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USTA Pro Circuit blog: Irina Falconi

February 14, 2011 07:30 AM
(l to r) Tournament Directors Ryan Boyer and Mike Woody, Lucie Hradecka, Irina Falconi and Executive Sponsor Dan Futter at the trophy ceremony following the singles final.
Playing doubles with Alison Riske.
In action against Madison Brengle in the quarterfinals.
Addressing the media in front of her awesome name card.
Irina Falconi turned professional in 2010 following a stellar sophomore campaign at Georgia Tech and, shortly thereafter, became just the 10th qualifying wild card ever to reach the US Open main draw. At Georgia Tech, Falconi earned All-America honors as a freshman and was the No. 1 player in the 2009-10 NCAA season-end Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings as a sophomore, posting a 40-3 overall record. Following her collegiate career, Falconi moved full-time to the USTA Pro Circuit and wrapped up the 2010 campaign by advancing to the semifinals at the $75,000 event in Phoenix and the $50,000 events in Kansas City, Mo., and Troy, Ala. She also reached the final at the $25,000 event in Rock Hill, S.C., and won the $10,000 event in Atlanta to rise to No. 184 at year’s end. In doubles, she reached four finals, three at the $50,000 level or better. Falconi kicked off 2011 by qualifying into her first Australian Open and is now ranked a career-high No. 156 in the world. The 20-year-old is competing this week at the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich., and will be writing a blog from the tournament. Check back daily for updates!
Do you have a question for Irina about something she wrote in her blog or about the Dow Corning Tennis Classic? Email her here, and she will respond to as many questions as possible. Please keep in mind, however, that due to her busy playing schedule she may not have time to answer all questions.
Monday, Feb. 14, 2011

It's a quarter before ten am on Monday (HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY BY THE WAY), and I'm back in Atlanta. Wow, it feels like forever ago, that whole tennis playing thing.

Well, everyone, it's been fun, it's been real, and it's been real fun. (I can't take total credit for that one.)

I'm debating whether to just go into my whole day or just go through an extensive explanation as to what happened AFTER the match. Let's start from the beginning, though.

So, everything in the morning is the same. You can't change the routine now, ya know? So we're having breakfast, everything's great, we head to the site to warm up with Alison before the assumed "12 pm" final. Once I get to the site, at like 10, I find out the final is at 1... so my initial reaction is, "Haha, they are totally messing with me," and after about two seconds of that, I realize that the final is actually going to be at 1, and then we would have to play doubles. The flight that I had gotten the night before was a complete fail because we would have to drive 120 miles to get to Detroit Airport in time for a 7:35 flight... Do the math---it wasn't going to happen.

Well, I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, so let me tell you a little bit about the glamorous life of a tennis player.

So, the final at 1. It took one break in each set for me to lose the match to a very good player, Lucie Hradecka. Props to you, girl, and good luck in Memphis. You had some great things to say on the podium, and I definitely will be cheering for you when I'm not playing you ;-)

So after the match, I got the news that doubles was not going to happen. The crowd was really understanding, and I told them that Mike and I would play a little mixed, but it wasn't able to go down. After the ceremony, which was, might I mention, absolutely wonderful and well run, I got bombarded with some reporters asking me all these awesome questions. Side comment: I have never felt this short in height before. Every single day, in every interview I read, something about me being 5'4" was noted. Jeff and I thought that was very funny... ha.

Anyway, after figuring out my cash money baby, it was time to hit the road. I said my very sad farewells and took my giant poster with me that said, "We <3 u Irina." I absolutely fell in love with Midland and the people with it.

Alright, so here comes the really exciting part.

On the way to Detroit, Jeff and I were talking about the match and about upcoming weeks, when all of a sudden I get an email from Expedia saying that my 7:35 flight was canceled. I have a mini freak out, I ask Jeff to call them, we get it sorted, and then I'm fine again. We get to the airport exactly one hour before the flight. We get to Airtran, everything's going well, and then the guy looks at me, and this is how it goes:

Airtran Worker: How many bags will you  be checking?

Me: Just one.

Airtran Worker: That will be seven thirteen.

Jeff: Seven dollars and thirteen cents?

Airtran Worker: No, seven hundred and thirteen dollars... And forty cents.

