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Just three years into tennis career, Andrew Bogdanov ready for World Team Cup debut

Victoria Chiesa | April 28, 2023

Tennis participation in the United States has increased by 5.9 million new players since the start of 2020, in part thanks to the sport's status as ideal for social distancing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Players of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are accounted for in that total, and in Prescott, Ariz., one of them has already reached world-class status—enough to represent the U.S. next week at one of the world's premier wheelchair tennis events.


Andrew Bogdanov, 28, has surged to No. 38 in singles and No. 27 in doubles in the world's quad wheelchair rankings in a little more than three months after his pro debut. This rocket rise, during which he also won his first tour-level singles and doubles titles, earned him a spot on a three-man U.S. quad team at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup—the wheelchair counterpart to Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup—which will be played from May 1-7 at the Vilamoura Tennis Academy in Vilamoura, Portugal.

"It's every player's dream to represent their country ... I just I didn't expect it to happen this quickly," Bogdanov told from his Arizona home earlier this week. "I'm just incredibly honored and grateful for this opportunity."


A lifelong athlete since the age of 4, Bogdanov suffered a C7 spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident nine years ago, and quickly gravitated to sports like hand-cycling, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair softball as a way to stay active. But when the pandemic first shut down team sports in the spring of 2020, Bogdanov and his friends found their way to their local tennis courts at his alma mater, Bradshaw Mountain High School.


It was a perfect match, and Bogdanov was quickly hooked.


"We picked up some rackets from Goodwill. We were kind of just hitting around with it a little bit, and we loved it," he recalled.

Andrew Bogdanov in action.

"We were having so much fun with it. We were doing singles, doubles, everything, and we were just having a blast. It started as just something like recreational that ... we didn't know what we were doing. We were just going out and having fun, and then the more that we played, the more we got into it."


Self-described as someone who's committed fully to anything he's pursued, Bogdanov's enthusiasm quickly caught the eye of Chris Howard, who was, at the time, the tennis director at Yavapai College, Prescott's local community college, and a fixture in the sport's local scene. A USPTA Elite Tennis Professional for more than 25 years, Howard has since become Bogdanov's personal coach. In addition, Bogdanov has also trained at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center in Phoenix, in a wheelchair tennis program that's under the direction of former U.S. Paralympian Kaitlyn Verfuerth.


Bogdanov's road to the tour, and to Portugal, is a result of the USTA's competitive pathway in wheelchair tennis. He won the first USTA tournament he played in the 'C' division, the third of the four amateur, co-ed divisions for play, and quickly advanced up the ladder; first to the 'B' division, and then the 'A' division. He was then classified as a quad player by the International Tennis Federation last year, affording him the opportunity to transition to the pro circuit. 

"I had no intentions of ever making [tennis] a career, or trying to make a living off of this sport," he said. "It was just like, 'Wow, this is fun. I enjoy being out here.' When I'm out on the court, I'm not even thinking about the fact that I have a disability. I just forget about all of that and I'm just having fun with my friends. I think that's such a great way to get involved into something.


"But then as I started playing more tournaments and winning, I saw the progression and that was really important for me. ... As I started getting towards the higher levels, I was like, 'Okay, this might be something that I really could have a future with.'


"It's just been something that I've been totally in love with and passionate about. Pretty much, since I started a few years ago, I've been on the court just about every day. I take rest days, of course, but I just love it; I love traveling and love being out there."


Bogdanov was, in fact, abroad when he learned about his U.S. call-up. In his pro debut at an ITF Level 2 event in Bolton, Great Britain, he won his opening match in three thrilling sets before losing 6-2, 6-4 to Ymanitu Silva, a Brazilian ranked in the world's Top 10. Disappointed by the result in the moment, Bogdanov said, he was also encouraged by the big picture. 


"It was something that I looked at as a learning experience and also like, 'Okay, this is attainable. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but this is something that I can work towards as a goal,'" he said.


Equally encouraged was Kevin Heim, one of the USTA's national wheelchair tennis coaches who coached the quad team in three of the last four World Team Cups, and will again this year. As Bogdanov and his girlfriend traveled by train from Bolton to Scotland and back after he was eliminated—"We were just trying to see a little bit of scenery and make the most out of our trip," he said—Heim gave him a call to deliver the news of his nomination.


"Everybody was asking me at the England tournament if I was going to be going to the World Team Cup," Bogdanov said. "I just had been saying, 'No,' because I didn't know what was going on and what the future was. I was like, 'Oh, no, I haven't heard anything. I don't think so.'"


But he almost didn't hear Heim on the other end of the phone.


"The Wi-Fi was really bad, so we were trying to hear each other," Bogdanov said. "We were breaking up a little bit, but I got the gist and he got the gist. I was ecstatic."

Next week in Vilamoura, Bogdanov will again join the world's best, and be on the U.S. quad team with fellow first-time selection Steven Baxter, who was ranked in the world's Top 20 in quad singles and doubles as recently as last year; and 28-time Grand Slam champion David Wagner, who, at age 49, is suiting up for the U.S. for the 21st year in a row and remains a stalwart in the world's Top 5.


He might count the all-time great as a mentor so far in his fledgling professional career.


"David has just been really, really nice, has been giving me advice, and he's just so approachable," he said. "I have so much respect for him just because the quad division has such a wide variety of function levels, and it's tough to make an entire division equal. David is someone that has overcome adversity and is extremely resilient. He has to tape his hand to his racquet. ... He actually has a lot less function than some of these other players in the world, yet he has just incredible tennis IQ and knowledge.


"It is just like playing a chess match out there sometimes, especially in the quad division, and it's amazing to see him, who may not be able to move as well as some of these other players, still compete at such a high, elite level and beat players that are faster, that may have more function, than him. It's really great for me to be able to learn from someone like that because he's a smart player and he knows different situations, how you play towards someone's weaknesses, all of that. I'm just really looking forward to learning from someone like that who has been there, has that experience, and has that knowledge."


Moving forward, Bogdanov says he has both short-term and long-term goals, and one of those includes a return trip to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. After working at the year's final Grand Slam on the event's wheelchair maintenance team 12 months ago, Bogdanov hopes to be in Queens as a competitor in the near future. It's a goal that might be attainable as soon as this summer, as the US Open's quad event is expanding to a 16-player draw beginning in 2023


"I'm hoping that someday I'll come from being the tire changer and maintenance guy to being a player there," he said, smiling. "Those are big goals, of course, but that would be a dream."


Until then, he's taking it one day at a time. After the World Team Cup, he'll head to tournaments in Turkey and Canada in a bid to improve his ranking, armed with new knowledge gained from his U.S. coaches and teammates. 


"Just being a part of a team, especially a world-class team, is so great," he said. "I am looking forward to the experience and to make friends with all these great athletes, as I've met most of them already and started to build relationships. There are a lot of incredible players on the team and players that have been playing longer than I have. I'm really excited to build relationships with the coaches and with the other players. I think it's such a great networking opportunity as well. I can learn so much about some of the things that they've gone through ... and then obviously on the court as well, things that they can help me with because I'm just still new.


"I think it's going to be great to learn from some of these coaches and work on things that may be holding me back, or things that could really help improve my game and bring me to the next level. All of that is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

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