Profile at a Glance
- Ranked as high as #5 in World ITF Juniors
- USTA National Championships Finalist (Kalamazoo)
- ITA All-American (2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-15)
- All-American Championships (singles Champion)
- ITA Indoor Championships (singles Champion)
- ITA Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship & Leadership Award (finalist)
- Collegiate Career Singles Record: 99-13
- Career High ATP Ranking: 503
Overcoming challenges and adversity:
"I am naturally a relatively calm person so during a match when things aren’t going my way or something, the first thing I try to do is make sure I am not too emotional to analyze the situation. If I am very frustrated then I will make an irrational decision and not be able to fix the situation as best I can. I believe that being a problem solver is one of the most important skills a player can have. During training, I would just work until I overcame the problem with my game. For example, if I was struggling with my serve I would often just go out after practice and work on the serve until I felt confident in it. To me, practice is about trying to make everything perfect but competing is about imperfection and thus, they create very different obstacles. However, in both, a positive attitude and problem-solving mentality are huge for overcoming the adversity you can face both in competing and training."
Using adversity as an opportunity:
"These experiences impacted me by giving me opportunities to learn from my mistakes and understand that I can overcome the challenges that the tennis gods have in store for me. It also helps make you tougher and more adaptable by understanding that rarely are things going to be perfect and that you have to be willing to be incredibly uncomfortable in order to be great!"
Finding success at the other end of adversity:
"The best example was when I tore my meniscus in the summer of 2012. It was a fluke injury in that I did it getting off the ground. I had to have immediate surgery and was out for 6 months. It was a very frustrating time and while I had a good sense that I would be back playing, I was uncertain whether I would be able to play at my previous level. Plus, missing 6 months was a lot of time and I missed the sport so much. I worked really hard at rehab and the training staff and coaches at UVA put in so much time to ensure that I would be healthy and be 100 percent fine. I remember going in early on Saturdays to run on the underwater treadmill and how my range of motion gradually improved. I played the spring season in 2013 and we had a perfect season and I ended up clinching the Indoor Team Championships against USC and the Outdoor Championships in dramatic fashion against UCLA. I knew that my hard work had paid off and that gave me confidence that with the right mindset I could overcome any obstacle I faced."
On differences between the levels (juniors to NCAA, NCAA to ATP):
I think the biggest difference between the junior level and the NCAA level was that players were more physically and mentally mature in many cases. When you are used to facing competition around your own age, it is a bit of a shock when you are all of a sudden facing players 4-5 years older than you and much more physically mature. I also thought that the players were overall much better competitors at the college level and they rarely stopped competing even if things weren’t going as well. As far as NCAA to ATP, I found that the biggest difference was sustaining your level throughout an entire match and believing fully in yourself. Especially when breaking through a new level such as futures to challengers, it was important for me to play within myself and believe that my level would allow me to achieve my goals. Maybe the guys hit the ball a little bit better from more areas on the court, but the main difference is belief and sustaining your level.
Adjustments from juniors to college, college to the pros:
From juniors to NCAA, I didn’t really have to make many tennis adjustments as my game was ready to handle the differences between juniors and the NCAA level. The biggest challenge was buying into and understanding that I was on a team now and that during the spring you were playing for something bigger than yourself. It was a much more selfless approach than I was perhaps used to. The biggest adjustment from NCAA to futures is minor. Top NCAA players are at least playing a high futures, low challenger level these days so it isn’t too difficult. The biggest adjustment I had to make to maybe challengers and on is the depth of my ball and being more adaptable. In college, sometimes I would get through a match playing most of my shots inside or around the service line but in the challengers you are in big trouble if you play that short.
Learning experiences from first pro events:
Honestly I learned that I wasn’t that far off. Yeah I was perhaps playing a little too short and depth was so huge but I was in every rally and I just had to become a little better at controlling the court when I got the opportunity and ensuring that I didn’t leave balls short and in the middle. In addition, gaining the belief that I belonged at that level was going to be a huge step for me going forward. It was great to get that exposure as I have played numerous players who have gone on to be top 100 or top 50 and I don’t think I felt overwhelmed in really any of the matches.