Really? Can I start to freak out yet? Yes, total freak out. I kinda looked at him puzzled, explained the situation, show him the receipt and told him that we had sorted it all out via the phone on the ride over to the airport... It's six forty five.

So my heart starts racing, and Glenda (the other really nice Airtran worker) goes: We have a reservation for you, but Expedia hasn't paid us yet. You're going to have to work this all out with Expedia... It's six fifty.

Jeff calls again, and we start talking to Valerie. She's nice, patient, calm, and she speaks perfect English. What more could you ask for?

Finally, Jeff gets off hold, and she tells him on the phone that she has had authorization for us to go on this flight... It's six fifty.

I kinda light up, and Jeff tells me we're good, and he takes my bag that needs to be checked and confidently puts it on the scale. Glenda talks to the Expedia worker on the phone, and the last thing we hear from Glenda is, "I can't do anything from here. You have to have reservations take care of this..." Glenda finally gets off the phone with Valerie, and she looks at us and says, "I can hold the flight for five more minutes before I won't have any access anymore"... It's seven oh one.

I decided to make the call, look at Jeff and tell him that we're just going to have to buy the flights up front. So as we are walking up to security, we hear the PA say, "Final boarding call for Falconi and Wilson." It's seven fifteen.
We start sprinting. Now people, I don't sprint in airports. I don't like to be in a rush, I don't like to be rushed, nor do I like to be late. I wasn't too thrilled about running around in Detroit with my awesome Uggs. At least my feet were warm.

After about half a mile of running, I got to the gate, and we were good to go. We were able to catch our breath, and we got seated... All was good in the world.

We got to Atlanta, and it was hot. I guess that's why they call it Hotlanta!

Well, people, it has been an amazing week. I've enjoyed every single second of it. You can still send your questions, and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible. Ya'll have been great! Thanks for reading, and Stay Classy.

To Michael Andres:
The transition from juniors to college was very easy, due to the fact that I didn't really play that many junior tournaments. I was homeschooled for three years when I was in high school, so I had to take care of my studies, just like I would have to in college. The practice was more organized, and there was more routine to your schedule, but other than that, you were still traveling and practicing and playing with a bunch of players. The team atmosphere was something that I wasn't used to, which made the transition even easier. From college to pros, that wasn't too bad, either. I was lucky enough to get some pro tournaments in before heading to college, so I knew the gist of what the pro life was about. These girls were playing for money, and the pressure was a little more, but once that part was taken care of and you acknowledged and accepted it, I was in like flynn. Let me know if there are any other questions. Talk to you soon.

PS. I'd also like to give a special thanks to Eric Smothers and Serious tennis for their great stringing service :-0
Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Happy Saturday everyone!

PS. The Portrait of Dorian Gray is supposedly a good book. The best football player to ever live just recommended it to me. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Well, everyone. This is my second Saturday in Midland, Michigan. And to be completely honest, I have loved every minute of it. I'm about to get mushy with you here, so bear with me people. Actually, I'd rather save the whole mushiness for tomorrow since it'll be my last blog entry from Midland :-( Well, TILL NEXT YEAR! :-)

Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about my day. This morning I was able to have breakfast with my housing family for once!! That's the beauty about the weekend.

So yeah, the same routine, the same process took place yet again. Believe it or not, superstitions are everywhere amongst professional athletes. I'm going to go through a few that I've heard of, some that I have (but I won't specify which ones are mine), and some that I just can't believe.

1. The first one that comes to my head is the eating the same food every night if you're doing well. I know a player who ate a milkshake and a hamburger the first day she was at a tournament, and for the whole week she would eat the same thing because she just believed that she had to keep it the same.

2. Wearing the same outfit every night. Since we are all not jacked up millionaires with dozens of the same outfits, there are players out there that will wash their clothing every single night. Even if they are in hotels and stuff, where you have to pay like a buck twenty five per load, there are girls that will commit to an outfit and just wear it every single day. It's pretty intense.

3. Stepping on the lines. There are some girls that will literally go out of their way to not step on the lines of the court. They will literally like hop and skip over them, to just not step on them. It's pretty funny when you watch them from the stands--they look pretty silly, but hey, whatever works.

4. Another one that I've heard is the number of bounces you take before you serve. There are some players who will literally bounce the ball 8 times before every serve. Trust me, if you're on the other side, it can start to get really annoying. But hey, once again, whatever works.

