Melanie Oudin, Christina McHale, Liezel Huber, Vania King and Jamie Hampton are in Stuttgart, Germany to face the German Fed Cup Team in the World Group Playoffs April 16-17 at the Porsche Arena. Each day leading up to and during the tie, a different member of the team will be sharing her thoughts exclusively with USTA.com. Check back daily to see who is blogging next!
In the most recent entry, Vania King discusses the first day of matches, getting ready for play Sunday and her whirlwind trip to Stuttgart this week.
Vania King - April 16
Blogging here from Stuttgart, Germany which is a really nice city, and fun fact, is one of the safest in Europe. I haven't been to Germany since I was 13 playing a junior ITF event, so it's really nice to come back as an "adult" (I say that term loosely :) ) and appreciate the sites in a different perspective.
Team USA had a rough first day, but we are ready to bounce back today! Liezel and I really want it to come down to the doubles, and Mel and Christina are ready to make it happen.
I arrived Wednesday morning from Miami so I had missed the first two practice days, but I feel ready and the team has been practicing well. I got the call on Monday from Mary Joe and had to make a split second decision as I knew she didn't have time, and I really wanted to come! Wednesday afternoon I practiced (very blearily), Thursday we had the official dinner, Friday another practice and Saturday match, so it seems like the days have flown by fast.
Yesterday evening we had another round of games, this time instead of charades, we did Pictionary. I have to admit all the players have become extremely proficient in charades and guessing their team members' thoughts. Pictionary was a bit of a challenge since we usually don't play it and some people are better at drawing than others, but I think we all did fairly well, although I want to say my team won :).
Now I'm off to breakfast to get ready for a hopefully long and successful day!
Melanie Oudin - April 15
It has been really fun this week in Stuttgart - I always enjoy the weeks of Fed Cup! I feel like I practice really well because I am having so much hanging out with the team and all that stuff because we always go to dinner together and then play charades at night. Hopefully we will be playing again tonight; it might be the last time we get to play here.
I feel really good about my game on the clay right now. I feel like I am practicing a thousand times better than I started last year on the red clay and I haven’t even played a tournament yet, so that is a good start.
I don’t have any points to defend until Wimbledon I think so that is a lot of weeks that I can only get better, improve my ranking and do better in tournaments. I am looking forward to it starting with Fed Cup this weekend and then start with the red clay court season after that.
Normally at tournaments, you are by yourself and the night before a match you just go back to the hotel early and rest, maybe watch a movie on your computer or go online but at Fed Cup, it is good because I stay relaxed, which is a key thing for me going into matches, to not be getting too nervous. Playing charades really relaxes me and I have fun and then I will make sure I get to bed early tonight.
Tomorrow, I will warm up and then watch a set of Christina’s match against Petkovic and then get focused for my match against Goerges!
Jamie Hampton - April 14
It is really great to be back at a Fed Cup tie. Back in 2006, I went as a practice partner with the U.S. team to play Belgium. This time it is a little bit different. Now I am going to watch the team play players that I have played before, whereas in the past, when we played Belgium, we played Kim Clijsters and Kirsten Flipkens and I was on the sideline and Vania and Jill (Craybas) were kind of the people I looked up to. Now in Stuttgart, Melanie and Christina are my peers. When I was watching Kim when I was younger, I said, ‘Wow, that is something I want to be when I get older’ and now I have played these players. I played Petkovic in Miami and I watched Mel play Goerges in Miami as well.
Mary Joe came and watched my match in Miami so she knows about Petkovic’s game and since she does a lot commentating she has seen her play on TV as well. But anything I have to offer to the other girls, I will definitely give them tips on how to play her and whatever else they need to know.
Last year was my first year full-time as a professional and it went really well. I won a few circuit tournaments, made finals at a lot of others and that was nice and all but this is a different level and I have not been winning as many matches. I have a ton to learn here. It will be awhile but I am feeling pretty good about it. The other Americans are all doing well too, which is good, we can all push each other.
In terms of my goals, I would like to be in the top 70 by the end of the year. I think that is a fairly realistic goal. And day to day, I just want to keep improving. Every day I go out there I want to work on something, from movement to decision making to time management. There are a ton of things to work on.
I am from Auburn, Ala. but I have trained in Atlanta since I was 12. Mel and I train pretty close together so we do practice a bit. Mel and I were in juniors at the same time and kind of grew up together, both coming from the south, although we never played each other in juniors. We played in two professional events last year and she beat me both times but we never played in juniors, which was kind of strange.
When I first started training in Atlanta (at Olde Towne Athletic Club in Marietta), we commuted everyday from Alabama. Auburn is like 45 minutes from the border, so it was not that bad, but the time difference was a bit of an issue. Auburn is Central time, and Atlanta is in the Eastern time zone. I lost a lot of sleep over that! I live in Atlanta now and at the club I train at (Old Time Athletic Club in Marietta); one member’s family has been really nice and let me stay at their house. Their daughter plays tennis as well, so it is a good fit.
As for this weekend against Germany, I think our team is going to do well. It will be tough, the Germans have all been having good results but anything can happen in Fed Cup, it is a completely different atmosphere. A lot of times the underdog comes out and just swings freely and we will see what happens!
Christina McHale - April 13
I was super excited when Mary Joe called me last week and asked me to be on the Fed Cup Team again. I said yes right away! I definitely wanted to come. This is now my fourth Fed Cup tie, I was on the team in France last year and a few times I have gone as a hitting partner. I love the team atmosphere here and we always have a good week together.
I know the whole team now, I feel comfortable here and the team chemistry is good. Being able to represent your country is a huge honor and it is just fun being part of the team. Tennis is such an individual sport but during Fed Cup, we can all be a team for a week and help each other out.
It is going to be a tough battle against Germany this weekend. The Germans have a strong team but we all of us are having a good week of practice so we will just need to go out there and play our games.
We are playing indoors on clay, where I am feeling more comfortable. The last two weeks I have been practicing on clay, which has really helped. We did a lot of movement drills and consistency drills so far here in Stuttgart and played a few more points today and we still have two more days to practice on the surface, which I think is fairly fast for a clay court. On clay, you always have a few weird bounces but overall it feels like a good court.
I have practiced with everyone so far, except Vania, who just arrived today in place of Bethanie. The first day I hit with Adam Peterson, our hitting partner, then yesterday with Melanie in the morning and in the afternoon with Liezel. Today I hit with Jamie Hampton, who here with the team as a hitting partner, so we are mixing things up in practice.
I made the decision to turn professional last year and so far I am happy with my decision. I’ve had a few good results this year, especially in Indian Wells and Charleston and reached my career-high ranking this week but overall I am just trying to continue to improve my game and work hard. I do check my ranking, especially after a nice tournament like Charleston. It is exciting to see it improve but at the same time I try not to get too fixated on it and instead just continue playing my game and keep doing things as usual!