Advice for junior players wanting to advance to NCAA or professional levels:
I think the best advice I could give someone going from juniors to NCAA is to make sure you embrace all aspects of college to ensure you develop yourself on and off the court. College is about maturing yourself as a person and a player, so making sure you become adept at handling the stresses of college in all aspects will prepare you for the professional tour and the rest of your life. Also I think that picking a school with a lot of good players to practice is critical as you practice more than you play. Thus, you want to be in a competitive environment. As for NCAA going to the pros, I think it is very important that you adjust your expectations understanding you aren’t going to win week in week out. You have to make sure you love the sport and really are focused on the process of continuing to get better.
Profile at a Glance
- 2016 Doubles All-American
- 2016 Doubles NCAA Semi-Finalist
- 2015 ITA All-American
- 2015 NCAA Singles Championships, Semi-Finalist
- 2013 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year
- Top 25 USTA B18s Ranking
On keys to success at the collegiate level:
It all comes down to approaching college tennis as a stepping stone to professional tennis. You have an insane amount of resources in training facilities, weight rooms, medical staff, mental training, academic resources, you name it. More than anything though you have a number of teammates who care about you and are great players, and coaches that will go to bat for you under any circumstance. With all that, the reason I was able to be good is by being coachable, doing the work (hitting twice a day everyday) and just committing your life through diet, sleep, school, and tennis to being more professional than anyone out there. Hard work pays off, there's no secret.
On motivation to improve:
It was a number of things including having a professional mindset and knowing that I had a long way to go in my tennis career. More than that, it was my teammates and school that had such a special place in my heart and I didn't want to let them down. I knew that playing #1 singles in the ACC is a lot of responsibility. And lastly, I'm extremely competitive, hate losing more than anything, and I think I took losses really hard and was always really motivated to keep working.
Advice for young players:
Be coachable, put in the time (hit twice a day, stay for serves after practice, stretch in your room); it all pays off. And lastly, stick to the process, always have the big picture in mind and don't get discouraged. The tennis gods don't reward people that take short cuts. Do the work day-in day-out and be respectful of your peers and coaches. I can't stress this enough.. work your ass off, you always have more in the tank than you think.
On the most important lesson from his collegiate career:
If I could look back at the single most important lesson I learned when competing at a high level its the ability to stay calm throughout the course of a match. There are so many momentum shifts, especially with no-ad, there are times when your opponents level fluctuates, a bad call goes against you, or the momentum of matches around you switches. The best players are able to lock in to their process point after point and forget about what happened the point before. They make it tough on their opponents by battling and staying mentally engaged for 3+ hours if need be, and that's what wears on opponents. This, in my opinion, is more important than anything else in the game.
On the differences between Junior levels and Collegiate Level:
The tempo of play picks up and there are technical and physical aspects of the game such as the serve and the ability to be aggressive with your forehand that are pretty standard among the best players. I think the team dynamic isn't a tough adjustment, if anything it gives players added motivation in practice and competition. There is nothing better than working out or practicing among your best friends knowing you will leave it out there for each other on match day. I definitely had to learn that at a certain level, waiting for guys to miss is no longer an option. There has to be a purpose with each shot and style of point you are trying to play which makes it more important to bring that purpose to practice.
On professional playing experience, and how it relates to the college game:
I think pro players just handle the match much better; you can tell they are more experienced and calmer in the big moments. I also think they have a better game identity, so they do not fluctuate as much in a match in terms of what style they are playing or what they are trying to do to get you out of a rhythm, or basically how they will win. I would say the better guys I've played in main draws of futures are comfortable going hold for hold, they take care of their serves and are not overanxious returning and sort of let the match come to them. With that being said, they attack their process and what their best style is and the mindset of willing and able to go hold for hold puts a lot of pressure on their opponents. I also think college players are sort of spoiled in always having a coach watching them and hotels; pros are much more flexible and take a lot more ownership over their own games. They know how to prepare and know what it takes to get the job done and don't need a coach spoon feeding them at all times.
