My first trip to India
I am in India for the first time playing a tournament in Bangalore. It has been an amazing experience. Our group is me, Serena (she is playing here too and we are playing doubles), my dad, my sister Isha, our practice partner Sacha, and my friend/executive assistant Jessica. We arrived in Banglore late on Saturday night after 21 hours traveling from Miami. We were warmly welcomed with traditional sandalwood necklaces by three of the people involved with the tournament. After waiting for our bags, we took cars to the hotel, The Leela Palace. It is very beautiful, with gardens, many restaurants, and really nice rooms. The time here is 10 ½ hours later than at home, so it was so hard for us to sleep when we got to the hotel.
We decided to practice early to get used to the time here and Serena and I had a good practice the next morning. The first couple days we just relaxed in the hotel because we were all still so jet lagged, and practiced as usual.
We went to the players party on Monday night. This was definitely not like any other players party we had been to. A sari wrapper came to our rooms and dressed Serena and I in saris to wear. Then we all got to walk down the runway stage at the party and show off our outfits. It was so fun to see a different kind of fashion than what I am accustomed to at home in the US. I am going to take my sari home with me, but I have no idea how to wrap it and put it on!
Each tournament week the top players are asked to do a variety of activities to promote the tournaments where we are playing and also the sport of tennis. Every Monday we attend an event that the WTA calls “All Access Hour” which is essentially a media session where all of the local and national media in each market have a chance to interview the top players individually. Each outlet gets 2-5 minutes (sometimes more) with each player and we do as many interviews as we can in the one hour. The media interest in our first trip here has been incredible. The press here really loves tennis (and it looks like sports in general) and they have really made us feel like it is a special event for us to be here. It is always great to see interest in the sport of tennis. After All Access Hour, Serena and I did a special feature interview with the regional CNN network here. Whenever Serena and I do interviews together we have a great time. We always laugh a lot and remember great stories. Sometimes when we are doing interviews like this its still hard to believe that this is our lives. We dreamed about this as kids and even practiced how we would answer questions and now we do this for real!
Serena and I played our first doubles match at 11am on Tuesday. We were so pumped up to be playing together! It is really a lot of fun. We are also working towards playing in the Olympics together where we hope to win another Gold Medal to go with the one that we won in Sydney. Our doubles match turned out to be a pretty tough match, but we pulled out a tight first set 7-6, and rolled on to win the second set 6-4.
Some people don’t realize the amount of work that is required on Tour in addition to playing matches. I am an ambassador for a global partnership with the WTA Tour and a UN-affiliated organization called UNESCO. UNESCO is a think-tank that addresses global gender equity issues. EleVen has also designed a limited edition UNESCO t-shirt where all of the proceeds benefit the WTA-UNESCO partnership. The Bangalore tournament (and the local Bangalore patrons association) is one of the organizations that has joined the WTA-UNESCO gender equity crusade. The Bangalore tournament donated $100,000 to the WTA-UNESCO program and we announced it in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. The CEO of the WTA Tour flew in for this and we also had various local dignitaries attend. A group of local girls also attended and they all wore EleVen UNESCO t-shirts! I love the fact that EleVen is representing in Bangalore! The press conference was great and well attended by the media. In moments like this I see that we are really making a difference.
After the press conference, we stole some time to have fun. We went jewelry shopping, which was amazing! The first store we went to had some of the most incredible jewelry I had ever seen. Some of the pieces had been passed down from generations from Indian royal families and were so unbelievable! There was a really nice bracelet that I wanted to buy, but I try not to make impulsive purchases for myself. I figure if I am still thinking about it this weekend and have at least one sleepless night thinking about it, then it’s a must have! I did find some great bracelets that I got for my mom, which I really liked. We got back kind of late that night and had a nice dinner at a Pan-Asian restaurant in the hotel. I was so tired I went right to bed afterwards.
Wednesday was another long day! After I practiced in the morning, we ate lunch in the hotel and relaxed for a while. Then I went back to the court to watch Serena play. She was playing a girl who got to the semis of this tournament last year and was a tough opponent. Although she got off to a rocky start, Serena won the match 7-5, 6-0! I was excited because we were going to play doubles that night too. I had a short warm up for the doubles match, and then we went on the court. Although we won the first set 7-5, we struggled in the second set and lost it 6-2, and then got really unlucky in the super-tiebreaker for the third set and lost it 11-9. Although we were upset that we lost, we are getting our doubles game in gear. By the time we finished the match is was around 11pm, so we went straight to the hotel to sleep!
I am playing my first singles match tonight…fingers crossed.
She also has her schedule up.