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Friday, August 22, 2014

Jared Donaldson Turns Pro

Jared Donaldson has announced he is turning pro.  Here is his statement:

"I dreamed of being a professional tennis player my entire life.  I do not play for money or fame.  I play tennis because I love to play the game.  Today, after much thought and deliberation, I made the decision along with my parents and coach to live my dream and pursue professional tennis as my career.  In addition to playing professional tennis, I will complete my high school education and I plan to postpone College for now, and return for a degree once I am finished on the professional tour."  


LoveTheGame said...

He will make money as a tennis player then go to school. Love the conviction. And it's the right path. If you want to be a top 50 pro, you gotta go for it. You have your whole life to go to college, but only a window of 10-15 years to be a pro tennis player. Good luck Jared.

russ said...

LoveTheGame: He won't go to college. If he makes it as a pro, why would he need to? Good luck to him and I think he has a real shot for top twenty, if not better. And as an aside, any commenters from last year who were denigrating last year's Kalamazoo field want to revise their opinion?
And in case you might have missed it: the NY Times has an article on the USTA finances (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/sports/tennis/intersecting-interests-at-the-top-of-us-tennis.html?_r=0). Seems like everyone is making money but the players. Raise the purse of the futures for crying out loud.

Joe said...

Defintely the right decision. Going to college, even one year, would have dramatically diminished his marketability, not to mention limiting his tennis skills.

russ said...

Ah Bazinga, that comment of yours was posted to an article written last year and last year he was a KZoo finalist.

Good move said...

Of all the young players that are seniors or rising seniors, I believe he is the only one that has the street cred to go pro. He has proven that he can play and win in the pros, which is much better than just a winning junior record being the basis for such a big decision. Congrats to him.

Agree Russ, it is not that players ranked 100-400 are unsuccessful, the USTA tennis system is not supporting them and thus, the game. Futures prize money is a joke and the cost to play is much more than the winner takes home. That is a fail. Big time.

Shawn - TN said...

Congrats to Jared for having the guts and conviction to go for it. We do have many talented Americans besides Jared, but they are off at college.... Distracted by classes, homework, tests, papers, parties, girls, etc.
If you want to be successful at being a pro, you have got to grind it out on the futures. Best of luck to him, he has a big game, and sure he might take some losses, but he gots the talent to be a top contender.

Perry Joe said...

That's a bunch of crap...while I do admire the decision because I feel he has the mojo and has already backed it up by winning several future events, the highway is littered with others like him that skipped college and are now teaching pros with no other options in life. College may have some distractions but not as many as the futures with no support group, etc. For most, college allows you to go through a period of growing up without "gutting" and spitting you out. You have a strength coach, a personal trainer, sports psychologist, mentor, etc...I am not saying everyone needs to go, but most do. And you can say we don't have the superstars we have had in the past, that is not college system's fault. We just need the freak exceptions like Sampras, Courier, Chang, Agassi, who all won ATP tour events by age of 18. College is the constant that is putting players out. More than the USTA PD!

get real said...

to perry joe - Could not disagree with you more. Said it before-college tennis has never been or will be a path to the pros. Just can’t develop your game playing two dual matches a week. Honestly D1 tennis is weaker than its been in years. Agree that the highway is littered with players that didn't make it, but let’s get real here, tennis is an international sport where only 75 make it to sponsorships and only the top 50 make big bucks, that’s 50 athletes in the world. At least this kid is giving it real shot.

tennisobserver said...

@ get real. I am not sure where you are getting your data from, but college tennis is definitely stronger now than has been in probably 15-20 years (I'm referring to the era where Martin and Washington were playing in). The top 8 guys all would probably be top 300 if they played a full schedule. @ Shawn-TN, please spare me the excuse of these players having distractions ie classes, partying, girls, etc. Are you kidding me? It's called being a normal student and enjoying life. I've spent a fair bit of time out on the circuit coaching players, and let me tell you there are plenty of distractions out there, some even worse than the things you cited. Lastly, Perry Joe hit it right on the head. College should be utilized by the majority of players (not the 1% who have a huge weapon are ready to make the jump) to allow them to mature mentally and physically. Why do people continue to ignore the data that clearly states that pro tennis players are in their prime between the ages of 25-30. Just in the last 10 years or so we've lost Oudsema, Scoville Jenkins, Harper-Griffith, Brendan Evans, Phillip Simmonds, Marcus Fugate and so forth to the cruel life of the circuit. Go to college for atleast a year, utilize the unbelievable amount of resources available to you. If you dominate, by all means turn pro. Lastly, to @get real, last I checked if you lose first or second round of a futures or challenger tournament you are playing exactly 2 matches for that week. Have you been to a high level D1 practice? Outside of dual matches, these kids are probably playing 5-7 matches a week against very good competition. On another note, I actually endorse Donaldson going pro because I feel like is of the 1% who have the imposing game to do damage at the professional level. Wouldn't be surprised to see this kid in the 100 within 15-18 months.