5. One of the nastiest ones I've heard (if you have this one, ya'll should really consider looking at numero dos for some advice) is the wearing of the same underwear for the whole week. And trust me, I know it sounds absolutely disgusting, but trust me, I've met girls that do it. It's sounds really unhygienic, and in all honestly, it is, but the girl that told me this appears to be clean, so who knows...superstitions will get ya.

6. And last but not least, one of my all-time favorites, is using the same racquet throughout the whole tournament no matter what. It may be cracked, the grip might be off, the string might be dead, but there are girls who will just continue to use the same racquet, no questions asked.

Obviously these are just a few superstitions that I've heard, but that was just a gist for you to see where we get it from...you know...the little crazy in all of us?

Anyway, let's go back to my Saturday. After warming up with my girl Alison, I played a Top-100 Canadian who has been having just an absolutely fantastic run in the past couple of months. I knew that she was going to be tough, and she was. I came out victorious, which was great! And just twenty minutes after that, we had the semis of doubles to play. Alison and I took on a team of girls that were playing for the first time together this week. They came out ready to ball, and we were fortunate enough to get the win in a close two-set match.

After a little debriefing and some amazing chili, I headed back home to get some rest and to chill before my coach arrived. Oh yeah, that's right. My coach, Jeff Wilson, decided to hop on a flight from Atlanta to Detroit to be here for tomorrow's match. Isn't that awesome!? Jeez, what you have to do for people to come see ya, huh? Totally kidding, Jeffo.

While he drove from Detroit to Midland, I was once again pleasantly surprised by my housing parents. One, from the chicken parm that they had ready for me to eat, and two, this amazing necklace they got me! I was so excited, I didn't know what to do with myself---so I did laundry. It's a great past time. Ya'll should try it.

So after that amazing meal (thanks, Carl and Helen) my coach picked me up, and we headed to the club for a little scouting before game time tomorrow!

Look forward to the final tomorrow! Thanks for reading, and Stay Classy Midland.

To Mike:
If I were you, I would just bring some gloves and a bucket---so you can go ahead and collect the snow from outside and throw it everywhere. I'm sure no one would mind :-)

To Sondra:
The Palm Desert tourney is in the sights, but if I can get into some bigger events, I would most likely play those :-\ When will I be seeing you?
Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
"It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood," as the late Mr. Rogers used to say. Bless his heart.

Greetings everyone!! You know what the coolest thing about this whole blog experience is? The luck that comes along with it. Thanks, Sally. I didn't know that was one of the perks, but hey, it works!

Anyway, let's start with breakfast. One of the most exciting parts of my day. Unfortunately, I had a lonely breakfast due to the fact that my girl, CMac, left me this morning. :-( Don't worry, guys, I sent her a copy of my blog... In case you were wondering.

So yes, I had my awesome signature breakfast (egg whites and brown rice) before heading over to the tennis center. Before I get ahead of myself, let me break down for ya the process of making my scrambled egg whites in the morning.

1. You have to make sure you have the right eggs. I typically choose Eggland's Best, because of the name, but I'm also attracted to Free Range eggs just because of all the hormones stuff.

2. Ok, second, you have to make sure that you have the right pan---non-stick people.

3. I personally use Pam Olive Oil spray for the eggs not to stick on the pan. (Even though it's a non-stick pan, those things are stubborn little suckers.)

4. Once you turn on the pan to high, you spray it all up with some serious Pam, before you really start to get cracking (no pun intended).

5. REMEMBER: Since you're going to be cracking these eggs and just getting the egg whites, you have to make sure that you have the container with the eggs near the stove along with a plate where you can put the yolks and egg shells.

6. The cracking of the egg is very important. You see, you can crack the egg with one hand, two hands, or you can crack it against a surface to open it.
7. Once you crack the egg (you typically want to crack it along the middle so you can get the yolk to completely fit in one half of the egg shell) you start playing hot potato, but in this case, hot yolk, from one half of the egg shell to the other side so you get every last big of egg white onto the hot frying pan.
8. After you've gotten that last bit of egg white, you go ahead and dump it on the plate. If you're like me, I will just put it back in the egg container to save me the trouble of cleaning out the yolk out of the innocent plate.
9. REMEMBER: Part of the shell can fall inside the mix, so when that happens people, please don't use your finger. That's the stupidest idea ever because you're going to get burned. You know what they say about getting too close to the flame---YOU GONNA GET BURNED!
10. Last but not least, you start scrambling the eggs (it's plural because I eat five egg whites every morning, but hey if you want two, three, six, that's fine by me). You can use a wooden spoon or a spatula. Whatever floats your boat.

