Alla and me in Delray Beach
© Vania King
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. She is currently in Monterrey, Mexico, competing in the Monterrey Open.
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Wednesday, March 4
Just a quick update from Monterrey, since I am on a week's hiatus of blogging! (Don't worry, it's not you, it's me!) I made it through the qualifying draw and won my first round yesterday (I was amazed myself), and finally today I have a day off.
I had a couple of questions, so I wanted to answer those.
I am a high school girl's tennis coach. I often have a hard time getting my athletes to eat well during the season. What advice could you give 15- and 16-year-old girls playing competitive high school sports?
Hi Daria. I think every person's body is different, and it is all about experience to find the right balance. However, as an athlete, I think firstly, exercise is the most important because if you don't exercise, you don't burn any calories, and even if you eat only a little bit, you are gaining more than you are losing.
I am not a really healthy eater, but I really try to limit my deep fried food, cakes, sodas, cookies and candy. Actually, candy isn't as bad (for me) since it only has sugar, and sugar has almost no calories. It isn't too good for your teeth and your mood swings, though!
I would suggest instead of eating three large meals, to break it down into five or six smaller meals. I usually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner; however, I don't eat until I am full -- when I stop being hungry, I stop eating. I continue to snack during the day (fruits, crackers, bread).
Seeing a nutritionist may be helpful, even if just once, because you may not realize how much or little you are eating, or maybe you are eating too much of one category of foods. For example, I used to have problems with cramps, and I saw a nutritionist, and she made me go through my day of eating, and I realized some days I would sleep in and miss breakfast. Missing breakfast, she explained, would not give me the proper energy I needed, especially since I am not eating for almost 15 hours.
I hope this helps, and good luck!
So at what age did you start to play tennis, and what are your first memories of that experience?
Hi Richard. I picked up a racquet at four years old. However, my mom has a video of me batting around balls when I was not yet two, I believe.
My first memories are with my sisters (the three of us did everything together). Sometimes we would have to wait for our brother to finish practicing at night (after school and he played long hours), and we would lie on the court and try to sleep, listening to the sound of his grunts and the ball being struck. I also remember sometimes our parents would leave us to practice for a few hours, and we would hit for five minutes until they left, and then Ivana would tell stories (she was an amazing story teller), or we would unravel the cords that held the net and try to string them across all the courts (there were four courts).
A memory when we were actually playing tennis... I remember we had this milk crate and trash cans my dad used to hold hundreds of balls, and we were supposed to hand feed and hit the ball ourselves. We were supposed to do 10 baskets, and then practice was over. Everyone wanted the milk crate because it was the smallest, and we would try to cram as many balls in our tiny hands and hit as fast as we could (looking back, we might as well not have hit). Sometimes we would hit two balls at a time if our dad wasn't looking.
Life was pretty interesting back then, and we definitely made it fun! (Except every five minutes when we argued and slapped each other!)
By the way, I received a wild card into the BNP Paripas Open (Indian Wells), so I will be playing in the main draw there! To Marcus, I am going to play in Charleston. And to Darren, or "J" (not sure which), thanks for the support! And "for the record," I'm not dating anyone currently. I'm picky ;)
Friday, Feb. 27
Sorry I missed yesterday. I flew at 11:10 p.m. into Monterrey, so I was too tired to do anything! I guess I'm lucky to even be here, considering my passport fiasco! (Btw, it arrived at 9 a.m.)
Yesterday I slept in a little bit. However, I was nervous waiting for my passport to arrive, so I got up around 8:30 a.m. Alla and Chris had to go back to the Mexican consulate to get her visa, so I waited until they came back around 12:30 p.m., and then we went to practice around 1 p.m. Unfortunately, for them, they had to go back to the consulate after practice to pick up the visa (apparently the morning was just finding the paperwork or something). The good thing is that she got her visa!
It's quite common that players, especially from countries like China or Russia, can't get their visas or can't get them in time to play tournaments because they need to give 4-6 weeks notice and sometimes have to turn in their passport, which is almost impossible if they continue to play tournaments! I admit I take it for granted that I don't have to get visas to most countries!