Donaldson yes, everyone else college then pro said...

@get real, wow you sound bitter. Since as you said, tennis only allows 50-75 people a year to make it then of course, they should all be going to college where they get much better training by people invested in them, not ready to throw them away like USTA. And it is obvious college can be a path to the pros, saying it isn't is pretty naive. There is nothing sadder to see the guys at futures who I know gave up a great college opportunity/experience/team/memories... they look like a horse ridden hard and put away wet. There is nothing glamorous about climbing the US Pro circuit. Donaldson is doing the right thing, but I can't name one other junior that should be doing what he is doing, not Rubin, Kozlov, or any of the USTA poster children. They will come and go with the rest of them. And if they do it without college, they are the fools. Great to have conviction, but with the odds in tennis and the lack of support in the U.S., have some common sense too. I guess it's just easy to cheer someone into throwing away a future from that safe cozy armchair. How much D1 tennis did you play? Ya, that's what I thought.

Igor said...

What's wrong with American tennis?
This whole conversation of playing it safe,
of not going for it,
of having a back up plan...

That's why there are so few Americans in the Grand slams, you can't be great playing it safe. And yeah, it's expensive to travel around....grinding it out in the futures, and the USTA would rather spend the $$$$ on their salaries then rising players.

Other countries, the country I'm from, we don't have college tennis. Our kids are hungry, they want to go pro ,they have no back up plan.

I'm sure the first loss that Jared has you will be pooh-poohing from your armchair saying he should've gone to college. Try supporting your players.

Seen it before said...

Agree with you Igor. This play it safe mentality that seems to exist only in the United States is the detriment of American tennis. What happen was the USTA with their player development program in Boca took in a bunch of kids and spent a tremendous amount of money on them. They were supposed to be the stars ,the future of American tennis. However at the end of their great experiment, none of them were good enough to be pro players. So, the USTA, in order to hide their mistakes, changed their tune and said, college tennis is the way to the pros now. Of course, every few years they change their tune and it's hard to keep up.

Go Jared! said...

Igor, totally agree with you. Jared has convictions, he has the balls to believe in himself. That's what's missing from our juniors. Imagine if Bill Gates or Zuckerman ( FB) thought that way, "Need a back up plan", they would've stayed in college.

russ said...

College is not a back up plan, oftentimes it is fastest and definitely the least expensive way for a player who is NOT Jared Donaldson, Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios to develop into a professional with a financially viable career. If you're not getting sponsored to the tune of at least 50K a year, if you're not getting free medical care with all your injuries taken care of, if you're not physically developed, or emotionally, psychologically ready, college is a no brainer. On the other hand, if you're out there by yourself, scrounging for money in some teaching job, or some money tournament or some temporary job to pay for coaching, training, nutrition, traveling, and all the ancillary expenses that come with the game, then you're just slowing your development down.

And now you know why Jared trained in South American said...

Unfortunately, the USTA does not fund junior tournaments or aspiring pros with the necessary money and that leads to the disastrous state ofAmerican tennis. Cheating is rampant in THIS COUNTRY, but not others. More refs in other countries are at the tournaments, and this bad behavior does not go on of bad line calls, changing the score, throwing racquets, spiking balls, and cursing. Yet, these are all common occurrences at most junior tournaments. I was at the College park grade 1 where Colette commented on how much time it took up. Colette, you haven't seen anything. On a scale of 1-10, that was a 1. Why, they did have roving refs. Some tournaments, you have one ref for 8 courts,
although the tournament fees here are ridiculous. Ask any TD and they receive zero funding from the USTA for their tournaments. So, many juniors here are not really playing tennis, they are working on their gamemanship. And that's why the European juniors and South American juniors are better, they don't put up with all this BS that our juniors do...

Reasoning why they go to college. said...

Why isn't the USTA supporting the players that are top 100-400? Why are they not getting stipends?
I know a player right now who is in the 300's and he gets no money from the USTA. He makes less than a person working a McDonalds. At what point is the USTA going to take some of that 250 million dollars they make every year just off the US Open and spend some it on our aspiring pros? Or fund any junior tournament?

russ said...

Go Jared: Bill Gates and Zuckerberg both went to college (Harvard) for a couple of years. They both used the opportunities and resources that college provided them to advance their careers. They used computer labs, they collaborated and wrote papers with professors, they had access to other bright people who formed the nucleus of their respective ventures. (Ballmer and Paul Allen in Gates case.) I would say going to college was extremely beneficial to these guys.

Support our players,not yourselves said...

Jared is the first junior from the class of 2015 to go pro, but there are a few in the class of 2014. The USTA is lining their pockets with ridiculous salaries, and our American players are not getting funded.

How did they do? said...

So, how did they do as the brightest tennis players in junors, hand picked by the USTA PD for the class of 2010-2011? And granted a few left the USTA on their own and went elsewhere after that year.