Depending on how you like your eggs (whether mushy, or hard) you then empty out the eggs onto the plate. The brown rice part is easy because that's minute rice and it only takes a minute (hence the name).

You dump it all together, spice it up with whatever sauce or spice you might like, and VOILA, you have an amazing breakfast staring at you in the face...
I didn't drift there, did I? I can totally continue on this whole cooking thing, but I guess I should probably talk a little bit about the tennis and all that jazz.

So yes, I played a fellow American today. We went out on the court together (we're good friends) and tried not to talk about fashion on the way out there... or nail polish for that matter. It was a battle yet again, and I was YET AGAIN fortunate enough to come out victorious. Good luck in Memphis girl!

So yes, after that...hmm...after came lunch. Lunch was another exciting part of my day today. I decided to go with the chili and salad mix for lunch today. It was approved by Kimbo, which is the most important thing. I had a nice lunch and chat with the main man of the tournament, Mike Woody. He's such an awesome cat, ain't he? For those of you who haven't met Mike, he is one of the most energetic, nicest, passionate and most humble people I've ever met.
After our talk, it was time for doubles. Alison and I got to the court and were victorious against two tough opponents. Semis baby!

I guess I finished the day relatively early today. At around 5 o clock? Considering the 10 o clock finish last night, 5 o clock was just a fantastic time to end the day.

But wait, my day isn't over! When I got home, my amazing housing family, Helen and Carl, made homemade Chicken Pot Pie! Now people, ya'll read about the spaghetti---that was good. When I tell you this was really good, I mean, it was REALLY GOOD! I even took a picture of it and sent it to a couple of chicken pot pie lovers to brag a little bit of how absolutely awesome my housing is.

Alright, hope you enjoyed reading...I enjoyed writing it as usual. And ps, if you have any questions, feel free to click here. Ask away my good people! I'll have answers! And PSS. I miss my partner in crime, CMac! Good luck in Memphis girl!
Oh, before I go, here are answers to a few of your questions from yesterday:

From Colette Lewis, zootennis.com
Hi Irina:
Your blog is very funny. Could you tell everyone who your favorite comedians are?

Thank you for the compliment. A few comedians that I find very funny are Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Pablo Francisco. Don't really have a favorite. They are all just so good.

From Lee M.
Hello Irina:
Just read an interview with Pete Sampras, where he said he wishes he had switched to a more powerful racquet. How do you go about evaluating and selecting your equipment? Thank you, and have a great day.

Lee M:
Evaluating and selecting your equipment is one of the most important processes for a tennis player. I recently changed racquets. I had been playing with the red and white Babolat, the Pure Storm Tour, but I recently switched to Nadal's racquet, the Aero Storm. One of the reasons my coach and I decided to switch was because of how much more shape and rotation I would be able to get on that racquet. Plus with the change of string, RPM Blast, the results were evident amongst the top players such as Nadal and Schiavone, so it was definitely worth it to try it out. The difference in my ball was obvious, and I really liked playing with the combination. As of now, I don't have weight on my racquet, but I might add some lead tape in the near future to have more action and power with my ball.
Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011
Hello everyone!

Before I even begin, it's been quite a day. It's quite late, I don't remember when I even woke up this morning, I can't remember what I ate, so just bear with me here. This might be quite long, short, I really don't know. Just stick with me here.

Alright, so this morning I decided to sleep in... I wanted to sleep till nine, but SOMEONE decided to wake me up at 8:30 (you might not think so, but 30 more minutes of sleep is a big deal) with a picture message that had no picture on it... You know who you are.

Anyway, had breakfast with Annie (she's my adopted housing doggy for the week, in case you are not up to date with all the characters in my blog) and got a ride to the tennis center to get my first hit of the day with CMac. She had already been up at the break of dawn hitting balls, but she was willing to warm up her roomie. What a sweetheart :-)

So yes, after my first hit, I stretched and got a little lunch. Don't worry, I had a long enough window before breakfast Kimbo ;-) She's my trainer/nutritionist. On the WTA website, I actually listed her as Kimbo "The Ripped" Wilson. Trust me on this one, it's funny. And if you don't believe me... well, that's just too bad. Proof is in the pudding. wtatour.com website people. Check it.