On ways he mentally prepared for matches:
I think the biggest mental preparation I had was telling myself to expect and embrace a battle and to play the match on my terms. For me that was being physical during the rallies and willing to transition and be aggressive on mid court balls. If I could visualize that and commit to that style I had a lot of success. And going into the match with the mindset that I will have to work point-in point-out just gets you in the right frame of mind when adversity hits. Once the adversity does hit, for me that was getting tentative in big moments, I think you have to tell yourself process, process, process. Play the next point to the best of your ability with great intentions and whatever happens go back to the towel and do that again. If you can be positive and attack the process with your attitude and intentions, your level of play picks up naturally.
Profile at a glance
- USTA National Hard Courts Champion (B14s, 2013)
- Semi-finals, Eddie Herr Junior Championships
- Currently ranked #141 ITF Juniors
- Transitioning into the Futures level
PART II (scroll down for Part 1)
On finding confidence and reasons for prior success:
"Some of the main reasons I did well that year (2013) were the way I trained and my mentality. Around April I felt my game was becoming much better, and I started to work harder. I did things off the court other players didn't see, like running, extra stretching, and some injury prevention exercises. I was more confident in myself and in my game. I had a good Clay Courts, winning the Silver Draw, and beating some good players. Then at Hard Courts I was more determined and focused than ever before, especially with my warm-up, pre-match routines, and post-match as well. This all gave me a slight edge and helped me to win a Gold Ball and make the semis of Eddie Herr."
On how to move past losses and overcome doubts:
"After a loss I always tell myself there is another tournament and another match, so I never get too angry with myself. But I also try to figure out what I did wrong, why I lost, and what I could have done better. When I have doubts I try to block them out, take deep breaths when they happen, and think about positive things."
Thoughts on being on the road internationally and its challenges:
"Practicing is very difficult at these tournaments because of limited court time and everyone wanting to practice. You have to do everything you can to get out there for even 30 minutes to get yourself prepared. Transportation is difficult as well. Finding players to warm-up with can also be difficult because a lot of players come with several other guys. You need to figure out the best way to get there and have a good warm-up. I think this makes me more independent and ready to overcome challenges I will face later in my career."
Thoughts on travelling internationally and learning experiences:
"International travel has helped me tremendously. It gives me the chance to see players from different countries and it gives me some perspective on where my game is currently. I also learn how to deal with real-life situations, like being alone and having to figure things out."
On the biggest differences between the Juniors and Pros:
"They want it bad, they want to win. In the juniors if you win the first set a lot of times your opponent will give up or not put up a fight. The pros are playing for money and they don't give in so quickly. They are also mentally focused every point, and they never have loose points. The pro players have game plans and know what they need to do to win."
On mental preparation before matches:
"I still prepare the same way I did when I was 13-14 years old. I like to find my own space and think about how I want to play and how the match will go. I do everything possible to give myself the best chance of winning."
On overcoming adversity during competition:
"When I am not playing my best, or my opponent is playing really well, I have to find solutions. Sometimes it might just be being more aggressive, or making more balls because I am going for too much. I like to take deep breaths after points that didn't go my way, like when I set it up the right way but didn't execute. This helps me because I know I did the right thing and that I shouldn't shy away from it. I need to keep doing it and it will go in the next time."
On advice for younger players who want to play at the higher levels:
"Don't worry about what others think of you. A lot of times you don't do stuff that could help because you think others might laugh at you or think you're weird for doing it. This is a selfish sport in a lot of ways. You have to do anything to make yourself better and pull away from the others."
On current approach to practice compared to the juniors:
"When I was younger I would just show up to practices without a plan and just start hitting, doing whatever the coach wanted. Now I always come with a proper warm-up and a plan of what I want to work on. Then I talk to my coach about it and make sure we agree."
On sources of motivation and inspiration:
"Watching the top players of the game motivates me to become a better player. Wanting to be at that level one day makes me want to train harder and give myself a chance to reach my full potential."