Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Back to the grind in Colombia

Guest post by Beau Treyz

The reality of professional tennis is that you have to be a Top 100 player for multiple years to make a comfortable living. Outside of those select few, we’re all in the tennis equivalent of the minor leagues. And we all think we can make it to the big leagues. It’s amazing to walk around Futures tournaments and see guys and think, “Man, what is this guy doing here? He has no chance.” But if he thinks he has a chance then why shouldn’t he be here? It’s more shocking to me to see guys and think, “Man, what’s he doing here. How has he not made it yet?” There are so many levels to professional tennis; it can be disheartening if I think about it too much.

I’ve played Futures in seven different countries so far, and seen players ranked inside the top 200 and players that wouldn’t play on my high school team; how could all of these guys think they’re good enough to be Top 100? How much time will a player spend in the minor leagues before he calls it a career? That question lives in the back of every players mind. I’m going to stop playing when I think I can’t improve anymore; when I’ve done everything I can and still not had enough to be a top player. That’s when I’ll know. From talking to other guys on tour, that’s how most of us feel.

Last week I played my first Futures since April, after taking the summer off to teach tennis at a Country Club in New York to fund my travels. I’d say I thought about getting back on tour everyday I was working. I didn’t often think about the intensity of the tour though. No matter where I play, the guys are the same. They may have different names, and be from different countries, but the intensity is the same. These guys work so hard. I lost in the final round of qualies last week because I was tentative and impatient on court; I didn’t show up ready to compete. A hard lesson to relearn, and it’s probably not the last time I’ll relearn it if I’m being honest. But what I’ve learned from the best guys I’ve seen is that they don’t really care that much. Of course they’re focused when they’re playing a match, but to them each tournament is just another week; and every week needs to be a week where they improve. None of us dream of playing Futures. Futures are not the goal; ATP events and a Top 100 ranking are the goal. The best players never forget that.

It’s amazing to know that every player out here is doing the same thing, and more or less in the same boat whether they want to admit it or not. Sure, the guy who’s 300 is playing Challengers, and is closer to the Top 100 than the guy that’s 1000, but neither of them have made it yet. Both guys have to keep improving; and neither of them is making money. One guy may be significantly better, but his process and goals are probably more similar to the lower ranked guy than people think. I didn’t know that last year; I thought there was some magic, or something the other guys knew that I didn’t. What they knew that I didn’t is that a professional tennis career is a process, and it takes time to get to the top of you game physically, mentally and emotionally. This year I know that, and it’s helped my game already in one week back on tour.

Like I said, I lost in qualies last week to a guy I should’ve beaten. I was pissed, and then of course that guy got an easy draw first round main draw and got another point without breaking a sweat; could’ve been me. That would have bothered me last year. But now I don’t want another point, I want hundreds of points, and I want to improve. Having five ATP points doesn’t make you top 100, so then why stress about it? After my loss my doubles partner, Dusty Boyer, and I went on to win two rounds and get to the semifinals of the doubles tournament beating three players in the top 400. Probably the best wins of our careers so far; just days after a pretty bad singles loss. It’s being able to keep the bigger picture of my career in mind that let’s me now bring a certain intensity to every match without it becoming too much. It’s not easy to do, and I’ll probably never perfect it or have to stop reminding myself of it, but I guess that’s what we all have to do. The intensity that the top guys approach their career with is what makes them different from the minor league guys, hopefully I can learn it.