Vania King blog: Back home in California

Arriving at the Sony Ericsson Open player party
Doing Tai-chi with my dad
My first time on a Harley, at an airport outside of the Harley Davidson store

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 in January. 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 is back home in California recuperating from a foot injury.

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.

Monday, April 6

Hey everyone!

OK, so there is some good news (well, for me). I tried playing a little bit today, just an hour, and my foot felt fine! Well, to further test it, I went jogging on the beach (I tried to do 20 minutes, but it ended up being just 15 because I was so tired), and in the evening I went with my brother to play ping-pong. Actually, it felt a bit sore after the ping-pong because I was running from side to side, dashing across the room and lunging, and I wasn't expecting to move at all!

I'm going to see the doctor tomorrow to get an OK from him, but if all goes well, then I'll be going to Charleston! Well, considering after 10 minutes of jogging I was DEAD, and I was huffing and puffing after the ping-pong -- I don't know if I can last that long, but we'll see! Oh, and those balls I hit to the side fence were a good sign, too.

Yesterday, I went to church in the morning (in North Long Beach -- they do a lot of outreach in urban areas, and the average age of the congregation is 30, so it's a really young and growing church. Note: email me if you are in the area and want to go to church there ;D) and then visited my old church for lunch. I hadn't been there in almost two years, I think, and a lot of the people there didn't even recognize me! I think because I dress differently, and I carry myself differently.

In the afternoon, my best friend Yasmin came to hang out (well, I picked her up from UCLA), and we went bike riding along the beach and rented and watched a movie ("Independence Day") together. Overall, a pretty fun day.

Today was a good day, too. I practiced for about an hour with my dad (just feeding me balls), and other than a few balls to the side fence, a few angry words when I missed, it was a successful practice. Well, my foot felt good (although my legs didn't!), and that was the reason I was there. After practice I went to the beach to do a little bit of jogging on the sand to cool down and test my foot further (but on the deep sand because it's less pounding and more difficult to run in). Usually I can run up and down the beach easily with no problems, but I ran only once down the beach and had to stop. I often wonder if the pain of coming back from rest is worth the rest in the first place! (Well, I think that after I come back from vacation in the off-season.)

I was planning to have a Sacred 2 night, but my brother invited me to play ping-pong at a ping-pong club he plays at. It's located at the church he goes to (we go to different churches), and they play ping-pong Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I was a little bit worried at first because I didn't know their level and I didn't think I was good enough, and while I was definitely not the best, I think I hung in there with the rest of them. They have some funny nicknames. One of them is called "Master" because he used to play on the Vietnamese Olympic team, so apparently everyone tries to go there and get a "piece" of him. I was lucky -- I played four games of doubles with him! (We lost one game -- I admit, I choked; I was so scared to lose because I felt we had to win! Kind of like tennis, huh?)

I definitely did not expect to move (depending on the level of the players, I often plant my feet in one spot and lunge only with my upper body) and definitely did not expect to move that much! I was really sweating at the end.

OK, so I'll answer a few questions now.

Steve asks: How tough it is out there to make a living with your current ranking status? Can you support yourself with the earnings from tournaments?

Hi Steve. I think I answered this question already before, but with my current ranking status, I can support myself with my prize money and sponsorship money (from racquets and clothes), but truthfully, it is very difficult to bring someone else, and if I do, I would probably make very little or break even. If you are in the top 100, you can support yourself and a coach, but probably are not making big bucks. If you are top 50, you are making decent money (especially if you have more sponsors), and if you are top 30 consistently, you are making good money. Not enough to support you for the rest of your life, but I guess that depends on how or if you invest it!

Jason asks: I have a question about the playing surface in Ponte Vedra. They will be playing on green clay. Is there any difference between green clay and the red clay in Paris where the French open is played?

Hi Jason. Yes, there is a pretty big difference between the red and green clay. The green clay is harder and faster and plays more like a hard court. If it gets dry, the top layer becomes very slippery, and usually the court does not have a deep layer of clay. At Roland Garros, I believe the clay is at least a couple feet deep, and it is slower and smoother. Actually, they both have something in common -- both are still uncomfortable to play on! (For me!)

Teresa (Tess) asks: Could you share your thoughts on the pros and cons of playing college tennis vs. turning pro, and do you think that competitive college tennis in America actually limits our players' success on the pro tours at today's level of competition?

Hi Teresa. It is true that there are less and less players coming from college who "make it" on the tour. I think part of it is because the professionals are constantly improving and getting stronger, and in school, you have to divide your attention between studying and athletics, which is difficult. Personally, I really had a tough decision whether to turn pro or go to school. For me, if I went to school, I would play on the team, but my dream of playing professionally would be over. I was not going to try to play after school. So I had a really tough decision on my hands. I ultimately chose (well, my parents chose for me) to turn pro, and because I felt like I was choosing one world or another, the decision really affected my performance for awhile. For me, I like to have things planned out, so I don't think I would have been able to say, OK, I'm going to go to school, see how the tennis is, then turn pro if I'm doing well -- if not, I'll stay in school. That would have been pressure for me.

