USTA Missouri Valley
Ratzlaff Ready For
USTA Missouri Valley | May 29, 2018
Casey Ratzlaff, the top men’s wheelchair tennis player in the United States, has had quite the start to 2018.
In January, he led the US team in qualifying for the World Team Cup Finals May 28-June 3 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, and in April he was a part of the United States Tennis Association’s contingent to share tennis at the White House’s annual Easter Egg Roll.
But Ratzlaff feels he’s just really getting started on both his year and his career. The Wichita-native completed his freshman year at Wichita State where he’s planning to major in sports management. And with finals behind him, he’s preparing to become a globetrotter of sorts this summer.
Before joining his teammates, Conner Stroud and Chris Herman in the Netherlands, he’ll also make stops in Italy and France for tune-up events. Nick Taylor, also of Wichita, will be on the quad team while Kevin Heim of Lincoln, Nebraska will be a coach.ADVERTISEMENT
“It’s incredible to have the opportunity to do what I get to do,” Ratzlaff said. “I definitely don’t take seeing the world for granted. I’m grateful to have the opportunities to do thisand represent my country.”
The 19 year-old Ratzlaff is currently ranked No. 37 and even though he’s ahead of his expectations in his career, he recognizes he still has a gap to close between himself and the elite players in the world.
“I definitely achieved more quickly than I expected,” he said. “It also brings a lot of responsibility and it’s eye opening as to how much work I have to do to make it to the highest level.”
Ratzlaff trains in Wichita alongside his coach Justin DeSanto and also receives plenty of support from Nick Taylor, who is among the most decorated US wheelchair tennis players.
“Nick has a great tennis mind,” Ratzlaff said. “I don’t take his coaching for granted. I look up to him as a player and a coach.”
Ratzlaff is the next generation of American wheelchair tennis, following the footsteps of Taylor and his partner David Wagner. Taylor has won three Paralympics gold medals, and 11 grand slams.
“We’re excited to be the face of American tennis, I guess you could say. “We’re really focused on creating that good image for American tennis and hold ourselves to a high standard.”
Beyond the immediate events in Amsterdam, Ratzlaff is also holding out hope for a wildcard into the US Open since his ranking will likely not earn him direct entry. But perhaps, Ratzlaff’s biggest goal that keeps him motivated on a daily basis is being a part of the US team at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“It’s just a matter of maintaining my level until that day comes and seeing what I can make of it,” he said.