Martina Nejedly and Brittany Blalock talk about their experience at Indian Wells
No luck for local talent
Valley duo falls short in bid to qualify for women’s draw
By Rick Davis
INDIAN WELLS -- For a couple hours Monday afternoon, Martina Nejedly was back on familiar turf and enjoying herself -- even though the task at hand was especially hard work under an unforgiving hot sun at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The 28-year-old Palm Springs resident returned to the women’s professional tennis wars for the first time in four years, but the occasion was bittersweet. A renewed chance to compete in her favorite sport at a high level was offset by the result.
Nejedly lost to a 19-year-old Australian named Samantha Stosur 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a first-round match of the two-day qualifying tournament that feeds its best 12 players into the women’s singles main draw of the Pacific Life Open.
"The best part of the match was the feeling of just being out there on the court as part of the tour," said Nejedly, a native of the Czech Republic who grew up in Canada and moved to the Coachella Valley 11 years ago. "And the feeling of playing a good, competitive match. I’m disappointed it’s over. I’d like to play the whole thing again."
Nejedly was one of two local players receiving berths into the PLO qualifier. Palm Desert High School sophomore Brittany Blalock, the other one, also lost with her result more one-sided -- 6-0, 6-1 to Severine Beltrame of France.
Nejedly twice was within one game of winning the first set, up 5-4 and 6-5, before surrendering via a tiebreaker. The second set was tied four times with the last at 4-4 before Stosur toughened to win the last two games and take the match. The victor also served 10 aces.
"I usually am more consistent," said Stosur. "In the second set, I felt like my experience sort of kept me ahead."
Nejedly chided herself for lacking the confidence to play with aggression rather than tentativeness.
"I kept hitting to her backhand, but I should have made her move more," she said. "I wish I had the courage to have changed my strategy.My conditioning wasn’t a factor because I work out. But it was my nerves. I got a little tight and didn’t want to change. Basically, I was a wimp."
Asked afterward if this experience rekindled interest in going back on the ladies tour, Nejedly said she has mixed feelings: "This whets my appetite a little. If every tournament were in Palm Springs, I’d love to be back on the tour. I just don’t want to get on an airplane, stay in a hotel, be by myself 10,000 miles away."
Nejedly suggested in some ways she’s content to handle an assortment of duties at her parents’ restaurant, Bit of Country, in Palm Springs, teach tennis lessons at a local academy and play in occasional open tournaments in the region.
"I left the tour because I was really stressed out,"said Nejedly whose ranking peaked at No. 150 during the 2000 season. "The life you live is very demanding. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. The tour is supposed to be this great thing. But when you put stress on yourself, it’s no fun at all."
While Nejedly has experienced all that, the 15-year-old Blalock hasn’t even sighted it as a blip on her radar screen.
A bundle of potential with such honors as 2003 Desert Valley League singles champion, Blalock double-faulted 13 times and won only 21 points in being dominated by Beltrame.
Blalock won points on only four of 29 returns (14 percent).
"For me, it was the most amazing thing though," said Blalock, who received moral support from a group of local backers. "The crowd was great and I felt I did my best even though my nerves got the best of me for a while. Compared to people I’m used to playing, she hit the ball deeper and a lot harder. And she was a smarter player. But you learn if you’re put in that situation. I’m glad I had the chance and hope there are many more."
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams