Sorry it has taken so long to write the third edition of my blog. Jay and I arrived back over a week ago and he has recovered and has already flown out to Valencia to work on his preseason with Curt, Ian and Esteban. Last week I completed the 3rd module of my MPC at the National Tennis Centre so this is the first time I have been able to sit down and fully reflect on our time away. I hope you enjoy reading!
Week one was situated in Pune, the conditions were difficult and it took Jay some time to adjust to the altitude, balls, courts, conditions and time difference, (5.5 hours ahead/ less sleep)!
Week 1 matches started with an epic 3-hour battle against Mario Vilella Martinez world ranked 393. Jay didn’t get off to a great start but managed to work his way into the match before a gruelling third set. Both players were starting to flag due to the heat and cramp started to set in, at one stage Jay was serving underarm, his opponent had the opposite idea and decided to hit harder. The level wasn’t pretty, in fact far from it, but these matches are what Jay lives for. He is at his best when pushed to the maximum to compete and fight hard. He has an excellent three set record and I put this down to his relentless/resilient mind-set, he simply refuses to give in. He won the match 6.4 in the third set and it was a huge step in the right direction for this trip. It set the tone of what others could expect and also it was Jay’s first main draw Challenger win abroad. After some serious R&R Jay had a day of rest where he helped me film some footwork patterns for my MPC Course. I have attached the slow-motion version and also some hilarious outtakes 😂!
The following day Jay stepped back on the court replenished and ready to take on 7th seed Evan King. Jay played a fantastic match from start to finish and took down the seed 6.3 6.4, it was one of the best performances I had seen from Jay since Wimbledon.
The following day Jay took on the home favourite Yuki Bhambri, it was a tough match. Jay never really settled and found his level but to be fair Yuki didn’t let him and showed every reason why he was a former top 100 player. Jay was outplayed on the day and Yuki went on to take the title in Pune.
We flew on to the next event in Bangalore, we arrived and the club sat at almost 3000FT above sea level, that’s some serious altitude and the ball was flying rapid through the air, but Jay liked the conditions. They were super reactive to spin and his second serve was becoming a weapon. Coming in to the event we had few expectations but to try and do his best at the last tournament of the year. Jay went from strength to strength; his opponent withdrew first round and was replaced by a qualifier. Jay’s match was scheduled for Tuesday, giving him and extra day to practise. He made light work of that encounter with two breaks in the first set and one in second to gain a 6.3 6.3 win. Next up was Ramkumar Ramanathan, the finalist in Pune and an Indian rising star WR 137. The big difference Jay and I have found at this level is that most of the players have previously played Challenger events which are streamed online, so every night we would get back to the hotel after dinner and head onto the livestream website to watch his upcoming opponents and come up with a strategy.
Against Ramanthan Jay played his best match of the tournament, he didn’t get broken once and was super solid from the baseline. He took out the 5th seed 6.7 (1) 6.2 6.4 to advance to his third Challenger quarter final of 2017.
The following day Jay competed against Ante Pavic, a player with a ranking not reflective of his level. Ante had once been top 150 but had dropped down due to illness and is on his way back up to the top having already won a Challenger title this year in the USA. Jay started brilliantly taking the first 6.2 before Ante hit back and took the second set. The match was less physical than the day before but required far more focus as the opportunities Jay had to break Ante’s 130mph serve were few and far between. Jay managed to close the match with a fantastic tiebreak putting every return in play.
Next up Jay competed against Tsung- Hua Yang WR 296 in his first Challenger semi-final. Jay felt quietly confident but again we did our homework and watching some of Yang’s previous matches. Jay started great and got the break to go 3.1 before consolidating and taking the set 6.3. The second set however, was a different story. Jay went 4.0 playing defensively before stepping up and taking back control to take 6 games on the bounce and the win.
WOW… his first Challenger final. We would never have guessed that this was possible so soon when Jay played his first ATP Challenger events in Korea in May and didn’t make it into the main draw (admittedly he did lose to one Matt Ebden who has since broken back into the ATP Top 100). With the final, Australian Open qualies became a reality, before coming to India, we had almost written it off and were busy planning other options for 2018.
In the final Jay was up against Sumit Nagal, Jay has known Sumit for a number of years. They first met 5 years ago when Jay did some training weeks over in Spain. Sumit was a very good junior and Jay had seen him compete in Italy over the summer. On paper, it looked like a great chance, but Sumit was high on confidence having dispatched top seed and top 100 Blaz Kavcic and home favourite Yuki Bhambri. The match was hard fought, neither player played their best but both competed as hard as they could. All credit to Sumit he came up with some huge winners in the third set to get the break. A tough loss for Jay but upon reflection he can be immensely proud of himself, he was adored by the local crowds and had most of the ball kids cheering him on in the final. He didn’t win the match but he certainly won the hearts!!! Sitting back now and reflecting, Jay had an amazing few weeks getting better and better with every match, growing in confidence and has now reached a career high of 219 ATP at just 19 years old! Proud big sis doesn’t even cover it, although he couldn’t get over the line this time, I know it won’t be long before he turns that final result around and lifts his first ATP Challenger title.