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World No.75 Anne Keothavong enjoyed another good week on tour when she won the $50,000 ITF event in Barnstaple, England, on Sunday – her third singles title of 2008. Tennis pros don’t have much time to celebrate, though. After a 4am start on Monday and a short flight to Italy, Anne blogs from Ortisei, in the Dolomites, where she’s playing a $100,000 ITF event this week…

Making the long train journey from London to Barnstaple proved worthwhile after I ended up winning last week’s $50,000 ITF tournament without dropping a set. It was a bit of a last-minute decision to go to be honest as I’d planned to train at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre for the week and to give competing a miss.

I turned up at the NTC for training on Monday morning to hear that another British player, Jade Curtis, was going to withdraw from Barnstaple due to illness. Jade had been given a wild card into the event, and as qualies had already started there was nobody else to give Jade’s wild card to so I was asked if I wanted to take it.

I ummed and ahhed for a few minutes but then thought ‘why not?’ I’d been back home for two weeks after a trip to Asia, rehab and practice had been going well and I felt like competing again. Had I stayed in London, I would’ve been playing mostly practice sets anyway so after a quick hit I rushed home to pack and made it in time for the last train out of London to Barnstaple.

I arrived at the tournament with high expectations for myself and I said to Claire (my coach) before I left London that anything less than winning the tournament would have been a disappointment. It’s a different kind of pressure you put on yourself when you go into a tournament as the top seed, especially when it’s on home soil.

I was pleased with myself for not dropping a set all week but there were times when I made it difficult for myself in a few of my matches. Some of the sets could have been over quicker and I know I can’t afford to drop my focus like that against higher-ranked opponents in the future.

The best match I played all week was against Johanna Larsson in the quarters. I lost to her earlier this year and was determined not to make the same mistakes and I think I served as well as I could’ve throughout the match apart from in one game at the end. Actually, I think I served pretty well most of the week and it definitely got me out of trouble at times.

My match against Katie O’Brien in the semis was always going to be an awkward one as we’re good friends and we practice a lot together at the NTC. I knew Katie had had a dodgy stomach all week but I think she managed to pass her lurgy on to me too because I wasn’t feeling great either! My stomach had been churning all day and after some of the longer rallies I thought I was going to throw up. It was a good match all things considered and I was glad it didn’t go to three sets because as I hadn’t been able to eat a lot, I’m not sure I would’ve had the energy for another set.

The Tarka Tennis Centre staff did a great job in organising everything and making the players feel very welcome throughout the week. There was a good turnout for the final and that’s not something you often see at small events in Britain. I had some good support which was very much appreciated.

The first set of my final against Alberta Brianti was tough and she had points to go 4-1 up but I think I was the more aggressive and consistent player overall which is why I was able to come through in straight sets. I was rewarded with a nice trophy at the end and was pleased to get the job done.

It was my first time in Devon and I even found time to make it to the beach during the week – I was really surprised by how nice it was. With a bit of sun, you could be anywhere in the world and I’ll definitely be going back for a short holiday soon – maybe I’ll try my luck with a bit of surfing!

There wasn’t much time to celebrate, however, because I had a five-and-a-half-hour journey to Brighton ahead of me to see my physio. After that, it was up at 4am the next day to catch a flight to Italy where I am now for the $100,000 ITF in Ortisei.

I play my first match tomorrow against Andrea Klepac so wish me luck and I’ll blog from somewhere again soon!


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