Unfamiliar Territory (2002-2004)

There were (and still are) few good coaches in the Northwest and the one we began discussions with seemed like a good option at the time. This meant that my mother and I would have to move to Vancouver (4h 30mins by car) without my dad, since he would need to stay in Vernon to work in the Brewery.

My oldest brother, Tom, was already attending the University in Vancouver (UBC) and Petr would soon be making his way there as well, so we moved there and left my dad in Vernon. This was not an easy decision to make, but my early promise meant my family were ready to sacrifice and, at the time, felt it was our best option.

So, In the fall of 2002, at the age of 12, me, my mother, brother (Tom), and our two Golden Retrievers, all moved into a one bedroom apartment that my dad bought (before the property "boom" of course) and I began working with the new coach. Petr soon moved to Vancouver as well and moved in with his girlfriend after briefly living with us in the apartment.

I started a homeschooling program (grade 7) so I could focus on my tennis, and my Mother stopped working so she could take care of me and drive me to practice. My father stayed in Vernon and, trying to take advantage of the distance between us, worked harder than ever before. During this period, he drove 4.5 hours to and from Vancouver to see us during the weekends. He, however, didn't come every weekend and occasionally stayed in Vernon and took advantage of the increased weekend wages at the Brewery. It was not an easy time for the family. We had difficult living conditions as it was, and on top of that, we were living apart for the first time.

This was the first time I had started getting lessons from anyone other than my dad so it was all very new to me. During the first few months of the coaching change, things continued to go well and I continued my winning ways. In late November, I went down to Florida with my father (the new coach was not a traveling one and stayed in Vancouver to teach other juniors in the area) to play a few international U12 events. I won the prestigious Prince Cup (beating the best U12 in Europe in the final) and then made the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl, losing to the only U12 player who went undefeated all year. From here my dad returned to Vernon and I went back to Vancouver to continue the still extremely fresh coaching relationship.

Every day (Monday to Saturday) my mom and I drove 30 minutes to and from the People's Courts tennis club, where my new coach was teaching, to play for 1-2 hours. About 2 times a week I would do fitness at the North Shore Winter club where there was a good fitness program that he sent many of his players to.

As the spring of 2003 came along, I started my first trips with Tennis Canada (the Canadian tennis federation). I travelled with 3 other Canadian players (1 boy, 2 girls) and a Tennis Canada coach to compete at international tournaments in Europe. The trip did not go well. I barely won any matches and was losing first rounds of the main draw and consolation events. Even though I was a year younger than most of the U14 players, It was very unfamiliar and unnerving to be losing so much. I also began having some physical issues. I was struggling with back pain and the onsets of a knee problem that would linger for 18 months.

In 2004, the trip was repeated only this time I was playing kids of the same age. Despite being equals in age, my results remained dry and I only won a handful of matches in the month-long trip. After being one of the best in the world I suddenly felt out of place at the international level.

My only real encouraging result that year, or the year before for that matter, was winning the Canadian U14 Nationals to remain the best in the country for my age. Luckily for me, my dad went as the Tennis BC Coach so he was there with me. This result, despite not being easy to do, was expected in our eyes. Since the junior competition in Canada was not very strong, and given the level I had previously reached, It would have been a disappointment not to at least have made the finals. To remain in the top 2 in Canada was expected but I could no longer seem to win any matches outside of the country. My game and the stunted speed at which it was progressing, was not where we had hoped it would be at this stage.

During the two years I worked with the new coach, I would occasionally go and play with my dad when he came to visit on the weekends. He became increasingly skeptical and was not satisfied with where my technical game had gone. Also, my footwork, always a strong point of mine, was sluggish and technically flawed. As these changes, along with the injuries, became apparent to him, he started having doubts about the decision we had made. Finally, in September of 2004 when I was 14 years old, he made one of his last trips back to Vancouver from Vernon and decided he needed to step in as my coach again. So, at that, he quit his job at the Okanagan Spring Brewery, sold the house in Vernon, moved to Vancouver with us (now 4 people and 2 dogs in a one-bedroom apartment), and became my full time coach once again.

I immediately began training with my dad at high school courts near our apartment. I kept a good relationship with the previous coach but we seized our lessons together. Over the course of the next year or so, when I was back in Vancouver from a trip, he would occasionally call me and ask me to play with one of his juniors for an hour or so and, as a favor to him, I rarely declined.

And so, in September 2004, we found ourselves in a similar situation and my dad began calculating the next move.