I was picked up at 4:30 p.m. to go to the airport, and the flights were pretty smooth, no problems. Sometimes the pilot can make up time in the air (I've been on a flight where they made up more than an hour, but it was a long-haul flight), but usually if everything is on time, they don't bother.
I was very glad to get into the hotel room because I was pretty tired (Monterrey is one hour behind Florida, so it was really almost 1 a.m. in Florida).
So today I practiced in the morning for a little bit more than an hour, just trying to get used to the courts and the heat! Wow, it was so hot today. I was here last year, although the tournament was in the fall. I remember the courts were lightning quick, the balls flew, and the center court was orange -- bright orange. This year, the courts are quick, but not as quick as I remember, and the balls only fly to the fence, not to the mountains behind! The center court is now a nice blue.
The cutoff for the main draw was quite high, and I didn't quite make it, so I am playing in the qualifying rounds, starting tomorrow.
Oh, I forgot, we went to dinner (a group of us) to celebrate one of the girl's birthdays (Natalie Grandin) at a nice Mexican restaurant, so that was good fun.
Since my match is early tomorrow, I'm going to go to bed now to get ready for tomorrow! Probably another scorcher!
Wednesday, Feb. 25
I'm so tired right now. It seems like I did a lot today, but I really didn't do that much! I think it's mental exhaustion.
So I got up later this morning (9 a.m. -- sometimes, when I am at home, I can sleep until 12 or 1) because Alla and Chris had to go to the Mexican consulate to get Alla's visa. She ended up not getting her visa (much to her chagrin), and while she was gone, I realized I LEFT MY PASSPORT IN CALIF! I had a flight today at 6:30 p.m. to go to Mexico, and I only just realized today that I left my passport at home!! It is such a stupid mistake, and I've never done that before! I had thought before I had started this trip (from home, I went to Florida for a week of training, Midland, Memphis and this week) that after Memphis I was going to go home to California, so I decided to leave my passport at home.
So I had to change my flight until tomorrow. I had my mom send my passport to arrive tomorrow morning, so hopefully everything goes fine, and I'll be in Mexico tomorrow night!
After I finished wallowing in self-pity (again! for the second day!), Chris and I went to get something to eat at Whole Foods and then went to practice in the afternoon. I played two sets and a tie-break. I thought I played pretty well. Right now, before the tournament, I want to get a lot of sets in so I can be prepared for the matches.
In the evening, Alla, Chris, Aneta and I went to watch [Yen-Hsun] Lu, one of the Taiwanese players play in the Delray Beach men's tournament. Although he lost, at least we got a lot of good pictures in! (Of us, not him! Haha!) I'll put up one of the pictures so you can see :)
Since I'm a bit tired, I'll leave it at that.
Tuesday, Feb. 24
Today was a really long day for me. I went to Tarik's academy to practice in the morning (by the way, I can do some shameless self-promoting since it's my blog, so the website is tarikbenhabiles.com).
I would like to say first, before I talk about the practice, that I know it was unprofessional, and it's not how I should prepare! I had a decent practice. However, I only had 1 1/2 usable racquets -- one good one and one cracked one that I cracked yesterday (I only tapped it... I'm telling you the truth! It was on clay, and I think it hit a rock.) I broke the good one in about five minutes, so for another hour I played with the cracked one (which was already warped -- the reason why you can't use cracked racquets) and then the second one broke! I had broken one yesterday afternoon, and there was no one to string the racquets. After I broke the second one, I stopped practice (well, I had no more racquets) and went running for 30 minutes.
OK, so I have to admit, that for a better part of the day, I was depressed. The coach at the academy told me that I was gaining weight! Oh my gosh, just thinking about it gives me the shivers. And I was thinking about that the whole practice and the rest of the day! I asked him where, and he said, EVERYWHERE. I was so sad. I'm still a little sad. He also said that I ran too slow, so that made me sad, too.
In the afternoon, I practiced at ITA with Alla (well, the next court to her). I played a set and a half, and then Alla and I went for a 20-minute run. Actually, we had to run the road loop around the courts. If I can judge correctly, which I'm quite bad at, it was about 2.5 miles in under 20 minutes. It was SO HARD. So don't make an example out of me, but after the first minute I told Alla I was tired. And then every couple of seconds I groaned or cursed. She was trying to motivate me in all different ways -- thinking about boys, real estate, money, cars. It didn't work, but because she kept talking it somewhat kept me occupied mentally. Long-distance running is the worst type of fitness for me. Alla was awesome, though, to not just snap and smack me.
