I hope everyone had a great time over the holidays and enjoyed the New Year’s parties with family and friends! For me, being home for an entire month was definitely out of the ordinary, but I had a great time catching up with everyone and spending some quality time with my family. When I’m on the road I don’t really know what’s going on back home and I do my best to stay in touch with everyone, but it’s impossible to keep up with every little detail when I’m not around. So it was nice to settle down for a bit and enjoy the holiday season.
I had planned on posting this a few days ago, but life got a bit hectic and stressful for me my last few days back home. Keep reading and you’ll see why.
Before I tell you where I am and the plan for my 2017 season, I’m going to go ahead and warn you that you will more than likely deem me a psycho and question my sanity. Some of you might even recommend I go see a therapist. Don’t worry, I’m sharing some similar thoughts myself. For the past couple weeks I had been in touch with my friend Matt, a Polish player who currently trains in Belgium. We had been throwing around the idea of traveling together for some tournaments in 2017 when he invited me to come train with his coach for a bit to see how I liked it as well as start off the year traveling with him.
Well, for those of you who don’t know, fast forward to January 8th and here I am- in Belgium just outside Liege. In three days I’ll be heading to Egypt for the first tournaments of 2017. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I said Egypt. Yes, I know I was just in Egypt in November. Now you understand why I said you might question my sanity? While we’re at it I might go ahead and make you think I’m as crazy as possible, so you all should also know that for the time being I’m going to be living in Belgium. If it is taking you a bit to process all of this, I don’t blame you. I’ve been working out the details of the trip for a couple of weeks now so the shock effect has left me. But when I bought a one way ticket to Belgium without a return date, I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting myself into.
Originally, I was debating between going to Florida to meet up with some players I met at tournaments this past year or coming to Belgium to train with my friend Matt and his coach. Initially, I was leaning towards Florida as it was already the end of December and Matt and I had not set plans in stone. But after a day full of skyping and messaging between Matt and his coach and my family followed by a court room style Gornet family deliberation, we decided it was the best option for me to come to Belgium. Before working with this coach, Matt had no ATP points and was struggling in qualifying. They started working together at the beginning of last year and Matt is now 900 ATP, a very big jump. Having a full time training partner, travel partner, and doubles partner as well as a coach that has shown he can help players get results is a huge opportunity. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous as hell about the possibility of coming to a country where I only knew one other person, but that’s where I count myself lucky to have such amazing parents that support me even when I am getting way out of my comfort zone; I’m sure sending their son to Belgium wasn’t high on their to-do list either. My parents and brothers sacrifice a lot for me to follow my dreams and support me 100%, so it’s safe to say I love them more than they could ever imagine. Sorry to get all sappy on you all here, but I think it’s important they know how much I appreciate all that they do.
An unintended consequence of not having this blog posted earlier is I can tell you all about my exciting day of travel! I know it can be hard to tell sometimes, but that’s complete sarcasm in case you were wondering. Initially I was scheduled to take a 2:50pm flight from Louisville to DC and then a 5:40pm flight from DC to Brussels. Well, of course the one day it snows is the day I was scheduled to leave. Ironic it was the day I left because I had been wishing for snow the entire time I’d been home. I think you can see where this is going. My first flight was already delayed until 4pm and wouldn’t land until 530pm, meaning I would miss my connecting flight. Right before I was about to head through security we got the update on the delay and rebooked my connecting flights to a 6:20pm flight from D.C. to Frankfurt and then a 8:00am flight from Frankfurt to Brussels, giving me a narrow window of time to make my flight in DC. After boarding my flight in Louisville, we had to go through the wonderful deicing process, though. We landed in DC at 5:55pm. I had gate checked my tennis bag so after waiting to receive that I sprinted like Usain Bolt through Dulles airport trying to get to my flight. Little did I know that when we landed the gates had already closed anyway, so my Olympic effort went unrewarded. Instead I was just left drenching in sweat and told to go back to the terminal I had just hightailed it out of to rebook my flight.
The drama ends there, so enough with the details. Long story short, I rebooked my flight, again, and made it to Brussels the next afternoon. There was a little snafu with my bags not being delivered, but that was no surprise considering how many times I had to change my travel plans. They arrived on a later flight though and were brought to me that night.
I had my first practice with my new coach, David Zwyrtek, on Saturday morning. Obviously it will take much longer than one day to see how I like things, but my first impression is that he will be good for me. He is extremely intense and full of energy as well as brutally honest which is exactly what I need. I don’t sugarcoat things or beat around the bush, so I’m looking forward to seeing the changes he makes with my game. At this level, it is usually very small things that need to be tweaked, but those small things lead to big results and improvements.
Okay, that’s enough tennis talk for me so I’m assuming it is enough for you too. In case you haven’t noticed from my other posts I like keeping it a little lighthearted and humorous, so here’s my story for you all. After arriving in Belgium, we were headed to practice the second day, and Matt was our “trusty” driver for the day. I use that term very lightly. It had been misting through the night so some of the roads were covered in ice and snow from the cold temperatures. Our professional chauffeur was doing well until we were literally no more than 100 meters from the tennis club. We pulled onto a hill before the last turn and as Matt was coming up David and I started shouting for him to slow down. Don’t panic, it isn’t like he was whipping around this turn at 50 miles per hour, but in the snowy and icy conditions it was still a bit fast so we ended up drifting around the turn inches away from a couple of poles. Luckily we missed, but Matt lost his spot in the driver’s seat for the last 20 seconds of the ride to the club. My grandma is probably sitting there having a near heart attack thinking I almost died in a car accident across the Atlantic Ocean, but I promise I’m okay.
A few more days of practice and then the 2017 season begins. I’m really excited to see where my tennis takes me this year. I put in a lot of work in the offseason with my dad and since Eric Quigley was around we trained a lot together (Eric is ranked 400 in the world right now so I guess he is a suitable practice partner). In only a month, I saw huge improvements in my game, and I know I have not even come close to my potential. Best of luck to everyone in the New Year! I can’t wait to let you know how things are going from my end.