Ellen Perez: “I’ve learnt how crucial it is to play the big moments well”
In a first-person exclusive, ELLEN PEREZ shares insights on her successful first quarter of 2023 and reveals how Sam Stosur has helped her prepare for the clay-court swing.
This year so far has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but that’s pretty much tennis summed up.
All it takes is one or two good weeks to get us back on track or even have a stellar season. I’ve been able to travel to some incredible tournaments but didn’t get any great results until American tournaments, where I reached the Austin doubles final and Miami semis with Nicole Melichar-Martinez.
In the Middle East I felt like I was playing some good tennis. Every match we lost we won more points than our opponents, but just couldn’t be clutch or even lucky on a few big points. I feel like our bad luck or lack of taking opportunities was due to end at some point and that’s exactly what happened in Miami where we got through some tough ones, saved some match points and were able to have a good run.
Only four months in, and I feel like I’ve learnt a fair bit about how crucial it is to play the big moments well. It really is the difference between making and breaking it.
Before that, I actually had an unreal schedule, playing some of the nicest tournaments in the nicest places on this trip.
Starting in Hua Hin, Thailand, was amazing and honestly it could be one of my favourite tournaments of the year. The food is so cheap and amazing, the hotel is really nice, the courts have an awesome gym and the courts were pink! The weather was great, the beach was nearby – there was even a waterpark in our hotel. Just everything about that week is great.
The Middle East is always a luxury style trip. The breakfast buffets are grand, and the hotels are super nice. Then Austin was such a cool American city. So much to do and got to experience my first Texas BBQ. Lastly, the Sunshine Double (Indian Wells and Miami) is hands down one of the best months on tour for tennis.
In Austin, I stayed with a housing family. It’s very rare at a WTA event for opportunities arise to stay elsewhere than the player hotel. But I had a really nice family who took me in for the week and it made that week feel very homey. It’s nice to reset and not feel like you’re doing the same mundane schedule. The crowd and atmosphere in Austin were also electric. Such a great turnout of people wanting to watch doubles.
Miami had an awesome vibe to it. The weather was amazing. The balls, the courts and how it all played really suited Nicole and I. Those two-week events also allowed us a lot of time to train and work on things. I think we were able to improve on some aspects between matches more than we have in the past, which was vital.
Nicole and I have had a lot of success together. I think the fact we both have big serves and aggressive games means when we are on, we are hard to stop. We both are very comfortable at the net, so we set each other up well and having a lefty-righty combo is always handy. Plus we get along great off the court, which I think is always important in a good partnership.
There are a lot of great things about the tour. I think being able to go to really nice dinners all around the world is one of the best parts to tour life. Meeting Jamie Foxx in Miami was pretty dope. We chatted about pickleball and how he’s opened a league and created his own Padel called ‘The Best Padel’.
It’s amazing to be able to come home to Australia and break up the trip. The tour is extremely long and mentally can be very draining. I just bought a house in December so it’s even more exciting to come home and be able to spend time there. Also going back home to Shellharbour to see my family and dog was much needed.
I’ve also had the privilege of starting to work with Sam Stosur while in Melbourne. Being able to utilise someone like Sam is an honour and I feel really lucky she is able to share her expertise with me. As a player, it’s tough to always relate and talk through things but I think the great thing about Sam is she knows exactly what I’m talking about and has been through some of the same struggles or situations and can offer some great advice and insight.
I’m giving myself two weeks training to get used to the clay and I’m mixing up my clay schedule to have both singles and doubles tournaments. I’ve always enjoyed clay when I have time to prepare on it.
I think I have a good game for clay and last year I didn’t have great results so I’m really looking forward to improving on that. I’m also playing mixed doubles at Roland Garros with Jan Zielinski (from Poland) who I went to the same college with. Being able to reconnect with him on tour and be able to share the court together there will be really special. I’m super excited for this clay season.