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Katie O'Brien

British No 2 Katie O'Brien gives her insight into the world of tennis in her exclusive blog for The Independent. Katie O'Brien is part of Team AEGON, the elite squad of British tennis players.

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Rising early and making progress in Paris

Posted by Katie O'Brien
  • Friday, 22 May 2009 at 11:14 am
So, here I am in Paris the night before I play the final qualifying round with a place in my first Roland Garros main draw at stake. I'm pleased with my progress so far but I believe I can go further in this tournament. I've been striking the ball well so far this week, which gives me confidence going into my match tomorrow. However, it hasn't all been plain sailing so far, but that's standard practise for me, as I'm sure those who follow my matches regularly will testify!

I was less than impressed with being scheduled to play my first match at 9am yesterday. For tennis players, that's ridiculously early and in no other tournament have I experienced a start that early. I felt like crying when my alarm went off at 6am yesterday! I'm used to getting up early, but I'm rather slow to function properly in the morning.

Having said that, things started well for me in my first match against a French wild card. Almost too well, in fact! I was leading by a set and 4/0, when I temporarily went walkabout and offered my opponent an open invitation back into the match. The second set turned into a bit of a dogfight, which I ended up narrowly losing on a tiebreak. Thankfully, I was able to regroup and resumed normal service again in the third set. The momentum can shift so quickly in tennis matches, particularly on clay. When playing on clay it's very difficult to earn cheap points, so you have to be prepared to work hard for every single point.

Today, I had to wait a while for the match before me to finish. It's difficult to stay relaxed, as well as focused during this time, but I managed to catch some of Anne Keothavong's demolition job on the TV, and was trying to draw some inspiration from her! I played a really hard fought match against a Japanese opponent, who is a great competitor. I was pleased to win in two sets, enabling me to save some energy in the tank for tomorrow. I don't know too much about my next Dutch opponent, Arantxa Rus. I do know she has been a world class junior and has a lot of potential. However, this will be a new experience for her playing for a place in the main draw of a Grand Slam, so I'm hoping I can use my experience of having qualified for the Australian Open this year to my advantage. I'm just going to go out there and give it my best shot.

I always invite my parents to come along with me to tournaments, but they decline the offer almost every time. They come up with a number of excuses, but I honestly think they can't cope with the stress of watching me play. My Dad always seems to have some unmissable golf event going on and my Mum's favourite excuse is that she can't possibly leave the dogs at home without her. Personally, I find these excuses extremely lame!

My argument is that it's surely much better to watch a match live than following point-by-point scoring on the internet - I know how torturous this can be. My Granny admitted to me today in an e-mail that she was having palpitations watching my match on live scoring! My advice to anyone planning to watch my matches on live scoring is this: don't do it - it's not good for your health!

Sophie Scott, the LTA osteopath, has been at my beck and call this week and is doing a good job of keeping me in a good physical (and mental) state. She's my “coach” this week, according to her credentials. I tried explaining to her today the stipulations involved in being my coach, e.g. carrying my tennis bag (as well as handbag) whilst standing three feet behind me at all times, as well as providing me with adequate food and drink at the click of my fingers. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to be buying into any of it, for some reason!

I'm notoriously scatty and I lose something each week without fail. I've only lost a bottle of conditioner this week, so I'm actually doing quite well so far for my standards. Earlier in the week, I was travelling back to the hotel in a tournament shuttle from the practice venue with Georgie Stoop, who then realized that she'd left her jacket, jumper and tracksuit bottoms at the court. I was about to give her a fair bit of stick, when I realized that I'd done exactly the same thing. We're really not a good influence on each other! Thankfully, our clothing was still there when we returned to the courts later.

I only arrived in Paris on Monday, so I haven't had much of a chance to see the sights of Paris yet. The plan is to have a good look around the city once I've qualified tomorrow, particularly as a shopping expedition for me is much overdue! As Paris is such a big city, it would be a little draining if I chose to venture round the streets of Paris close to my matches. Besides, my sense of direction is terrible, so I'd probably get lost anyway!

I was a little tired tonight, so I went for the most convenient option and ate at the tennis site. Last night, I went to a typically French restaurant with some of the LTA crew. It turned out to be rather nice, but Nigel Sears is ridiculously picky about the restaurants he dines at. He had already decided he didn't like the restaurant last night before we had even been served, purely because he didn't like the floral décor. I'm tempted to make an observation about men in general, but I think I'd better keep my opinions to myself!

Anyway, I'd better get some sleep, so that I wake up tomorrow as fresh as a daisy for the challenge ahead. Hopefully, you'll be hearing more British success stories by the end of tomorrow after the performances of Anne, Elena and myself!

Katie was writing last night from Paris.

Katie O'Brien is part of Team AEGON, the elite squad of British tennis players.



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