This month’s USTA Pro Circuit Spotlight features Andres Pedroso, the associate head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Virginia, who is serving as a coach this summer for the men’s USTA Collegiate Team, an elite training program that gives the top American collegiate tennis players an opportunity to compete on the USTA Pro Circuit. During Pedroso’s two years on the Virginia staff, the Cavaliers have reached the NCAA Team Championships final twice and finished the season ranked No. 2 nationally. He also was named the 2012 ITA Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year in his first year of eligibility for the award. Pedroso played on the pro tour for four years after graduating from Duke University in 2001 and won four singles and two doubles titles on the Futures circuit, as well as a doubles title on the Challenger tour. He recently took time to answer questions on why playing Pro Circuit events is beneficial to collegians, what his experience as coach for the team has been like so far, and much more.
USTA.com: How has your experience been so far this summer in coaching the men's USTA Collegiate Team?
Andres Pedroso: My experience this summer has been extremely enjoyable, challenging and educational all at the same time. I would recommend this experience to any assistant coach that desires to learn more about the transition from college to the pro ranks. The USTA Collegiate Team experience really gives the coaches and players involved a true insight on how we can continue to push the benchmark of player development higher within college tennis. As college coaches, we all know what an opportunity we have to develop world-class tennis players and people, and experiences such as this one only provide us with more valuable information to continue to make college tennis an even more productive stepping stone for any aspiring world-class professional tennis player.
USTA.com: Can you describe how, as a coach to these top college players, you use the Pro Circuit for training and development?
Andres Pedroso: This summer has been a real opportunity for Bo (Hodge), Ryan (Sachire) and me to engrain in our top college players the mentality, lifestyle, work ethic and love for the sport that is needed in order to put themselves in a position to achieve their full potential as tennis players. The opportunity that a USTA College Team coach has to "teach" does not only occur on the court but more importantly, in the hotel, car, airplane, over a meal and even sometimes in the training room. At this point in their careers, the players have heard just about everything there is to know about the Xs and Os, and the USTA College Team experience gives the coaches a real opportunity to emphasize the way of life and perspective that it takes to have a real shot at being successful on tour.
USTA.com: What are your goals for the team as they compete on the USTA Pro Circuit?
Andres Pedroso: I believe that I can speak for Bo and Ryan when saying that our two most important goals for the team are to make sure they play as many competitive matches as possible and that each of them has two clear objectives by the end of the summer that they are committed to improving over the next year. In a year’s time, we would like to see that these players are tougher competitors, physically fitter tennis players and more committed to the lifestyle that it takes to become a world-class professional tennis player.
USTA.com: As a former player who competed on the USTA Pro Circuit, what benefits do you feel the college players get from the experience of playing these events?
Andres Pedroso: Competing on the USTA Pro Circuit during the summer months of my college career gave me a true understanding of where I was physically, mentally and skill-wise in comparison to some of the best tennis players in the world. This summer experience always created a sense of urgency for me in the fall to address the areas of my game or mentality that needed to improve in order for me to be ready for my pro career once I graduated. I would recommend the USTA Pro Circuit summer experience to any college tennis player because they will not only return to their schools with insight about their own development but they will also be able to provide their coaches with important feedback as to how the overall developmental experience can improve within their own programs.
USTA.com: Can you describe how it’s been coaching one of your very own players from the University of Virginia on the USTA Collegiate Team?
Andres Pedroso: Spending quality time with Mitchell (Frank) on and off the court this summer on the USTA Pro Circuit has been incredible for our relationship and his overall development. Mitchell is constantly thinking about how he can improve in order to put himself in a position to win consistently against the top players in our sport. This summer has given me an opportunity to watch him compete at the professional level and, after his matches, sit down with him and assess what needs to be addressed in his game so that he continues to move forward with his development. It has also given me an opportunity to relay this information to not only our coaching staff at UVA but his coaches back home at the JTCC in College Park, whom we stay in close contact with in regards to Mitchell’s progress.
USTA.com: What are some of the highlights you have had so far in coaching the team this summer?
Andres Pedroso: This summer has given me a great opportunity to build relationships with players such as Chase Buchanan, Bradley Klahn, Dennis Nevolo and Evan King, whom I had never really had an opportunity to work with in the past. Working with them this summer has challenged me to work hard at understanding quickly what motivates them, what their aspirations are and how they envision themselves playing the game of tennis. Every player comes with a different personality, past and background, so this is a part of coaching that I always find very interesting and challenging.
USTA.com: Are there any players who have surprised or impressed you in any way?
Andres Pedroso: I would have to say that Bradley Klahn’s effort this past weekend qualifying for the LA Open is a great step forward for his career and confidence. Chase Buchanan has also had a tremendous amount of success on the Futures tour so far this summer, and he has shown Bo, Ryan and me that he is making a full commitment to the way of life of a world-class professional. I also think that we can expect a lot of great things from Steve Johnson, who has been competing at the ATP level so far this summer. We really do have a great crop of players coming out of college, and I believe that if they keep working hard, maturing and committing to the lifestyle of a top professional, that we will see several of these players competing in the main draw of the US Open consistently for years to come.
USTA.com: How is the experience of coaching the collegiate team different from coaching the Cavaliers?
Andres Pedroso: At UVA, our coaching staff makes it a priority to build very strong relationships with our players because if we fully understand their pasts, personalities and aspirations, only then will we have a true shot at providing them with the best possible four-year experience for their individual needs. The USTA College Team experience requires the coach to adopt the same approach with the players on the summer team but on a much faster scale because we only have one week of preparation/training with the players in Boca before the summer tournaments begin. As a USTA College Team coach, you are challenged to quickly understand what motivates each player, how to communicate with them effectively and what exactly is the story behind their tennis careers. The information we receive from the players’ college coaches is so helpful with this process, and it truly is a team effort to make this summer experience as productive as possible for the guys.
USTA.com: Why do you think this program has been able to produce so many top ATP players, including James Blake, the Bryan brothers and John Isner?
Andres Pedroso: Again, I think for those players who are going to college with the aspirations of becoming world-class professional tennis players, the USTA College Team is a great opportunity for them to gauge every summer where they are with their games, fitness and mentality. Providing our college players with opportunities to compete on the pro tour is an integral part of their development, and I would encourage the USTA and college programs across the country to continue to provide our college players with every opportunity to do so. We have a real opportunity in college tennis to keep pushing the bar higher and higher as far as player development goes, and if we do, I have no doubt that we will see many more former college players, like James, Bob, Mike and John, breaking through on the ATP Tour in the near future.