Christina McHale enjoys a home-court advantage
American Christina McHale, 19, blogs for espnW on the eve of her first-round match at the U.S. Open.
It's not often that I get to spend the day before a Grand Slam tournament reading at home in New Jersey and spending time with my family, but that was the case Sunday when Hurricane Irene blew through, closing the nearby U.S. Open site for the day. As unusual as it is to skip practice the day before a tournament, I've played plenty of matches recently and feel comfortable with my game. It also helps that I'll be competing at my home courts -- I train at the USTA National Training Center during the year -- and sleeping in my own bed.
Although it's nice to be home, it doesn't take much to get into match mode once I arrive at the courts. Players are everywhere at this stage of the tournament. The locker room is always busy, as is the players lounge, where most people sit with their coaches and family -- and, in many cases, their iPads. I recently got one myself, so I fit right in! That said, it's still strange to be in the company of the players I looked up to as a kid. Sitting a couple of tables down from Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the tournament cafeteria is still pretty cool.
Although I enjoy the excitement of arriving at any Grand Slam, I know I have my work cut out for me. I never look at the whole tournament draw, so I know only that my first-round match is against Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada. That strategy helps me to stay in the present and avoid the temptation to look ahead at my potential opponents in the future. I haven't played Aleksandra before, so I'll be focused on playing my own game to the best of my ability. I'm thankful that I'll have lots of friends and family there to support me.
This is my third time competing in the main draw here, and it still brings back childhood memories of arriving at the U.S. Open site when the first matches started and staying until the last matches ended. My sister and I would run from court to court with our friends asking for autographs. I'm not quite used to the fact that now I'm the one giving autographs. Hopefully that will become normal eventually!