Paris, France, 29 May 2023 | Ellen Perez

Returning to the tour in Europe several weeks ago, the transition back onto clay was nice and smooth. I felt really happy with where my game was at after only a few practice sessions.

Sliding and moving on clay come naturally to me; the next part is bringing in depth and shape on the ball to buy myself time and to trouble my opponent. I naturally have a heavy forehand, so it’s mostly about repetition and hitting different balls from different parts of the court.

The only thing I struggled with a bit was the altitude in Madrid. This always requires time to adapt, so even though I felt pretty comfortable, it wasn’t the easiest tournament to start the clay-court season.

A winning reunion

Contesting a tournament in Reus, Spain, was a very spontaneous and last-minute addition to my schedule. Originally, I was supposed to head to Tossa De Mar 25k+H as I wanted to play some more singles after Madrid, given that I had decided to skip Rome. I signed up for the Reus 125k event without expecting to get in, but at the last minute, I made it into the singles draw.

That’s when I noticed that Storm Hunter had lost in Madrid and had a week before Rome started. We thought it would be great to use Reus as a base to train in singles, sharpen up our doubles skills, and just have a really fun week together.

Storm and I have travelled together a lot in the past few years, and our tournaments have almost always aligned. However, this year, we haven’t seen each other much, so it was long overdue for us to reunite. I think that’s part of the reason Reus was a successful week for us – we had dinners together every night, played board games, and trained together. Anytime you can balance competing and enjoying yourself on the tour, it’s a recipe for success. Storm and I have a great friendship and have played together quite a few times, so we know each other really well. But most importantly, we have each other’s backs, so it was pretty special to be able to play with her again and achieve success.

Star support

Storm wasn’t the only fellow Australian to provide a boost in my 2023 clay-court season.

Working with Sam Stosur while I was back in Melbourne was an amazing experience. Sam has always been the role model I have looked up to in Australian tennis. She paved the way for so long, which is partly why many Aussies picked up a racquet and dream of becoming the next best tennis player.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Sam better. We played alongside each other at the Olympics and Australian Open, trained together in Melbourne, and travelled to the same events around the world. During those times, she always played a mentoring role and was there for me whenever I needed help. I could go to her with any questions or thoughts, and she would always provide her experienced opinion.

So, being able to utilise Sam’s coaching and mentoring in Melbourne was awesome. Sam is still hitting an unreal ball, being fresh off the tour. I even told her she was playing better than me during our training block, because it was true! But most importantly, Sam knows the tour so well. I was able to share certain moments and feelings on the courts in different situations, and she really understood what I was going through and had answers on how she would approach those situations.

It’s not often your coach can relate to everything you’re going through, and that was probably the most important and special part of working with Sam. She’s an open book, super positive, and has a wealth of first-hand wisdom. I hope to be able to spend more time on the court with her in the future, if she’ll have me.

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