So I feel better now after I did that run. However, I'm still concerned about my weight -- hey, I'm a girl -- so I'll be cautious for the next few weeks and make sure I don't overeat. Gosh, I'm feeling a bit sad talking about this, especially since I just ate half a bowl of blueberries. Gah! Oh, and when I told Chris about the coach saying I gained weight, he said it's true. I look heavier than when he last saw me, which was in Australia! Not even a month ago!!!!!!!! (That really warranted however many -- OK, eight -- exclamation points!) And you know what? He said that he can't tell by my stomach. He can tell by my neck. MY NECK!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!
OK, so I'm not going to think about it any more. I'm usually not that self conscious, but it hurts when people tell me I'm getting fatter! :(
Phew, I'm over that, so I'm not going to talk about it any more!
Question time, and this time, these questions are a bit tricky!
What do you think of the case of Shahar Peer? Do you think that the Dubai tournament should be boycotted by the professional tennis players?
--Rolando from CA
Hi Rolando. I think that it was unfair for Shahar to not be able to play in Dubai, since she had qualified by ranking. I've never seen a case like this before in my short career, so I don't think I'm fitted to answer the question. However, I do know that the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has levied penalties on the tournament, and Shahar (and Anna-Lena, Shahar's doubles partner) received compensation.
In the last year, there has been talk and rumors about players being involved in gambling and possibly throwing matches. Have you ever been approached by anyone wanting you to lose a match intentionally?
Hi Xiaokuo. I have never personally been asked or alluded to winning or losing a match for outside reasons. I have only heard rumors, probably the same ones you are hearing. I haven't heard much of anything about the women's tour, but I know the tour is really trying to crack down to make sure this problem never occurs.
Monday, Feb. 23
Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I was really tired! My day was pretty boring, too.
To sum up yesterday, I practiced a long session with Alla in the morning and in the afternoon went car shopping. OK, so I guess it wasn't that boring. I saw some pretty good deals while I was car shopping but decided to wait until a little later to buy a car. Not having a car is really limiting, though! I went with Chris, and I was so mad that I kept getting these "Asian honey" stereotypes! One lady asked me if he was my boyfriend (first of all, he's married, and secondly, I'm 20, and he's 43), and another guy made a vulgar comment, which totally went over my head. Chris only explained it to me later, and I was soo mad! We went to dinner with Chris, Alla and Aneta, Chris's wife, at a very nice Mexican restaurant.
So today I practiced in the morning with Alla again, and later I was picked up and taken to Tarik's academy, where I practiced in the afternoon. The fitness was really hard -- OK, just one exercise -- where you have to sit like a "chair" on the fence for a minute and a half. I couldn't do it all, I must admit. I had to shift up and then go back down. It was soo painful.
For dinner we had some pizza and a nice quiet evening in. Sometimes you just need those!
I'll answer a question now:
How often do you work out, and do you like working out? What do you do to stay in shape in the season and during the off-season?
-A little birdie (she told me to write that to remain anonymous)
Hey there. When I am in training weeks (not at tournaments), I probably do fitness about five days a week, Monday through Friday, and Saturdays I may or may not do fitness. When I'm at tournaments, I'll admit I've been lazy recently, but if I have at least a day in between matches or a few days with no matches, I'll do a long jog, some sprints, some abs and elastics (therabands) for my shoulders. I'm not too keen on getting stronger during tournament times because I figure that all the work should have been done before I got there, and while I am there, I am mostly focusing on injury prevention and maintenence.
I really do not like fitness (running, especially); however, since I started with Tarik, I have done a lot of running, so I'm getting used to it more, and I am traveling alone now, so I feel more responsible for my own tennis, and I know that I need to do fitness to stay in shape. Plus, if I get a bit chubby, I panic and do fitness a few days in a row until I feel normal again!
Read Vania's past blogs:
Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & the Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tenn.
Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich.