscles are so tight) in my gluts, back, and wrist. The trainer warned me against playing too much Rock Band, but I really don't think that was why! (Okay, it might be one of the reasons) I was getting really sore trying to do the drums on hard (drums are my worst instrument), because of how much foot pedaling is involved.
By the time I got out of the physios, I was starving, and while a friend wanted to bring me to a restaurant outside, I was just too starving and ate at the site. I must admit the food was terrific. However, I think everyone knows that when you are starving, everything tastes great.
So we are scheduled to play our semi-finals of doubles tomorrow, however, one of our opponents is playing a third match (first match will start at 1pm), and we will follow that after suitable rest, so we are going to be there late, late, late! What I am really hoping to do is to make finals because FRIDAY is a ROCK BAND TOURNAMENT. I know, you guys must think I'm nuts, and I think a lot of the players do too, so you're not alone. Oh, and did you notice the way I said, "make finals?" Yeah, being on Tour is great, but one of the drawbacks is that you start using phrases or substituting phrases for the benefit of non-first language English speakers, so my English not only gets diluted, but I'm afraid that after ten years from now, I may be reduced to an unintelligible garble. It also doesn't help my confidence that my sister tells me I'm stupid because I didn't go to school (as in college). It's okay, I am "life smart." (Haha)
It's glorious to have sisters who tell it to you straight, and sometimes tell it to you mean just because they feel like it. Well, I was mean to them when I was younger, so I guess my sister (she's supposed to be the "nice" one too!) is trying to make up for lost time. However, I am the youngest, so it's not like I had the respect of an older sibling. I guess I'll talk more about my family some other time, because that could take several days at least of blogging!
So at that, I will bid you farewell.
Cheers everyone! Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009
Yes, I know it's a standard, boring greeting but I feel that if I tried to say something different every day, then sooner or later I'm going to run out of ideas, say something stupid, or a combination of both.
Well, I hope my coach isn't reading this, because I am eating Ramen noodles right now. Yes, instant noodles. I'll go through my day, and you'll understand (well, you'll see MY reasoning later on).
Since today I didn't have a match, I figured I would go light (since I played two matches yesterday). Light means, just an hour of practice, and maybe some fitness (which I scratched haha), lunch, and back to the hotel for some rest. I wrote down a schedule yesterday for today, and it went like this:
9:30am: Transport to site
11:00: Fitness/luncheon (I was asked to speak at a ladies luncheon at another club, but I forgot what time it was--I remember either 11:20 or 12:20--it turned out to be 11:40)
1:00pm: Back to hotel/rest
5:00pm: Go back to site for dinner/leave for flight simulator
And that was the end of it. I must first say--I forgot the schedule in the hotel in the morning. So what my REAL schedule was:
9:15am: Transport to site
9:30am: Rock Band
9:50am: Walk to the practice court
10:00am-10:40am: Practice (yes, it was supposed to be one hour, but it didn't end up that way)
11:00am: Starving, had to get lunch
11:40am: Transport to the other tennis club
12:10pm: (The driver got a bit lost) Ladies luncheon--very fun and entertaining by the way, the ladies were great
1:00pm: Heading back to the site
1:00pm: Massage scheduled at the site (missed it)
1:30pm: Started massage
2:30pm: Ended massage
2:30-3:30pm: Doing something I can't remember what, although it wasn't Rock Band (I would remember that)
3:30pm: Transport takes me to the supermarket where I buy the instant noodles and three books
4:00pm: Back at the hotel
5:00pm: Back to the site, play some Rock Band and then have no time to go to dinner, so I eat a plain bagel because there are no knives to spread the peanut butter
5:30pm: Transport to the FedEx flight simulator (where pilots in training apparently pay $1800/hr to use), where we fly an simulated airplane (we had to take turns and were taken in five at a time so it took a while)
8:20pm: Transport back to the hotel
9:00pm: Here writing to you
So the flight simulator was quite fun--I was first and I got to takeoff, fly the plane (to Taipei :)), and land. Landing was definitely the hardest. Liga Dekmejere, who was one of the five in the "plane" went second, and I thought she was great--until the landing. She landed too hard, the plane bounced and was going up again, so she panicked and threw the plane down, and we crashed. So actually, I should be dead, but it's a miracle I'm still here talking to you! ;)
I'm really happy that the USTA let me blog for you again. It's kind of like stress relief--you know when you write in a journal, it's easier to let go of your feelings? Except this is read by a lot of people--or maybe none! It's okay either way :)
I would love to be able to hear from all the readers and fellow tennis players--I will try to sort that out with the blogging team!! Maybe some comments and questions--however, I will ban all critical comments or questions. I am sensitive, you know.