It depends on the person -- a lot is how much you want it. If you really want to play tennis professionally (and your tennis skill is good enough -- you should be able to match with the other up-and-coming players), then I would say go for it. You only have one life, so do something that you really want to do!

But if you are uncertain, you can either go to school and give up playing professionally, or you can go and see how you do. In terms of pros and cons, I think the only pros and cons necessary are for the people who want to go to school and see how they do, however, they still want to play professionally. For those people, I would say the pros are steady and set practice and match schedules, people to practice with, set fitness programs and (usually) a competitive environment. Cons -- tennis is an individual sport, but college tennis is mostly a team sport, difficulty juggling academic, social and athletic responsibilities (something's gotta give), sometimes there are many players who don't care about playing professionally, so you don't have the same mentality of work, non-specific work schedules (most of the time, you all do the same things practice and fitness-wise) and drama. There's usually drama on a team. Especially a women's team.

There are exceptions. You have probably seen a few of the men coming out of college and exploding on the men's tour; however, men usually mature physically later than women, so a man just peaking in physical shape just out of college might have to compare to a woman just peaking going into college.

OK, so I hope this all made sense!

Cheers everybody!

Saturday, April 4

Hey everyone!

OK, so I'm looking through these Facebook profiles, and some are of those that I used to go to school with, and I feel kind of sad because if I had continued in public school, I would have been part of that. Well, maybe not, since I was very introverted and insecure and used my sharp tongue and "intelligence" to ward off people! OK, so maybe not.

Everywhere I look, people are in and out of relationships, and I must admit, I'm pretty jealous of those that are in ones! I'm so petty, I actually had a thought that I wanted a tall, dark, handsome guy, just to make the other girls jealous (like I am now). Ugh, I'm so bad. I guess this is what you think about when you are sitting at your computer at 12:34 a.m.

Truthfully, I am so bad at this relationship thing. I usually come off really strong, like interrogating, or I'm too shy to say anything. And I've mentioned this "look" that I have (well, Alla noticed it first) -- the "you are dirt" look that I give guys when I'm passing them. And if I think the guy is cute, it's even more pronounced. Seriously, guys, you can't see through that?

OK, seriously, it's when you are passing guys is when I have no idea what to do. I smile at everyone except guys who are near my age or a bit older. I mean, if I smile at them, does that imply I'm interested? And then I glance at them once, look away, then look back and then smile? Because if I stare the whole time, that's pretty creepy, too. Or maybe it's hot. I don't know. I seriously need to get out more. Ironic, coming from me, right?

My family is really conservative (we're Asian, that's my reason), so I never grew up with the acceptance of flirting and dating. To my parents, having a boyfriend was serious stuff (especially for a girl), and there were definite limits to what you could do. Well, basically, you could do nothing. Until 30. OK, 25. And then get married, take your husband's name, have kids to continue the bloodline, and live ever after in a life of responsibility and good standing. Happily ever after may or may not be included.

Gosh, I spend way too much time thinking about this stuff. I always thought those girls that were moony about guys were idiots. And here I am, spending just as much time thinking about them thinking about mooning.

So tomorrow is my last day of non-tennis, so I had better make it worthwhile! Today, I went biking for about an hour and a half. Long Beach has a really nice bike path along the beach that's about (with my very inaccurate mental length tally) three miles long. I initially wanted to just go about half a mile and then back but then decided to go further to the pier. Then when I got there, I decided that I had never seen the kite surfers and went further to basically where the kite-surfing area ended, then went back home through the residential area.

At first I was pretty tired because I hadn't done cardio exercise in awhile, but I felt much better after about 20 minutes. Also, the wind was blowing in one direction, so it made it easier coming back. After my bike ride, I went for a massage. I went to dinner with my parents at one of our family's favorite Chinese restaurants, played Sacred 2 for a bit, took a bath, and here I am again!

OK, and I gotta say -- that picture of me on USTA.com? Well, my face always looks hideous when I'm hitting the ball. Ugh, all those wrinkles! I'm like a pug. I'm going to show you guys a few pictures from the last few months, but I only have off-court stuff. One is from the Miami player party, courtesy of Jessie Balan; one is when I was home before Indian Wells doing Tai-chi with my dad; and one is in the (Charlotte?) airport outside of the Harley Davidson store. I love men on motorcycles -- I mean, motorcycles. (That was the first time I've been on a Harley, and I think it was plastic.)

