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Player to Player: Is It Too Late To Turn Pro?

May 29, 2012 11:08 AM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real​ Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Jackie:
Why are pro players now allowed to wipe off after every shot, and why can they take so long to serve? I thought they are only supposed to take 25 seconds between points. Nadal and others with the antics take too long.
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Luke
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Hello. I'm 18 and have been playing tennis for one year. I have really fallen in love with the game and would like to try and go pro in a few years. I wanted to ask, being so late getting started, is this a realistic goal? If so, what do I need to do to prepare myself?
Player Responses:
Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

After one year of tennis and at 18 years old, be sure that you look at the entire picture before aiming at playing on the pro tour. Here are a few suggestions before you take the leap of faith:
  1. Watch an entire team practice at a local University. This is what you need to do daily to develop and maintain your skills. Take into consideration that this doesn't show the conditioning drills and weight training in the gym. 
  2. Join the USTA and self rate 4.5 or 5.0. Play some tournaments, and see if this level is too easy. These levels are a few steps lower than where you want to be. If you find this is competitive, stay here and join the adult leagues. If you need  more of a challenge, sign up for an adult open or 18-year-old open. You need to qualify for an age-group open. 
  3. Play a club teaching pro. See how you fair. Then ask the pro for an honest opinion and advice.
  4. Enroll in one of the top tennis camps in the country. I did Harry Hopman's Tennis Academy at Saddlebrook Resort 20 years ago. Pete Sampras, who was No. 1 back then, was working on his volleys there. Each group had one teaching pro to every four students. We worked out eight hours a day. The camp had golf-cart riding between courts with recovery drinks and a survival kit, in case players would need medical attention. Mike and Bob Bryan, along with John Isner, also train there. 
Back when I was coaching high school tennis, I recall when I had one team that consisted of 65 girls. A girl by the name of Liz was No. 65. I asked Liz what her goals were. She replied that making varsity was her only goal. I told Liz, "If you set goals high, if you miss it by a little, it's a long fall down. Make your goals within reach, and you'll find that you will obtain more goals and also gain confidence along the way."

As I've said in a previous Player to Player, the closer the rungs of a ladder or set of steps are, the easier it is to climb. Simple goals like... Make your first volleys. Only three double faults a set. Break your opponent once a set. Accomplishing any of these will get you to the winner's circle faster. So Liz began setting makeable goals. She quickly gained more confidence as she followed our game plan. By the end of the season, she was No. 3 on the team and received the "Most Inspirational" award.

There's is a big difference between a dream and a realistic goal. You close your eyes to dream. You need to open them to see what is real. Just remember, there are just a few pros that make the tour successfully. But for those who don't make it as pros, it's because they found a few cons along the way. I wish you well on your journey.

Eric R., Northern California

Wow!! If you are almost a future pro after one year, then you must be a wunderkind and have a great instructor! I love your positive thinking and willingness to set high goals for yourself. Nothing is impossible when you believe in yourself, so you have the right frame of mind.

First, check with your highest-rated local pro or college instructor/coach. What is their opinion after hitting with you and looking at your strokes and whatever results you have achieved in the tourneys at the junior level?

The Challenger circuit consists of pros trying to make the big tour. There are local pros, would-be almost pros and college-age players testing out their games at this level against tough competition. This would be a stepping stone if your adviser sees that as your possible level.

What about school? If you are killing your school-level competition, then a summer of testing a higher level would be great "grist for the mill." Do not forgo your education, as even very talented touring pros need a good education to have a fulfilling life.

Enjoy the journey.

Chris J.

Short and honest answer -- virtually no chance. But let's not say absolutely not because if you are a phenom of athleticism AND you can hit the ball and play at least at the 4.5 level after one year, AND you can generate a serve speed of at least 110-ish mph +, perhaps it's worth a shot.  

So let's assume you are the above, and the goal is to be a Challenger-level pro or a local-area pro who can play open-level tourneys and make a few bucks around your USTA region. Call that one step down from a "touring" pro but still an amazing player, for sure. And realistically, doing local/regional tourneys, open ranked and being a head pro somewhere, too, one should be able to scratch the tennis itch of high-level competition and yet make a proper living. This will serve the tennis community, as well, because you'll owe it back, as you'll need a lot of support to go "pro!"

The only way I see this happening is if you can find a pro/college level practice partner, AND you'll have to literally play a match every day and at least two-three tourneys a month. You'll need hard-core practice, every practice, and it needs to be match-style practice. Forget ball-feeding drills and all that goes with that. You need sheer match play, so that is your practice. Then you need a ton of tourney play, too.

Frankly, this is where the problem lies. You won't have the amount of experience that most others have. By the time juniors hit 18, if they are moving towards college and beyond, they've played so many matches and tourneys the aura of this is completely out of the way. This will be the hardest part for you. Everyone looks good against the ball machine and in drills and playing with a buddy at the park, but put the same player in a tournament bracket, and very few can continue a high level of play against unknown competition.

You have a heck of a goal. I don't want to say no chance, but it's a really steep curve. Just eat the pie one bite at a time, and see what happens. Best of luck to you.

Kenny S.

Luke, the odds of you doing this are so low it is almost impossible. You're 18 and just started playing tennis. You want to turn pro? Well, train everyday, six hours or more. I hope you are over 6 feet tall and real athletic. If not, chill and become a teacher or lawyer. Good luck. You will have to put 199% into it, and you probably still wouldn't do it. Maybe try to make a Division 1 NCAA team in the next few years.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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