Christina McHale enjoying Fed Cup practice in Kharkiv.
© Ron C. Angle
Christina and Mary Joe's golf carts in Ukraine.
Christina McHale defeated Lesia Tsurenko on Day 1.
© Ron C. Angle
Christina McHale wrote a blog exclusively for USTA.com as she competed with Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens, Liezel Huber and Jamie Hampton on the U.S. Fed Cup Team for its World Group Playoff in Kharkiv, Ukraine April 21-22.
Our whole team is really excited about making it back to the World Group! Both our ties this year were great and I'm really happy with how they both went. It has been a lot of fun this week, as Fed Cup always is, and I'm so happy that we met our goal.
I have to catch my bus to my flight home now but thanks to everyone for your support!
Today overall was a great day for the U.S.! I won my match in three sets over Lesia Tsurenko and then Serena beat Elina Svitolina to give us a 2-0 lead. Overall I thought I played well and I am just really happy to have pulled that one out because it was tight.
Serena played really well and now I play Svitolina tomorrow in the second match of the day. I am going to have to try and be a little more aggressive and stay really focused like I did today. I knew who she is but I have never played her before either on the tour or in juniors. I think I moved well today so I am going to make sure I am looking to move more into the court and just pick my targets and with big margins.
But I hope Serena wins the first match tomorrow against Tsurenko and clinches the tie for us! I can’t think too far ahead though. I have to get ready tonight and prepare for my match no differently than I would any other match.
I am leaving Kharkiv then tomorrow night after the matches. Most of the team is leaving with me and we have a six hour bus ride to Kiev to then catch a 5:30am flight home. It works out though so I get home to New Jersey a lot earlier, which is the goal. I am going to be home then for about a week and a half and then I am coming back to Europe to play the Madrid tournament.
But first things first, we’re hoping we can bring home a win for the U.S. tomorrow!
Matches start tomorrow and I play first against Ukraine’s No. 1 player, Lesia Tsurenko and then Serena plays second against Elina Svitolina. I didn’t mind if I played the first or second match because either way I pretty much prepare the same way the night before. The matches start pretty early compared to other Fed Cups so I will have to get to bed earlier tonight and then I am warming up tomorrow morning from 9:30 – 10 a.m., the on-court ceremony begins at 11:15 and my match starts at 11:30.
Since I haven’t played either Tsurenko or Svitolina before, we did a little bit of scouting this week but pretty much I am going to try and focus on a few key things in my game tomorrow and Sunday and then adjust accordingly. It is really nice having Mary Joe on court with me so if she notices anything I need to change she can help me.
Because of the official dinner last night we couldn’t play a team game of Taboo but we had been playing the previous nights and after dinner tonight we might play again. Serena is really good at it and so is Liezel. Pretty much everyone has gotten better since the last Fed Cup in Massachusetts. The Taboo games can get pretty intense but for the first two nights we did just practice runs so we have not actually started our official team competition yet. We were all a little rusty so we needed to practice first!
The dinner last night though was fun. The entire team wore shirts from Theory and I wore some of my favorite Tory Burch Reva flats with my outfit. They are so comfortable. I have so many pairs, every time I go to the mall I can’t resist, I have to get another pair. I brought two different pairs with me here but I always bring them with me to tournaments because they are so comfortable and they go with everything. I have a few other Tory Burch shoes in different styles but they are definitely one of my favorite kinds of shoes.
But anyway, looking forward to playing tomorrow! Go USA!
It was another good day of practice again here in Kharkiv. Today Sloane and I hit in the morning with Serena and we did some two-on-one rotations. It was cool again getting to practice with her. Then in the afternoon I practiced for about an hour with Jamie doing points.
We are starting to taper down a little bit with our on-court practices. Tomorrow we will just have one hit and then hopefully be ready for the start of the matches on Saturday. We still maintain our fitness routines off the court but on-court we are doing more points now rather than a lot of drilling.
In practice when Serena hits against us, she is really intense and for those couple minutes and we have to make sure we keep up so that we are giving her a good enough workout. Sloane and I were just trying to get through the practice! It is definitely helpful just to be around someone who has achieved as much as she has and to see the way she practices and be part of the drilling is very cool.
Off the court, I think I saw Sloane’s coach Roger out there playing golf again. I don’t know if we’ll have time to hit on the actual course here but Roger said tomorrow he is going to play a little and I think Jamie is going too. But I think I will stick to the driving range – that is more my style!
Now off to the official dinner tonight…
We had another great day of practice here in Kharkiv, we did two hours in the morning and then hit again for two hours in the afternoon. We did a lot more ponts today, which was good, as we are are still trying to get adjusted to the court.
After afternoon practice, Sloane and I we were driving in our personalized golf carts up to the clubhouse where we have our meals, and as we were pulling in to go to dinner, we saw Sloane’s coach, Roger Smith, and Jamie at the driving range here. So of course we had to go join them!
Sloane went first and she was really good because she has played golf before. This was my first time at a driving rang and I was actually pretty impressed with my own swing and they have a really nice golf course here. Sloane hit the ball the farthest but mine, I have to say, for my first time, wasn’t too bad. I didn’t swing and miss once! So I guess that it is a positive, it is a success if I didn’t whiff it.
It was weird swinging and hitting at a lower angle but it was a lot of fun, I really like trying other sports. And it is fitting that we try golf since we are driving all over in our golf carts!
I am definitely excited to be back playing Fed Cup! Fed Cup weeks are some of my favorite weeks of the whole year so I was definitely looking forward to coming here to Ukraine and I am happy we made it on the long flight – I came from New Jersey - and finally arrived yesterday.
This is my first time in the Ukraine. I have never played against any of the players on the Ukrainian team but I have seen them play before and I know we are going to need to be ready like we always are.
I have to say one of the coolest things here is that our hotel gave each member of our team and Mary Joe her own personalized golf cart with our names for getting around the grounds from the courts to the hotel to the clubhouse where we eat our meals. I love that we each get our own!
We practiced yesterday afternoon for the first time, Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton and I, and it was good. We did a number of 2-on-1s, we moved each other around, which was great yesterday after the long flight to just hit in. Today we did two practice sessions for two hours each and it was another really great practice. Right now it is about getting used to the speed of the outdoor clay court and sliding on it the right way.
It is a lot different here on red clay from the fast indoor hard court we played on against Belarus in Massachusetts in February and the surfaces we have played in tournaments lately so we are getting adjusted these first few days. Playing on outdoor clay comes at a good time though as it is great preparation for the upcoming tournaments in Europe.
Back in February, we had a really good week of practice leading up to our win, just like we always do. I won my first career Fed Cup matches and I think it helped me for my next few tournaments so I am definitely hoping to have another great week here!