Ciao!

Friday, April 3

Hey everyone!

Since yesterday was a pretty boring day, I will combine it with today's boring day to make one normal day. Oh wait... boring days are normal days. OK, so it will be another person's normal day.

Yesterday, I got up around 9 a.m. and was supposed to bring my sister to the art store (she doesn't have a car on campus), but we decided to do it in the afternoon.

Now that I'm home, I realize that we tennis players get it pretty good -- financially, at least. My sister has really low budgets when shopping for supplies for her architecture models. She has to pay rent, which is difficult for her since she isn't making a lot of money (she can only afford, time-wise, a part-time job), and she has no time and no budget for frivolities (shopping, movies, etc.).

My mom and I went shopping for a bike today. I wanted one. We ended up buying a Schwinn men's cruiser, since the women's was pink, and if my dad or brother wanted to use it, I'm not sure they would enjoy riding a pink bike. I asked my mom if she wanted to buy me the bike (well, really calling it even since I paid for my sister's supplies yesterday), and she told me, well, after this month (after she gets her rent).

And me, well, I complain about spending money, but really, if I want something, I buy it (within reason). If I want to go shopping, I go. If I want to go the movies, I go. I pay my bills the day after the billing cycle is up, not because I am responsible -- if I don't do it immediately, I will certainly forget. But we have this 30-day period to pay, but sometimes they don't pay on time because they can't even afford it. Especially in these times of recession, people are getting laid off, and they have families to support, and they are used to a certain lifestyle, when suddenly everything is pulled from under their feet. Tennis players are lucky that we still have (most of) our sponsors, since in times of hardship, entertainment is the first to go.

OK, sorry, I didn't mean to turn the topic to something depressing, I think maybe because I'm listening to some relatively somber music ("In Christ Alone," Geoff Moore, and "Divine Romance," Phil Wickham), that I start thinking about these things.

After some self-realization and after personality quizzes, I determined that I have a very analytical personality. Ever since I was little, I had a plan of what I wanted to do in the future. When I was 13, I already was thinking what I was going to do when I was 40. When I was sad, I took comfort in the assurity of my future. Silly thinking, right? How do you know what will happen in the future?

But I still do it, and it's something that I try to get out of -- I want to live spontaneously and happily -- but I often find myself getting stuck in routines and getting stressed if I don't know exactly what things are going to be like.

OK, OK, I totally skipped today and yesterday and went down the philosophical train. Well, that's actually nothing new for me -- I think about these things all the time.

Oh, the big question that I thought about a lot was, "Why are we here? If we were put on Earth for no purpose or for random chance, why are we living? Purely for instinctual pleasure? If so, should we not be no better than animals?"

I wrestled with this question a lot when I was younger because, if there was no purpose, why should we try? If I didn't have my family, if I was all alone in this world, would I have the will to get up and live? Actually, that question I couldn't answer because I couldn't imagine not having my family. I think if I didn't grow up with a family, it would be different, but if I had my family, then lost them -- well, that doesn't deserve thought!

So I ended up resolving the question of why we are here. As you may or may not know, I am a Christian, so I think that God put us here on Earth for a reason. Ultimately, to help other people, but every person has their own way to help others. That's what I concluded when I was 16. However, there were also questions unanswered, like the grey areas, where if your actions helped one person but then hurt another, even slightly or to an equal degree, or if you could save a loved one but by doing so, harm many more?

I remember someone asked me if there was a (hypothetical) button in front of you, and if you pushed it, you would get a million dollars, but someone in the world would die, would you do it? I remember this question was asked to a few of us, and some said yes, some said no. I had to think about it for awhile because, at first, you think it is pure greed to take the million dollars, but if you could use that money to save a hundred people, would it be worth it?

I initially said no but had a rethink about it. I ended up concluding no because I don't think, personally, that it is my right to decide if someone lives or dies. If we are to help people, we should do it with our own hands, not rely on chance. We were asked if the money was upped to 5 million, 1 billion -- and I hope that my resolve is strong enough to decide no.

So I'm really going to go back to my day now. Yesterday, I took my sister to the art store, lunch and then Home Depot. I went to Target in the evening to buy a bathing suit and Sacred 2 (which is basically a classic, mind-numbing, hack-and-slash video game) for my computer and was looking for a bike at several places but didn't buy one. I ended up buying one today.

Today, I woke up at 11 a.m. (I was playing Sacred 2 late last night) and read the Kate Daniels series (by Ilona Andrews) third book, "Magic Strikes." I don't know if I've raved about this series before. I think I have, but I don't understand how every book she writes seems to get better, even when the first was already amazing. I played a bit of Sacred, as well, and in the afternoon went to buy the bike. So my days are pretty boring!!

