Hi again…

It’s been quite I while since I last blogged, and I have re-read my last post and it’s quite surreal to see what was going on at that time. In fact, regardless of whether anyone else has read or enjoyed my blogs, I have found it fascinating to go back in time and see where my journey since my injury has led me, and it definitely has been an interesting path (with lots of bumps along the way!)

I don’t even know if I have any readers/subscribers left, but I have been wanting to write again for so long. I find it extremely therapeutic, but the last 18 months have been so full on and such a whirlwind that I just haven’t had the time. But today I have forced myself to make time so that my head can catch up with everything.

First thing’s first – contrary to my website tag line, I am not longer a twenty-something. I turned thirty a few months ago, which I try not to dwell on too much, as I feel like a lot of my twenties were spent coming to terms with my injury and possibly missing out on living and enjoying myself. Anyway, I’m definitely not wasting time anymore, so I will just have to have an action packed decade to make up for lost time!

I also think now is a good time to mention that my spinal injury story hasn’t resulted in the happy ending of me walking off into the sunset. Despite my best efforts and exploits in Miami and China, I have not ‘healed’ from my injury and I am still a full time wheelchair user. And until science finds a cure, I will remain that way, but guess what… I’m ok with it! Obviously I didn’t choose this and I still struggle with it at times, but I am in a much better place than I ever thought imaginable.

The biggest change since I last wrote (and I mentioned it briefly at the end of my last blog post) and the thing that I truly believe has saved me, is tennis. It started out as a nice hobby – playing a couple of times a week and meeting some great people. From then to now a nice video montage would be ideal to summarise everything in a couple of minutes, but I don’t have one, so a few photos and captions will have to do…

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August 2015 – My first ever tennis session. I am very pleased to say that the coach that introduced me to wheelchair tennis has been my coach every since and has been an absolute legend. As well as being extremely talented, he is also very very patient with me. If he hadn’t have taken that first session, I’m not sure if I would have ever bothered to keep playing, but something he said that day made me want to keep playing.

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June 2016 – My very first tournament, where I won the novice division and got my first medal. I was so unbelievably nervous before my first match and just wanted to get 1 game. In the end I only dropped 1 game in the whole tournament πŸ™‚

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October 2016 – Getting to work with GB coaches and an ex-Paralympian has been incredible! This photos was taken during a talent ID process, in which I successfully made it through 2 rounds to be selected for the 2017 Development Squad.

 

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November 2016 – This was my first national tournament where I was in the main draw. I was the runner up in both singles and doubles.

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December 2016 Nationals – I was so proud of myself after this tournament as it really took me out of my comfort zone. I went into the complete unknown all by myself and was terrified in the build up. After losing my first round match, I was in the consolation draw, which I won! It was the most incredible feeling!

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February 2017 – My first ITF tournament (International Tennis Federation) and where I began to build my world ranking. I came through a qualification round and then won my Round 1 match. I then faced the world number 14 and had so much fun playing against her. I even managed to get a game off her! The experience of being the other side of the net to a world class player was such great motivation.

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April 2017 – The week before my 30th I played in another ITF tournament. I reached the semi finals in the singles, and won the doubles with my partner Lauren Jones. The week of my birthday I was number 100 in the world and number 5 in Great Britain πŸ™‚

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June 2017 – my first tournament abroad was in the south of France (not bad eh?!) No significant results as the level of tournaments I am now playing in is much higher, but the experience I am getting is very necessary in order for me to progress. And I am also proud of myself for again going out of my comfort zone and traveling. It definitely helps when the destination is as amazing as Cagnes sur Mer.

Fast forward to now, and I am currently ranked somewhere around 90 in the world and 6th in Great Britain. I am pretty much training full time and traveling around Europe to compete in tournaments against some incredible players. I am also part of the GB Development Squad and get to work with some amazing coaches and strength and conditioning trainers.

This journey has been extremely challenging though, with many highs and lows, hundreds of sweaty hours on court and a lot of tears (mainly out of frustration). I have such a supportive team around me that I couldn’t do any of this without.

I want to use my blog to keep track of my tennis, so that I can look back in the future and hopefully re-live it. I have no idea where I will end up – I have some goals that I have set for myself, my main one for this year was to make the top 100 in the world and number 5 in Great Britain, which I achieved the week of my 30th birthday and was such an amazing feeling. I am now raising the bar a bit higher and am working even harder to try and get there.

Unfortunately, my biggest downfall in tennis is the mental side of it. I really lack confidence and belief in myself and this translates into my matches. I worked with a psychologist earlier this year, which definitely helped (she is now on maternity leave, but I hope to work with her again), but I think my general lack of confidence since the day of my accident is really reflected in my tennis. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I hate the feeling that I am letting people down if I don’t play well, and it all turns into a bit of a vicious cycle. However, I am trying to work on this, and I hope that when I do start to overcome it and manage it better, I can become a much better player. My physical progress in terms of technique, fitness etc has been quite rapid, so now I am taking some time for the mental side of it all to catch up. Then there will be no stopping me!

I started playing tennis because I wanted to be able to play with my family. I never thought it would lead me to where I am now, but I am so glad that it has and I look forward to seeing where it takes me to next. I know that there are going to be many many hours of hard work both on and off court, but I definitely think I am up for the challenge.

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Being able to have a hit with my family was my main motivation behind learning to play tennis. If all of the competing ends tomorrow, I will be so grateful that I can have days like this one. After my accident I thought that I wouldn’t be able to participate in so many activities with my family, but I have been proved wrong!

If you want to keep following my progress, I will be updating my blog much more regularly with my tennis and life exploits. I also have joined the world of Instagram, so there will be more regular updates on there as well. @suzanneedwards87