Alright, so after stretching, showering and all that jazz, I had lunch with a couple of my American girl friends, Amanda Fink, Lena Litvak, Story Tweedie-Yates and CMac. We had fantastic conversation to compliment the wonderful food we were all eating. The conversation went from babies, to Valentine's day, to meringue, to the Italian Wedding Soup and a bunch more. The "bunch more" stuff can't obviously be mentioned in the blog... since it's politics and all.

So yeah, after that, I decided to make my rounds around the tennis center, catch up with a few people, get some advice from the ever-so-wise Tom Gullikson, and watch a little bit of tennis. Honestly, guys, I can watch tennis all day. Like, seriously, ALL DAY.
Nevertheless, I knew I couldn't stay in the tennis center all day when I was the 7 o'clock feature match -- I'd be exhausted! So CMac and I decided to go back home and chillax (chill+relax=chillax) before coming back. I got in a fabulous nap before it was time to head back to the tennis center.

CMac agreed to warm me up before my match yet again (what a sweetheart, yet again), and then I decided to grab a little dinner before my match. In case you were wondering, when to eat is one of the most essential and important processes when you're a professional athlete. I knew that I needed at least an hour before my match to eat so I can digest my food, and I also knew that I couldn't wait till after my match to eat because I didn't want to be hungry on court. So I decided I'd rep the chili and a Subway salad before heading on the court. They complimented each other perfectly. Yum.

After eating, it was time to get all ready to go for my match. I played a Top-100 player from Great Britain and the fourth seed of the tournament. I was once again fortunate to come out on top with a very competitive battle that stretched to a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 scoreline. We finished the match close to ten o'clock. It was exciting because I got to toss some balls in the crowd at the end of the match, and I've ALWAYS wanted to do that... So Thanks guys for giving me that opportunity. IT WAS AWESOME!

Alright, so tomorrow will be an action-packed day. Singles NB 12 and then doubles with my awesome and lovely doubles partner, Alison Riske. WHO BY THE WAY, got the Sportsmanship award tonight. Congratulations Ali, you totally deserved it!!!!

Stay tuned, and Stay Classy Midland.
Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011
What's going on world! Irina here with yet another eccentric blog entry for your entertainment!

Alright, so to be completely honest with ya'll, today was a relatively sloooooooooooow day. Woke up, had a hit with my South Carolina sweetheart, Shelby Rogers. I think I'm going to give her the nickname of Ford Shelby... I called her that today, but she didn't really react to it... So who knows, maybe Roger Rabbit? Gimme sumtin people.

Alright, so after my warm up, CMac and I decided to do some scouting and video chatting with a couple of our friends back east, before heading to a luncheon with our very own tournament director, Mike Woody. We had our own chauffeur (Mike himself), and we met to go to Damon's restaurant at around quarter to twelve. Once we got there, we got to order from this fabulous menu, and we got our food in record time. And then, the real party started. Mike introduced us, and we talked in front of about 30 people that were eating at this awesome luncheon. We got asked a LOT of questions, which was surprising because usually you'll get like three or four questions max, but these people were intense! And we loved it! CMac and I were able to really spread our wings in the public speaking world. Not literal wings...well...maybe...since this is literature...somewhat...Anyway! Drifting again.

So, we got back from our fabulous 30-minute debut and decided to watch some very exciting matches! We cheered for a couple of Americans that were playing today and had some popcorn along with that... "Not too salty," CMac might add. The popcorn just made it more enjoyable, due to the fact that watching tennis can be very stressful. I don't know about you, but when I watch tennis, I feel like I'm more nervous than when I'm actually on court playing a third-set tiebreaker in a hundred degree weather. But hey, that's just me.

After some solid match watching and analysis and scouting and cheering, we decided to go home. Yeah, it was four o'clock in the afternoon, and we decided to go home. We really were just ready to relax and get away for a little bit. Now don't get me wrong, I personally can spend an ENTIRE day at a tennis center watching matches and such, but, a little birdie gave me a hint about the fact that I might be playing a feature match tomorrow in the evening, so that just sealed the deal.

