Team USA Wheelchair Spotlight:
Erin Maher | May 24, 2018
In honor of National Mobility Awareness Month in May, USTA.com is highlighting members of the Team USA wheelchair squad. Six men and women will represent the U.S. at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup final, the wheelchair tennis equivalent of Davis Cup and Fed Cup, in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, from May 28-June 3. This week, we caught up with three-time World Team Cup junior champion Conner Stroud.
Eighteen-year-old Conner Stroud, a three-time junior World Team Cup champion, will be debuting in the men's division for the first time this year. The Rutherfordton, N.C., native ended his junior career ranked No. 2 in the ITF world rankings and recently committed to the University of Alabama to compete for its four-time national champion wheelchair tennis team.
USTA.com recently spoke to Stroud before he headed to the Netherlands, talking tennis, how his past World Team Cup experience will influence his play at the event this year and his future in collegiate tennis.ADVERTISEMENT
USTA.com: In 2015, you were part of the Junior World Cup team that won its first world championship in 15 years, and you went on to win two more world championship titles, accumulating three total. How does being a three-time junior champion at the World Cup influence you as you ascend into the men’s division this year?
Conner Stroud: It gives you confidence in knowing that you had success at the junior level. I'm also familiar with the format and with my teammates, who I was on the junior teams with when we won, so we’re all very familiar with each other.
USTA.com: You will be playing with Chris Herman and Casey Ratzlaff, who are former members of your junior World Cup Team. What do you think sets apart your team from others?
Conner Stroud: We’ve grown up together, playing for the last four or five years together. We get to play with each other in tournaments, and having been on the team together for a while, it’s helped us get familiar with each other. Hopefully that will give us an advantage, since we are very familiar with each other and comfortable around each other.
USTA.com: What team do you see as your greatest obstacle at the World Team Cup?
Conner Stroud: The best teams would be Great Britain or France. Both teams are very, very good. This is our first year playing at the men’s level. I think it’s just good to get more familiar with all these players and how high their game-level is and just to play against them and learn from them.
USTA.com: What part of your game are you most confident about?
Conner Stroud: Probably my forehand. That’s what I like to use to end the point with or take control of the point.
USTA.com: You come from a big tennis family. Both of your parents coach, and your sister played in college. Do you talk tennis with your family frequently?
Conner Stroud: Yeah, a ton. My dad is my coach, so he’s always coaching me, and I always hit with him every time I play tennis. He and my mom – we talk a lot of tennis, and they know my game better than anyone.
USTA.com: You’re a high school senior and recently committed to play for the University of Alabama starting in the fall. What made you decide to go there?
Conner Stroud: I know some of the team members, and they have a really great program in Alabama. They have a really good gym, good tennis and a good coach. I’m liking their whole program. They just got a new $10 million gym that is just for adapted athletes, so that’s really good, too, to help build strength and improve my game off the court. So I think it’ll be really good for my game to play with a team.
USTA.com: Besides the World Cup teams you’ve played on, have you played on any other teams?
Conner Stroud: Oh yeah. I played on my high school team and just finished maybe a month ago.
USTA.com: How was ending your high school career?
Conner Stroud: It was a lot of fun to play with my team against other high schools, and it’s really competitive. It was bittersweet to end it, for sure.
USTA.com: So now that you’ll be playing for Alabama, what are you looking forward to most about playing on a collegiate team?
Conner Stroud: I think the support, having your teammates cheer you on. I think it’s very important to pump everyone up or cheer them on – just push them to do better and get good matches.
USTA.com: Finally, what would you say to anyone who’s starting to play wheelchair tennis for the first time?
Conner Stroud: Be optimistic and have fun. It’s a bit challenging at the start, but as long as you’re having fun, you’re being active and making friends, it’s really good to get out and play a sport with anybody. It’s a really good sport for anybody in a wheelchair to try out and be able to play.
Follow wheelchair tennis action on Facebook at USTA Wheelchair Tennis.
Pictured above: Conner Stroud at 2017 US Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. (Photo credit: USTA)