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August 26, 2013 10:29 AM
Melissa_Pick_001_(2)Melissa Pick, 15, is a sophomore at Albuquerque Academy.  She is also a two-time 4A singles champion and ranked in the top five in the Southwest in the 16s. She was among nine young players who traveled to England in July to play matches against players approximately the same age. The 16-day trip was organized by the Lobo Performance Tennis Academy, out of the Lobo Tennis Club. This is the first year for the LPTA event. The organizers plan to do it every other year. Three adults went along to chaperone and coach.
How did all this come about, you going to Merry Olde?
Early in January, Ben Dunbar (former Lobo player and UNM men’s team volunteer assistant) said he was taking applications for a trip planned to England to play tennis. When I heard it would cost $4,000 I said, “Whoa, that’s a lot of money.”  But I’d been saving and I helped pay some. It would be my first time out of the country. 
What did Ben say you guys were going to do?
He said we’re going to travel and play on all surfaces—grass, clay and hard courts. 
Did you stay just in England or go other countries?
Just England. We played all our matches there. We were based in Ben’s hometown of Nottingham, which is about two hours from London. Some of us stayed in Ben’s mom’s house. It’s very big; three stories. Others stayed in Ben’s dad’s house, about a mile away.
Who went on the trip? 
Me, the twins Dani Apodaca and Jack Apodaca, George Brunacini, Carlos Spigel, Eli Echt-Wilson, Sean Gabaldon and the Hootmans, Coleton and Hunter, who also are twins. The coaches were Ben, Matt Neeld (another ex-Lobo competitor and more recently an undergraduate volunteer assistant coach for the UNN men) and my sister Lauren (former four-time 4A singles champion in New Mexico and now a senior at Colorado State).
Where did you go first?
To a nearby park to practice. I didn’t want to wake up that morning because of the jet lag. We had flown all night and I didn’t sleep much. But Ben got us up at 6:45. No naps.  The park’s court had a tarp cover, which was weird.  Ben and Matt and Lauren had us running and hitting balls and doing fitness. We did a lot of fitness there.
Later we ran around the National Water Sports Centre, in Nottingham. It was used for canoeing and kayaking events in the last Olympics.  The coaches were tough on us.  My sister didn’t work out; she’s still wearing a brace on her foot from an injury.  
KidsinEngland_(2)Did you sightsee?
Yes. We saw Big Ben, the London Eye, that’s the giant Ferris wheel on the Thames. And Buckingham Palace, Oxford, Harrods and Nike Town, a huge athletic store.  We went to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham Castle and this manor where Batman was filmed. Everywhere we went it was all about Andy Murray. He had just won Wimbledon and people there idolize him. There were posters of him all over the place.
Sounds like great fun. Did you ever play tennis?
Yes, we played a lot at the West Bridgford Tennis Club near Nottingham.  It has three grass courts, three hardcourts and three indoor courts.
How did you like the grass? 
I played a doubles match on it and I really didn’t like it. I’m a hardcourts player.  The ball on grass stays so low.  I was so tired all the time on grass. Dani and I played doubles against two girls Ben had arranged. They’re from the tennis academy at the Bridgford Club that Ben went to.
You played other matches, too, I take it.
Yes.  I played about eight in all in a tournament, plus three exhibitions.  Seven singles and one doubles.  I won the singles and doubles.  The tournament lasted a whole week and part of the next.
Were you playing people your own age?
Yes. I played in the 16s and 18s.  Three matches in the 16s and four in the 18s. The one doubles was in the 18s. In the exhibitions, I played two singles and two doubles.
Tell me about the girls you played?
They slam every ball hard, but they’re not consistent. I tried to mix it up with them. I sliced a lot.  They’re not used to slices and don’t like it.  A few of the girls had really good kick serves.
What kind of rankings do they have?
One girl was 26 in the 18s in Great Britain.
Any problems on the trip?
No, none.  Everyone got along. It was a really good group. Oh, wait, Dani and Jack got into a fight over ping-pong. So we had to run the field after that. Being there was like a vacation. The weather was good. Only one rainy day.
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