Beau first came to my attention via his podcast, "What Do You Get?" I really enjoyed his relaxed, conversational style, and his genuine interest in what his interview subjects were saying. I started following his results at various overseas tournaments and was excited for him when he earned his first ATP point in one of the final tournaments of 2015. His first post for On the Rise is his look at what getting that point meant to him.
The First Point
Outside the chain-link fence of Court 7 in El Kantoui, Tunisia, is where my friend scared me. It was early December, and my roommate, Christian, and I were watching a friend, Ruben, play his first round Qualifying match of a Futures tournament.
Futures tournaments are the minor leagues of tennis. Qualies are the cage matches that get you into Futures. Chris and I had the pleasure of playing each other later in the afternoon, so we got to watch our friend Ruben fight for a spot in the Main Draw that morning.
Ruben and his Italian opponent were evenly matched; I wouldn’t have bet on the outcome. But at 3-3 in the first set, Ruben was losing his mind. His arm was tight, his serve and forehand didn’t have the same pop they do in practice. After a string of bad points, he turned to us and said, “What am I supposed to do? I can’t make anything!” I know that feeling, and know there’s no advice you really want to hear, so I just said “Come on man, let’s go” Tennis talk for, “get it done.”
Chris, on the other hand, said, “It’s just one ATP point man, it won’t change your life, relax.” This comment stuck in my head like the latest Taylor Swift song, and I couldn’t shake it off. Chris scared me by saying that. I needed an ATP point to change my life; I thought the deal was that getting an ATP point would mean more than just getting my name in the rankings. One ATP point was supposed to be validation and confirmation both in the tennis world and in my own head that my years of dedication had been worth it.
Getting an ATP point is a milestone for us in the tennis world. It may not be anyone’s end goal, but it is a very meaningful start to every player’s career. You never forget where and when you got your first point. But the physical and mental ailments that strike you when you get close to making your dream come true can and do stifle many players.
Chris’ comment bothered me, but I didn’t say anything at the time. I didn’t have a point yet, so what did I know about what having a point does or does not do for a person. Two days after that comment though, I won my first ATP point.
And my life changed.
Instantly, having a point did two things for me: It helped me stop caring so much about what other people thought of my game and it allowed me to compete for the next 52 weeks without wondering whether or not I’ll get in the draw. Both are massive weights off my shoulders.
The mental part of getting my first point and feeling like I have arrived in the tennis world was big for me. Having one point, and being #2009 in the world, is obviously not my final goal, but it is a validation that I have made a name for myself in the tennis world. I’ve gotten that monkey off my back and now I don’t have to stress about whether or not it will ever happen for me.
My physical life has not changed much; I’m still playing qualies, still losing money at every tournament, and my first serve still needs work; but my mindset has completely changed. Now I’ve accomplished one of my biggest dreams; I really made something happen that I thought might never would. The moment I won was the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court; equal parts joy, relief and astonishment. That feeling has since worn off, but I still have the mental freedom I gained that day. Getting one ATP point changed my mentality, and this new mentality changed my life.
Getting an ATP point doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. At the end of my career maybe having an ATP point will help me get a better coaching job, and a world ranking will be something I can always put on my resume. But I’m playing tennis neither as a resume builder nor to make more money as a coach. I’m doing this to build myself into the person I want to be. Getting an ATP point was exactly the validation I so badly wanted. The freedom it has given me was worth all the work. I am able to let myself succeed and take what I work for.
No matter how unlikely it is that I’ll ever play at the US Open, I won’t know unless I try. I had to try and get an ATP point, I had to get on the plane and say goodbye to my friends and the beach and the comforts of home, but if I could do it once and this new mindset is the payoff, how can I not continue pushing myself? Getting an ATP point is maybe the biggest achievement of my life to date, and how could I give up on this dream now when I might just be getting hot?