Well I have a long day tomorrow--another two matches (again!!). I hope to do as well as I did yesterday, but I will try my best, either way!!
Cheers! Monday, Feb. 16, 2009
Today was quite a long day, since I had to play two matches (one singles and one doubles). I was actually thinking that this is the first time I've played two matches in one day this year! This is only my fourth tournament of the year, and because I had to play in the qualifying rounds of some tournaments, I never ended up playing two matches in a day.
I was more concerned about the singles, since singles is my first priority, and then once that was done, I would focus on the doubles.
I am pleased with my effort today--I ended up winning both the singles and the doubles--although I felt I played a bit nervously in the singles...well, the doubles too! We were down at least five set points in the first set of our doubles.
I am playing doubles here with Alla Kudryavtseva, and although we played most of last year together, we hadn't played for about four months, so I think we started a bit rusty. I have to mention that she had an allergic reaction to what I believe are bug bites--this morning she came to the courts and her left eye was almost swollen shut! She ended up getting a cortisone shot, so it was pretty serious. By the time doubles came around, her eye looked almost normal! :)
I usually don't like to talk a lot about my tennis--tennis in general, because I feel that tennis should be left for the court (however, preparation is different)--and I used to feel that people judged me for my tennis. Which they still do, to a certain extent, but I feel that as long as I feel I'm doing my best, why should I care what critics think? It's a learning process. :)
So I still get my daily dose of Rock Band in, however, I must admit that I'm getting tired of teaching people how to play. I want to play with good RB players! I don't think I'm THAT good, but (not to be cocky, I'm being realistic) I am the best player out of anyone that I know. I used to play Guitar Hero online, and some of these people were amazing, but for some reason, I can't get online anymore, and RB is a great game for friends!
So looking back, today was really long, and I'm mentally tired, but unfortunately, I didn't get to do much else except tennis. But I guess sometimes these days are okay, when you are a professional tennis player!
But tomorrow should be a busy day, I won't spoil the surprise, but I have no match tomorrow, and my schedule is quite full with non-tennis activities! Just the way I like it! ;)
Cheers! Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009
Hey everyone! I am now in Memphis, Tennessee. I am writing to you from the tournament's indoor facility and trying to scarf down some Cheez-its because I am starving. I arrived Friday night and this week am staying at the Hilton Hotel. I was worried before I came that I wouldn't enjoy this week, because, in my opinion, when you play indoors, you feel like you are playing in the evening all the time, therefore, I get headaches, sleepy, and grumpy when I am indoors too long. However, I was sick last year when I came to this tournament so that might affect my reasoning! It must be the Cali-girl in me ;)
So I had my first two practices in yesterday, and I felt pretty good out on the court, so hopefully that will translate well for my match tomorrow! I play my first round in singles and doubles tomorrow. However, even BIGGER news, is that this tournament has ROCK BAND. I love Rock Band. I think everyone in this tournament knows that by now. I'm not sure if they think I'm amazing or just crazy, but I wasn't able to play for three months, so I was desperate to play. I have to admit, that no one has the guts to sing! I have convinced some people to buy the game though..a big accomplishment!!
So yesterday, I practiced two hours tennis, two hours eating, and four hours Rock Band. This is the glorious life of a tennis player! :)
Today I just practiced once so I can have enough rest for tomorrow. I only practiced Rock Band a half an hour this morning, and now the Rock Band is gone, so maybe it's broken?? I would be devastated! :(
I'm sorry I have to cut this short now, because I'm off to get myself a massage...I'm telling you, this tennis life is tough ;)
Cheers! Read Vania's blog from the Dow Corning Classic in Midland, Mich.