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Old Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:04 PM   #160
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My love affair with Wimbledon
Once the excitement from turning 18 had begun to cool down, I needed to start to focus on the trip to Europe for the clay and grass court swings. Donít get me wrong, I had the BEST time over there last summer obviously since I won my first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, but I still find it tough leaving home for such long periods Ė and I still miss my mom real bad whenever Iím on the road. And I know it might sound a little crazy, but the other thing I REALLY miss is my own bed! Am I complaining? I guess I can't, right?

When I left NYC I played in Berlin, Germany, then Rome, Italy, before finally ending up in Paris for the French Open. After losing in the quarters in Paris to Justine H. it was back in the air and on to jolly ol'e England to get ready for Wimbledon (Can I win it again?) Some people might have forgotten that I also won a tournament in Birmingham just before Wimbledon, which gave me a lot of confidence. I'm playing the same WTA event at Edgbaston this year as part of my preparations for Wimbeldon. Who knows... maybe history will repeat itself again.

I canít describe how exciting it was to win the Wimbledon title last year and I canít wait to get back on Center Court to try to do it again.

After the Birmingham tournament, we head down to London and set up base near the courts, which is a really beautiful area of houses, shops and restaurants about five minutes from the All England Club,. I don't get out too much during Wimbledon as I eat most nights in the Players Village (they have a GREAT Thai restaurant there!) and it's really close to where I rent a house for the fortnight (wow... did I write that?). Because I was able to do so well last summer Iím pretty much just trying to do everything the same as I did back then. Iím very superstitious!

A bunch of people have asked me if I feel more pressure this year with the extra expectation of having to try and defend my title, but I donít really see it that way. Ever since I was small, Iíve dreamt of playing at Wimbledon, and to have won it last year was a dream come true. So just to be returning there is still really special, and itíll be an amazing feeling to walk out onto Center Court as defending champion.

Outside of tennis I guess Iím just a fairly normal 18-year-old; I love catching up with my friends (my mobile phone bill is always HUGE!), listening to music and shopping, especially for clothes, so itís nice to be able to take a trip to the famous department store Harrods when Iím in London to try and pick up a couple of extra outfits! Heh... if Gweneth Paltrow can look good in London, so can I.

On court I like to look my best too and Iím lucky that Nike allows me to have quite a bit of input into what I wear, and this year Iíve been working on a new dress just for Wimbledon, so Iím real excited about that too.

As well as working on my grass court game, my preparations might also involve a walk on Wimbledon common this year too. Yeah, you did read that right. Just before the Championships last year, I accidentally stepped in, well, letís just say something a rabbit had left behind! And I didnít even realise until someone mentioned the smell! But after what happened out on court last year, Iím treating it as my lucky omen. So if you see me out on the common just before the event begins, youíll know what Iím looking for!

Birthday Party in the Big Apple
Iím the first to appreciate that not many people my age have the luxury of an A-list, star-studded 18th birthday party arranged by their sponsor Motorola. They really went out of their way to create such a cool evening for myself, my friends and all the celebs they invited.

The day of the party Ė 10 days before my actual birthday which is on April 19 Ė was the most amazing day and one Iíll never forget Ė exactly what an 18th birthday should be!

The whole experience was everything I could of dream of and more. We took a private jet up to New York City from Florida for the bash (big pimpin'), where Iíd just reached the final of the NASDAQ-100 in Miami.

Being a tennis player means a lot of the time I donít get much of a chance to get glammed up so Iíd already decided I was gonna make the most of this opportunity (especially if my parents weren't going to be around... actually my Mom was there).

I had a stylist help me choose my dress, which was designed by Nicole Miller, and my hair and make-up were taken care of before jumping in a limo to head for the Hiro Ballroom. You have to see this place if you're ever in NYC....
I had to fight my way past the paparazzi and take a couple of interviews but trust me... it was definitely worth it.

Something else I find from spending so much time involved in tennis is that I donít get much chance to meet people from other walks of life and I was lucky enough to hook up with some really cool people from the world of music, TV and film that came along. Motorola really pulled out all the stops and ensured there was a cool vibe at this place.

The night itself was fantastic. Motorola hired one of my favorite bands to play a private set for all of us. I got to hang out with them for a little while after their show. I couldn't believe how nervous I was to talk to them, but they were pretty chill so after I calmed down a bit we had a nice chat and were able relax just before the DJ started.

One of the other things Motorola pulled together for me (aren't they nice?) was a cool VIP area to use for me and my friends. All the food and drinks were free and Motorola gave me a Pebl v6 phone. I already have a Razr, but who doesn't want a new Pebl? Have you heard or seen these phones? They're soooo cool.

The most amazing cake had been made for me too. it was in the shape of a tennis stadium, and it took me three attempts to blow out all the candles Ė I guess thatís only gonna get harder as I begin to get older!

One of the best things about the whole couple of days, though, was being able to spend some time with my old friends. I miss them SO bad when Iím away on the Tour and having them with me in New York made a special day one that Iíll always remember.

You'll be hearing from me a lot in the future, so make sure you check back often!
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter....
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there
Enjoy This Moment!!

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