We came home, chilled, watched "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "King of Queens" before we decided it was dinner time. So guess what we had? No seriously, guess. Did you say spaghetti? Cuz we TOTALLY had spaghetti leftovers! Our angel of a housing mom, Helen, decided to make us an oven roasted chicken dinner and from there, we were golden! We ate and ate and ate some more (nah, we didn't eat that much) before we cleaned up and had yet another heart to heart. After a solid hour of that, we decided to have a little piano lesson. Now, I can't say I'm very good, but I did teach myself how to play some, which then trickled down to teaching CMac a little sumtin sumtin. She perfected "Joy to the World" and about the first 10 notes to "Fur Elise." It was quite a feat.

After that, CMac announced it, "Alright, I think I'm ready to catch some z's." And that, my friends, is how the cookie crumbles. Till tomorrow! Peace and blessings :-)
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011

Well, a hello to you, my avid blog readers!

Let's see, the songs that I'm thinking about that would describe this day perfectly are: "Celebrate," "Beautiful Day" and "I Gotta Feeling." Yeah, that's about right.
How are you guys doing? Me? I'm just perfect! Today was a heck of a good day, and it wasn't just the homemade spaghetti that my amazing housing mom, Helen, made for CMac and me, but it was a solid day of tennis, as well! No, but seriously, Helen, that spaghetti was unreal. Thanks for the whole wheat. That really sealed the deal.

So, yeah, let's start with breakfast. Actually, maybe not that far back... warm up would be quite sufficient. My fellow college friend, Caitlin Whoriskey, was nice enough to warm me up this morning at the crazy hour of nine (trust me, that's early to some people). So, yeah, we warmed up, and then the main-draw matches finally took their places on the courts. Just letting you guys know a little cool fact about this tournament: there are 15 American players in this tournament. Mister Gully and I were talking about that today! Eleven were originally in the main draw, but the four qualifiers that made it were all Americans. How absolutely fantastic is that? I'd say that's pretty darn great.
Anywho, after my warm-up with CDub, I got all dolled up and ready for my match. I was second on today, which means that one match had to go on before my match was to take place. At about 11:30, things really got rollin' like a Midland snow drift in February. I went on court, and I played against a former Top-100 player from Great Britain, who is just an incredible competitor. I felt fortunate to come out on top!

After the match, I had some time to get some grub and catch up with my friend Madison Brengle to talk about the latest fashion and what colors are in style. Purple is the new 20-year-old pink! Subway did me good, and after that, my good friend Alison Riske and I were to play doubles against some fellow Americans. We played a tough team and were fortunate enough to get a win in the third-set tiebreaker.
Let me tell ya'll something, doubles is all about communication. And the one thing Ali and I can do, man, we can get to talkin'. It was our first time playing, and I personally had a ball, a snowball -- it is Midland in February after all. P.S. The temperature in the car read 0 degrees this morning. I just felt a need to mention that. Ok, great.

After some stretching and a little briefing of our doubles with Ali's awesome sister/coach/bag carrier/masseuse/travel agent, Sarah, I headed home with my girl CMac for our special homemade dinner that I will just continue to brag about for the rest of the week and probably the rest of the year whenever I eat spaghetti... whole wheat spaghetti, that is.

With spaghetti in our tummy, CMac and I had a little R and R, followed by a Heart to Heart before we called it a night. Talk to ya'll tomorrow! Stay Classy, ya'll!
Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

Wassup Michigan! And the rest of the world! (Half of the people that read this live in Midland... the rest are family members and people that know that my writing is absolutely fantastic and have a huge desire to read my entertaining blogs.)

So I took a day off today to do some ice fishing on Mackinac Island...

I wonder how many of you actually believed that statement above. Well, I thought it was funny. And besides, ice fishing is something I do in my free time anyway. Nothing like sitting around in a box with no light and no heat on a frozen lake by yourself... All right, I'm drifiting here.

Ok, so this morning, CMac and I were able to hit for the first time since Australia. (Doesn't that sound so cool?) We went through our routine (that I specifically described in detailed fashion if you scroll down to yesterday's blog), and then we went to chill a little bit before I had my first real live press conference! Whoop whoop! It was so exciting! I was accompanied by three other players and the wonderful Mr. Tom Gullikson.

