From San Diego to Mexico: Jacqueline Cako’s last three tennis tournaments of 2017
After the doubles final in Surprise, it was time to pack up and drive to California for the next tournament. My coach, Joel, and I ended up arriving at 11 pm after a 6-hour drive so I was exhausted. Our housing for the week was Karen Schillinger who has been nice enough to house us a couple times. I was excited to see her and her adorable dog named Norman and to see her new Doberman puppy which couldn’t seem to sit still at all.
After a good nights sleep, I got a light hit in on Monday. During the doubles final in Surprise my ab/side starting hurting on my serve so I tried to take it easy and not hit serves to give it a rest. I asked for a Wednesday start which I received in the hope that my ab would be better. I’ve never pulled an ab so I had no idea what it should feel like, but it worried me since Tuesday it felt worse in practice. At this point I was hoping for the best and that I would be able to play my match the next day.
In the first round, I played Astra Sharma from Australia. I got a good warmup in but I had to modify my serve to be able to hit them without a ton of pain. Once I got into the match things were just off. I started slow, which I have a tendency to do but I couldn’t work my way into points. I couldn’t turn and load on my forehand so I was dumping balls into the bottom of the net. I had no strength and I was in a lot of pain so I actually called for the trainer. She told me I should just retire since ab strains are nothing to mess around with. I was supposed to play the WTA in Acapulco the next week and if I had retired things would be more complicated to get me cleared to play if I even decided to go. I lost 6-2, 6-2 but was more worried about how bad my ab was since I knew I couldn’t continue playing like that.
I didn’t enter doubles since I had been planning on playing singles qualifying in Acapulco which was set to start on Saturday. If I lost my singles match I didn’t want to be waiting around for a 25k doubles tournament that wouldn’t help my doubles ranking at all. That left us with the decision about whether we would go to Acapulco or not. The trainer wanted the doctor to take a look at me so we ended up staying Thursday to get a professional opinion. The doctor I saw is an osteopath who had fixed me up a couple times at different tournaments so I knew it would be worth it to get him to check me out. Within five minutes he figured out that I actually didn’t pull an ab muscle but instead had a rib severely out of place that was digging into my side, which would explain why I was only getting worse with each day. He moved my rib back into place and told me I should be ok in 2-4 days, but that I should take it easy for a couple days since it was going to be sore. I was sore but it felt a lot better so we made the decision to fly down to Acapulco Friday morning.
WTA Acapulco, Mexico
We left our car in San Diego where we walked across a bridge into the Tijuana airport. Tijuana was the only airport in the area that had direct flights and they were also the cheapest so it was a no-brainer. We ended up landing at 4 pm and went to the hotel to check in and grab some food before hitting the courts for a light practice. Although my rib was sore, I could feel that everything was moving much better. The qualifying draw came out and I was set to play Jill Teichmann the following evening. The tournament in Acapulco gets treated as if it’s one big party so matches start and 4 and many times go into the early morning which is kind of cool. It is one of my favorite tournaments since the hotel is right on the beach and the tennis courts are at the hotel. It’s a well-run tournament in a beautiful place so there isn’t much more that you could want.
The following day about an hour before matches began I found out that my opponent had moved into the main draw so I was going to play Deniz Khazaniuk who was an on-site alternate instead. I went on for my match under the lights and felt pretty good going into it. I still couldn’t serve normal because of my rib, but I thought that I would be able to make it work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t as my opponent came out blasting winners left and right throughout the first set. In the second I had some chances as she started to cool off and miss a bit more, but I wasn’t able to gain an advantage. I wasn’t playing very well and the lack of practice during the week showed. I knew going into the match that my rib wasn’t going to be at its best so I tried to not dwell on the loss too much and to turn my focus to doubles.
My doubles partner for the week was Nicola Geuer from Germany. We had played pretty well together in the past so I felt good going into the tournament. She arrived on Saturday so we were able to start practicing together on Sunday to get some team chemistry going. We also went to the player party together on Sunday night, which is known for being an all-white party. Last year I had no idea, but this year I came prepared. It was an awesome party on the beach, complete with live music and tons of great seafood.