So ladies and gentlemen, I'll leave you to your own devices now!

Cheers!

Wednesday, April 1

Hey everyone!

My phone is finally working. Apparently all I needed to do was take out the battery and call *228 to activate it, and presto! The sound comes back. The last few days when I called or answered calls, I couldn't hear anything, and neither could the receiver.

Today I took my mom to the doctor's office in the morning, then we went to Cerritos to have some lunch (dim sum), boba milk tea (with small bubbles) and a pastry at the Chinese bakery.

After lunch I went for a very strenuous facial, did some shopping at Costco, had dinner and then, again, had a strenuous massage. I guess my shopping at Costco took awhile, since dinner was right after! I bought some clothes for my brother and some plants for the porch.

So basically that was my day, and nothing new happened! Will keep you guys updated on the stresses of my daily life tomorrow :)

Cheers!

Tuesday, March 31

Hey everyone!

You know how I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't been home for so long? Well, I got my wish! Now I'm home a lot -- except this time, not playing!

Actually, I know it's kind of bad, but I am enjoying not playing -- at least for a little bit. Don't be horrified! My biggest concern (I think I've said it before), is to not get fat. And since I can't do any weight-bearing exercise, that means I have to do about twice as much to get the same effect.

I got up really early this morning to go to the airport (my flight was at 8:15 a.m.), but I had a really easy, straight flight from Miami to LA. I slept for four and a half of the five and a half hours (and on economy, too!), so it went fairly quickly. I had a bit of a headache on the plane (and today), I think because I didn't get enough sleep, so when I woke up a few times on the plane, I tried to make myself go back to sleep so my head wouldn't hurt! Maybe I should have had a few drinks yesterday if my head was going to hurt, anyway! ;D OK, just kidding. I should be setting a good example! So boys and girls, don't drink or smoke or do drugs!

I've been trying to find some good books lately. I read "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the short story, in about... 10 minutes. It was quite short and not at all what the movie looked like (since I didn't see it but saw previews). I guess to change a short story into a three-hour-long movie, there has to be something to fill in the gaps!

I was reading "Titans of Chaos," the third book in the "Chronicles of Chaos" by John C. Wright. I keep forgetting how AMAZING the trilogy is. I usually can't re-read books until about six months later, when I forget what happened, but I've re-read these books many, many times. I didn't even re-read Harry Potter as much as I re-read these!

Basically it's an action/fantasy/comedy/romance. Basically. Because having four genres is not complicated at all. Well, what I really, really like about it is that there are strong female and male leads. (There are four main characters -- they start as children in a boarding school, but they are in actuality god-types). The storyline revolves around mythological (especially Greek) characters, and the romance is light, sometimes comedic, but heartfelt. Wright is an amazing writer. I don't know if you've ever read James Patterson's "Maximum Ride" trilogy, but it is the same concept, but more adult and mythological themes.

Since I'm on the topic of favorite books, my other favorite series (well, the third just came out, and I have yet to read it, but if it's as good as the first two, it will be amazing) is Ilona Andrew's "Kate Daniels" series. This is more paranormal, undead slaying, gore flying, but with light, comedic romance and some darker undertones. And, Kate Daniels, the main protagonist, is a (very) strong female lead.

So other than my flight back, the rest of my day consisted of seeing my podiatrist (who said basically the same thing as the first two doctors), unsuccessfully shopping for clothes (unsuccessful in that I didn't buy anything), buying boba milk teas, going to the Chinese bakery, grocery shopping, depositing a check at the bank and visiting/picking up the car from my sister's place at USC.

OK, so I'm going to answer a question.

Pam asks: Are you making enough on the tour to support yourself? Do you have product endorsement deals?

Hi Pam. So... does this mean that you're offering?? :)) Kidding, kidding. (Unless you really want to!) At this time, I am making enough to support myself (and I have ever since I've started), but I would say I'm not making enough to be able to retire now and have enough money to support myself for the rest of my life. I am sponsored by Prince for racquets and string and Lacoste for shoes and clothing. Other than that, I make my money the normal way -- by winning tennis matches!

I must admit that my ranking is not at a point where I can really afford an "ideal" circumstance -- having a coach, physio/massage therapist, fitness trainer, to travel with me -- well, truthfully, I would have a hard time with just one! I think if you're looking at the players within the top 100, they all can support themselves financially. However, if you add in the expenses of a traveling partner (maybe family), a coach and a coach's fee (and this doesn't seem like an uncommon situation), money can fly away pretty quickly! So we need to be careful with what we spend.

Cheers everyone!!


Read Vania's past blogs:
Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.
BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
Monterrey Open in Monterrey, Mexico
Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & the Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tenn.
Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich.

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