So yeah! The questions were all about how we go from tournament to tournament, who takes care of all the arrangements, what it takes to win matches in this era, and what keeps bringing players back to this tournament! Mike Woody, our tournament director, was fantastic, and we all felt really special up there with those awesome name cards. (Something about name cards just makes you feel so special... I honestly don't know how to explain it.)

After that, I was able to get a quick Subway sandwich before heading out on the court once again with a new buddy of mine, Miss Shelby Rogers. P.S. Shelby, if you're reading this (which I assume you are), that snowball fight is on like Donkey Kong!

A solid hour and three minutes later, it was time to see the most exciting news of the day -- the schedule of play. Now, Dessie Samuels and Billie Lipp, our ITF supervisors, are just wonderful. They treat us like one of their own, and they provide us with everything we need. We players usually just bug them about schedules and new balls, but still, they get a lot of love from us.

I found out the schedule and then decided on what time my warm up would be. And Trice Capra, trust me, I want to hit with you, but you always text me after I'm all booked. You gotta get with me early, girl! (I told her I'd write about the fact that she's asked me about five times to hit, but I'm always set. She actually texted me today saying: "I know you're tired of me asking this... but do you have hits for tomorrow?")

People, let me tell you, getting hits and warmups can be such a grind sometimes if you're not rooming with another player or if you don't have a coach.

OK, so after setting all that up, CMac and I went back to the Gibbons' crib to get some R and R before the big party! The Midland Classic Player Party!

The food was great, the girls were dressed up, and the people were super friendly! Mike told us that we were mandated, by him and the rest of the sponsors, to strut our little (well, I'm the only little one here, but that's ok) selves up on that stage, and introduce ourselves. He also said that if we really liked to talk, we could rap or do stand up for a few minutes. It was encouraged, not mandatory, which was nice to hear for all of the players.

Even though it wasn't obligated, we all ended up doing a little stand up on the stage. Every girl on the stage made a note to thank the sponsors and the community for hosting us and putting this tournament together. And, once again, we cannot thank you enough, everyone!

A few paparazzi pictures and handshakes later, we were off home to get some shut eye before our matches tomorrow!
Goodnight everyone! Send some prayers this a'way!
Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
Hello again! 'Tis Irina!

So, apparently, some football game was today. It was these Green guys against these Yellow guys... And I think the Green guys won... No big deal, it was just a football game...

ANYWAY, OTHER THAN THAT, today was a fun-filled day with my roomie for the week, "the one and only" (according to her) Christina McHale! We had a great breakfast where I was looked at funny because of my egg whites and brown rice and sesame dressing sauce that includes my breakfast. Can't forget the pineapple tidbits, either.

So we headed to the club, where we both had some early hits with some fellow talented Americans, Coco Vandeweghe and Amanda Fink.
If you're curious as to how practices are held, let me break it down for ya:

1. You start off with the enhanced but short warm up (because if you're a pro, you've already warmed up before stepping on the court).

2. Mini tennis for a few minutes (I could spend hours doing this, but I guess that's not really how the matches go).

3. Hit down the middle for about 10 minutes (yeah, there's really no more to that).

4. Crosscourts from both sides (and, of course, you should always be nice and ask if the person is ready. Don't just strut to the other side... that's just rude).

5. Volleys (and overheads, swinging volleys, back to the future shots -- when you hit the ball over the net and when it bounces the second time, it's back on your side).

6. Serves (on all 6 spots of the service boxes).

7. And, last but not least, a couple of points (whether it be baseline games, service games or tiebreakers).

And that concludes a hit. A warm-up prior to a match, though, usually consists of everything but number 7. Don't ask why, that's just how we do it.

Phew, so after that "hit," I waited for CMac to get some lunch. Which is, might I mention, PROVIDED by the tournament, FREE OF CHARGE. You don't hear that every day. Free food for athletes? Yeah, good luck.

After our feast, the most fun part came -- sitting and waiting. We both had hits later in the day, so we decided to just hang, watch matches, talk to other players about how New Yorkers are different from... New Jersey-ans? (help me out on that one). We also had the chance to talk to the one and only Tom "Gully" Gullikson, who just happens to be a Packers fan. (GO PACS! I'm just saying that because they won. Take it easy Steelers fans.)

So, yeah, after some solid waiting, AND WATCHING THE SNOW COME DOWN -- I love snow! I haven't seen it in years, and the fact that I was able to experience falling snow was absolutely amazing! -- Sanaz, CMac and I went outside and took a picture while it was snowing... and in shorts... pretty fantastic!