Our first round doubles match ended up being scheduled for Wednesday so we had a lot of time to practice and play doubles points against different teams. By Monday I could finally serve normal which was very exciting for me. It was a relief that I didn’t pull an ab and that the rib only took a few days to heal like the doctor said. We played my friends Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria in the first round who have played a lot together throughout college and now after as well. I was excited to play under the lights and finally play our first round. We didn’t capitalize on our chances to break early on and lost a few deuce points that cost us the first set 6-3. We did a better job of executing our game plan in the second where we started being more active at the net. We had many chances to gain the upper hand in the second but got a bit unlucky on some of the deuce points. Overall they played well and we didn’t execute in the key moments so we lost the second 6-4. I was sad that our time in Acapulco was coming to an end since it is such an amazing place, but I know I’ll be back again next year!
The following day it was time to fly back to Tijuana to walk back across the bridge to the United States and pick up the car. We ended up staying a couple extra days in San Diego to wait and see who was getting the wild cards into Indian Wells. Once I found out that I didn’t receive one we went back to Arizona to train for the week before heading back down to Mexico for another tournament.
25k Irapuato, Mexico
Since my next few tournaments were going to be played at altitude we decided to work on my serve and volley a bit more to get some easy points. In altitude, the ball flies a lot more making it more difficult to return especially when someone is charging in and applying pressure. I was playing well in practice so felt ready to return to Mexico again.
We arrived three days before the tournament was set to start to adjust to the altitude. The city of Irapuato is a few hours north of Mexico City and at 5,600 ft above sea level. I would barely touch the ball and it would sail long so it was nice to have some extra time. We stayed with a lovely housing family, Elisa and Leif who lived on the golf course of the club. They were very welcoming and a short walk away from the tennis courts.
I was playing great by the time I played my first round of doubles on Monday. I partnered with fellow American Maria Sanchez and we played against Alexa Guarachi and Erin Routliffe. The match went back and forth a lot since we went down 3-1, but then went up 5-4 and had chances to go up 6-5. We ended up losing the set 7-5 though. In the second we went down early and weren’t able to break back in time and lost the set 6-4. They also eventually won the doubles title. It was a tough match but I was volleying and returning great so I was optimistic for my singles.
In the first round of singles, I played Andrea Renee Villarreal from Mexico. I started off playing great and coming forward a ton to give me a 5-1, 40-0 lead. From there she hit some good shots and I lost a little momentum but was able to close out the set 6-3. In the second set, she picked up her game and held serve throughout the set. The wind picked up a bit and I struggled with my serve. All it took was one bad service game on my part to go down 5-3. I ended up losing the set 6-3, but I came back in the third with a vengeance and played the way I did in the first set to win the match 6-1. I was happy to finally win my first singles match of the year but was in no way satisfied with my performance. We went straight to the practice court to sharpen up my game for my next match.
I had a day off before I faced my next opponent, Alexa Guarachi. I was determined to take her out after losing to her in doubles a few days prior. I started off slow going down 4-1 before I began to make more balls and force her to run more. I rolled off four games pretty easily to get me to 5-4. She battled back, but I found myself up 6-5 and once again wasn’t able to close out the set. In the breaker, I played solid to go up 5-3, but then missed some shots because of the wind and just didn’t play aggressive enough to capitalize on short balls to close out the set. It was really frustrating. In the second I went down 4-1 again before I regrouped. I had my chances and played my best singles match so far this year but still lost the second set 6-4. The loss hurt a lot since I am playing so great in practice and although this was the best I had played in a match, it was nowhere near the level I had been playing in practice. I know I’m doing the right things so hopefully, it will all come together in my matches really soon because I really hate to lose.
That night we flew back to the States so that I could head to Orlando for a week and a half to train before my next tournament in Monterrey. I’m happy that I was able to stay and hang out with the Ahlers while I trained. They’re an awesome family that I met in Buffalo years ago when I played a tournament there and in the last few months, I’ve reconnected with them. I’m so grateful that tennis has brought so many amazing people into my life. This journey really wouldn’t be the same without everyone I’ve shared it with over the years. It is like a little slice of home everywhere I go.
In Orlando, I did a lot of fitness and mainly practiced with Irina Falconi since she is also playing Monterrey. I put in a lot of hard work so I feel I’m ready to play the next series of tournaments. So far I haven’t played more than two tournaments in a row this year so I’m excited to get a few more under my belt and try to get into a groove. I’m in Monterrey now so hopefully, it will be a good week!
Also, want to thank Chris Whiteman for his continued support. Means a lot to me to have good people along for my journey through the tennis world.