19 December 2018

Victorious Venezuelan

Melissa Pirela

Melissa would not describe herself as a sporty person but she has always wanted to play tennis. Now that she has started to play, she has got the tennis bug and there is no stopping her

It all started on my 30th birthday, 3 years ago. I had always wanted to play tennis, but it's difficult to do so in Venezuela, where I am from, if you're not member of a club. When we moved to London, my husband thought that playing tennis was a great idea. He did some research and found out that there were affordable drop in lessons for beginners in Finsbury Park. He bought me a tennis bag and some tennis clothes. It was the perfect present!

Since the first lesson, I absolutely loved it! It's everything I thought it would be. It requires a lot of concentration, technique, fitness and it's fun! I'm not a sporty person but I could play tennis every day! I was lucky to have amazing coaches who motivated me to keep playing and improving.

I wanted to go to Wimbledon but I didn't know about the ballot. Looking for a way to go, I found the Local Tennis Leagues web page. It was a requirement to play at least one league to be able to opt in. At the time, I didn't feel I was ready to play in a league. I didn't even know how to serve. It didn't help either that everybody thought I was crazy for thinking about joining a league hahaha! Some months passed by until June 2017, when I received an email saying that a new women's league was about to start in July. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to enter the ballot and to play. I joined and now I have played all 7 Islington Women's singles leagues. I'm now also playing the Highbury Field mixed singles league as well.  

I don't think I have defined a style of play yet. I'm still improving my ground strokes and my serve. I'm learning how to read the ball, moving my feet and being patient while building points. I'm being more competitive now, as I'm gaining more confidence.

The league has definitively improved my game. I joined as a complete beginner, losing all my matches easily. Keeping concentration was hard. I'm proud of how much I've improved since my first league. I've received valuable feedback from more experienced players which has helped me a lot. Practice is the key and being able to play with people of different levels and styles is a good experience.

All matches are important to me, the ones I win and the ones I lose. I've learnt from all of them. There are some matches that even if I lose, I feel great about the points I was able to win. I have had some very competitive matches so far. I particularly remember how good I felt after winning a match for the first time against an experienced player, which I wouldn't thought it was possible one year ago.

I think the league is brilliant!  I absolutely recommend the league to everybody. It doesn't matter your tennis level. You get to know really kind and friendly people. The only downside of the league is that it's hard to play all the matches, due to courts or other players' availability.  

And for those wondering about the ballot, I was lucky enough to get tickets for Wimbledon 2018 on day 2! It was a day I'll never forget.