Then that time came where we had to go through our routine again for our second hit of the day. After our hits, we decided to go home and say bye to our housing family. :-(  It was all good, though, because they knew that we were only there for two nights and would then move to our new housing family: The Gibbons! Helen and Carl were just fantastic from the moment we walked up to their meowing cat, Mitchy, and their excited doggy, Annie! They were nice enough to invite us to a Super Bowl party that Helen's sister was having! We decided, "Hey, let's go crazy and watch the Super Bowl!" And we did! The white chicken chili was phenomenal, and the entertainment was just awesome! For it being my first Super Bowl party, it was a great turnout!

Now we are back home, ready to get some shut eye, for an awesome day tomorrow! Goodnight everyone!

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011

Greetings everyone!

Irina Falconi here! It's been a while, huh? Pretty sure the last time ya'll had heard from me was when the USA Collegiate Team went to France and started making all that noise to beat France in the final to win an international title! Yup, it's been a while.

Well, here I am again, in Midland, Mich., this time! A little different from France, but hey, there's about 2 feet of snow here! Beat that, France!

I've been here about 24 hours, and I am quickly falling in love with the little town of 40,000 people that is called Midland. From interactions with girls and stories that circulate throughout the circuit, I have heard nothing but compliments and great things about the facility, the tournament and the people that host the players in Midland.

First off, let's not even begin talking about the facility and the tournament yet. Can we please talk about the service?! How amazing the hospitality is? Miss Nancy Billovits, I hope you read this. Miss Billovits is the housing coordinator that I came in contact with from the help of one of the wonderful tournament directors, Mike Woody. From the first text that we sent each other, Nancy has been an angel! She hooked me up with one of the most wonderful housing familiies I've ever been with: Miriam and Gil Harter. These two folks have that amazing, hospitable feel about them that makes me feel like one of their own. Unfortunately, I will only stay with the Harter family for two nights before I have to move to another family. That wasn't supposed to go down like that, but because I came a little early, the Harter family offered to put up with me or put me up, whichever you like, for two nights. I am very glad I was able to meet these fine people.

So today, I went to the club for the first time: can you say STYLIN? I mean, this town, 40,000 people, has a club with 16 indoors courts, 16 outdoor courts, with plans on getting four more clay courts? I mean, that's ballin right there! I'm just saying.

So I practiced with my new-found friend this morning, Whitney Jones. After hitting on one of the fastest courts on the planet (which is perfectly fine with me), we headed to Quiznos for a little lunch with a couple of more friends from the circuit. When I came back from lunch, I really experienced what all the girls had been talking about regarding this tournament's local outreach. The amount of kids and coaches I saw on the courts was awesome! They were blasting the Black Eyed Peas (awesome, by the way) the whole time, while teaching these young talents how to smack balls around the court! I then encountered a few volunteers from the tournament who were eager to meet me! They signed me up to receive my badge and get me all official and everything (when you get a badge, it makes you feel official -- what can I say? ask an officer) and to offer me tangerines (who can say no to tangerines?).

After some hand shaking with some important people of the tournament, I hung out with some fellow players, Jamie Hampton, Beatrice Capra, Sanaz Marand and Lauren Herring, to talk about politics... NAH I'M JUST KIDDING!

A little before hitting again at 3:30, I used the sweet and compact fitness room that they located downstairs right before you walk out on the court (very convenient, if you ask me) to do a light workout before practicing with the lovely Alexa Glatch. After a solid hit, I did a long stretch that was highly needed, followed with some recovery to get all that muscle to top-notch shape!

Once again, I went back to the table to talk some more about "politics" -- in Spanish, might I add. (Lauren Herring is taking an online Spanish class for school. It's quite amusing, actually.)

Coming back home was nice. I was able to relax, take a long shower, short nap, before dinner and meeting up with my good friend Christina McHale. She was coming from Ft Lauderdale, and her flight was delayed a couple of hours due to the snow, but it was no worries! She was peachy!

Two bowls of vegetable soup later, and we were both ready to get some shut eye.

Qualies start tomorrow!! I'll keep you guys posted on what goes down!! Cheers from the land down... above? With snow? YEAH, THAT WORKS! :-) IF

P.S. Dow Corning, we salute you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for providing us with a great tournament! :-)


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