Senior All-American Yana Koroleva shares her inside experiences from Clemson's victorious trip to Maryland and North Florida, as well as Spring Break with the team.
Koroleva is from Moscow, Russia and majors in Communications.
By: Yana Koroleva
Hello everyone! Yana here with a recap of our Spring Break 2014, “Tigers in Miami” edition!
Spring Break 2014 was something we all have been looking forward to since…Spring Break 2013! We are incredibly lucky because we get to spend every Spring Break together as a team, playing tennis and visiting cool places. Last year we had a blast in Orlando, visiting theme parks and riding roller coasters, so expectations for Miami Beach this year were high!
We played Maryland on Friday before Spring Break and tried our best to focus on the match instead of dreaming about the beach. Focusing on the present turned out to be easier than we thought since Washington, D.C. was only 15 minutes away from our hotel and we had a great tour of the Capitol a day before the match! Who needs to think about Miami when we are standing in traffic and watching President Obama pass us in his limo?! The tour was not exactly perfect, however, since we….could not find the White House! We stood right next to the backyard of it, but thought it was the wrong building. Actually, we had a hard time finding and identifying all the historical buildings, but had a LOT of fun while doing it. We are all international, after all, so that’s a good excuse for mixing up Lincoln and Jefferson buildings (not really, but we know better now)!
The match went well, we were focused and determined to make it to our flight. We won 7-0 and improved to 6-0 in ACC play. Somehow, that dropped our ranking down to 18th, which I was a little upset about, but Coach Harris says it’s good for us. Now that we will be playing all high ranked teams opportunities to improve rankings are limitless. Either way, rankings and competition did not bother us very much at that point; we were boarding a plane to Miami and felt as happy as one could be!
After a few short flights, a long wait in the airport and one lost phone (mine of course) we went straight to the courts to practice at Barry University. I actually hate practicing on travel days; jet lag gets the best of me all the time, but…Thank goodness for Florida sunshine! The weather in Miami was so perfect that we didn’t even mind practicing. It was almost the same as being at the beach, tanning process began on the court! After practice we checked in the hotel and went for a team dinner at an awesome outdoor restaurant on Lincoln Road.
Now here is a tip if you are traveling to South Beach: food is expensive! Water is bottled and not free at those places, and if the waiter tells you about the amazing special that they have, chances are it is the most expensive thing on the menu. If you want good food with huge portions, stick to local Latin café’s with homemade “arroz con pollo” (rice with chicken), tamale, quesadillas and more. Miami is so international and has so many flavors that eating in expensive Italian restaurants all the time should be considered a crime. They have Cuban coffee and great pastries, which can’t even be compared to Starbucks. Drinking coffee is actually a cultural thing in Cuba and Miami, so local coffee shops and bakeries are a must! I can talk about food in Miami for hours, so I’d rather stop now. One more: Tequeños and Dulce de Leche. Now I am done!
Other than exploring local food restaurants we spent most of the time on the beach and shopping. For one day we rented bikes and rode around all day. Another tip: sidewalks are narrow in Miami and there are a lot of road signs and people…And when you fall down, it hurts, especially if you try to swim in the ocean with broken knees. Shopping is also dangerous in Miami, since the malls have literally everything. I have a feeling that Sawgrass Outlet Mall where many of the girls went to shop could be as big as Clemson campus as a whole. After a few days in South Beach we got sunburned, tried many new foods, spent a lot of money and I fell of the bike - that sums it up pretty well.
On Wednesday and Thursday we were back on the court and had a good practice session. On Thursday after practice we got a chance to go to the Sony Open and see some good quality tennis. I don’t like watching tennis very much, so I went to walk around and bumped into the Bryan brothers; saw Djokovic and Tsonga practice and stayed for at least 30 minutes at the court where Monfils was practicing. That guy is so entertaining, even at practice! He was hitting trick shots; throwing racquets…I think I’m in love. However, the highlight of the day was seeing the former Tiger Daniela Alvarez and her adorable daughter Isabella. Isabella had her little racquet with her, so we held a practice session right in the middle of the street, screaming “Go Tigers!” and stealing the crowd from Tsonga’s practice court!
Forgot to mention that we beat North Florida 7-0 on the Sunday before the actual break began…I am sure it was on ClemsonTigers.com anyways, so everyone knows! This week we had the matches, fun tours in Washington, saw President Obama and famous tennis players, spent time on the beach drinking coconut water and spraying sunscreen every five minutes…But all of that was irrelevant compared to the main thing we got out of this break.
We got to spend time together as a team, get to know each other and bond like never before. Every day I hung out with a different group of people and then we would do something all together, without even having coaches organize it. I got to spend time with the freshmen, who I usually don’t see as much as my fellow upperclassmen and I think that it was an awesome experience. It is nice to go on a vacation with your family and we are so lucky to have each other as a second family. Now that we are back in Clemson it is time to return to our school routine and busy days, but we will carry the experience of Miami with us and will be more ready than ever for the upcoming matches!