The class of 2010 - 2011.
All data pulled from ITF, college site, and TRN. Analysis of MEN ONLY.

The USTA announced recently the 14 boys and six girls who have been accepted into its 2010-2011 class at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. The students will reside and train full-time at the facility, where they will receive coaching from the USTA National Coaching staff and will continue their academic education through course work provided by Kaplan Virtual Education. The following players will train full-time at the USTA Training Center Headquarters this school year:


Jordan Belga, Elk Grove Village, Ill. Class of 2014, Florida , ITF ranking – N/A

Luca Corinteli, Alexandria, Va. – Class of 2013, Virginia, ITF ranking N/A

Jake DeVine, Boca Raton, Fla. – Class of 2015

Joseph DiGiulio, Newport Beach, Fla. - Class of 2013, UCLA, ITF ranking 1570

Jeremy Efferding, Lake Worth, Fla. – Class of 2011, Texas A&M, ITF ranking 1339

Alexios Halebian, Glendale, Calif. Class of 2013, no college, ITF ranking 952 (Last year was 801).

Hunter Harrington, Spartanburg, S.C. – Class of 2011, Clemson, ranking 1193

Daniel Kerznerman, Brooklyn, N.Y. – Class of 2014, Alabama, ITF ranking 1860

Thai Kwiatkowski, Charlotte, N.C.- Class of 2013, Virginia, ITF ranking 1600

Spencer Newman, Miami- Class of 2011, Michigan/Florida , ITF ranking 1330

Spencer Papa, Edmond, Okla. Class of 2014, Tulsa, ( funny TRN has him ranked at 353 in the class of 2014) ITF Rranking - 891

Konrad Zieba, Glenview, Ill. – Class of 2013, Northwestern, ITF ranking N/A

Reilly Opelka, Palm Coast, Fla. – class of 2015

Nikko Madregallego, Duarte, Calif. – Class of 2013 Alabama, ITF ranking N/A

Richard said...

Perry Jo says at college, you have a

"strength coach, a personal trainer, sports psychologist, "

Most tennis programs share the trainer with the football team, where is this place where you get your own personal trainer?

Obviously don't know college said...

Richard, this place of personal trainers is any top D1 school. They have an entire staff behind them of trainers, PTs, sports massage therapists, and so much more. Yes, they have multiple personal trainers focusing on different physical aspects, all dedicated only to the tennis team and paid for by the tennis team. These people travel with the team. And the school has a sports psychologist they can see anytime they want and who checks in on them regularly. This is only a fraction of what they get. This is the reality of tennis at a top D1 school. Try paying for that while slugging through the futures circuit, where you get to 300 in the world and are still in the red and receiving no help. It's amazing how many stupid comments about college tennis come from those that obviously know nothing about it. I can only assume they didn't go to college, and certainly were never good enough to play there.

Have guts, have conviction, be like a starving hungry immigrant and go for it - enter a system that won't reward you then pay for it the rest of your life struggling to make a living and supporting a family. But you can say you went for it, great. American college players are just smarter and know better than to trade an education and all its perks for an investment that doesn't pay off thanks to the USTA.

Seattle Native said...

Russ- You make some valid points regarding Bill Gates and Zuckerberg. However, I think it's worth noting that Gates already knew Paul Allen before he went to college because they went to the same high school in Seattle and were already very close friends and partners on ventures before Gates went to Harvard. In fact, I don't think Paul Allen even went to Harvard, he went to Washington State University until he dropped out.

Also, Steve Ballmer's leadership at Microsoft has been widely criticized by many as being a disaster until he was finally booted recently, so perhaps Gates would have faired better meeting someone in the business world.

With regard to Zuckerberg, he had already succeeded in starting-up and selling a technology company to Microsoft before he even entered college so he was already doing pretty well without it.

Name of these schools please said...

Can you name this school that has multiple personal trainers, sports massage therapist, physical therapist and sports psychologists that are all
"dedicated only to the tennis team".
Quite a budget!

My son plays for a good D1 team, and they share the basketball trainer, that's it.

Distractions.... said...

Playboy ranked Virginia the number 1 party school in the country, so yeah, would agree that there are too many distractions at some schools. See the list below if you see any other tennis schools on it.

Playboy's top 10 party schools overall are as follows:

1. University of Virginia

2. University of Southern California

3. University of Florida

4. University of Texas

5. University of Wisconsin

6. University of Georgia

7. Vanderbilt University

8. Tulane University

9. Texas Christian University

10. Ohio State University

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News & World Report. Contact him at scline@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.

Need to know basis said...

The post said the psychologist was a school resource. As they say....if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it. If you don't know these schools you obviously don't need to. Just like the USTA, there is so much they are doing for players on the inside that people without elite players will never know about. Just how it works, whether junior, college, or pro.

tennisobserver said...

Another thing people are completely discounting is the fact that you can still play 10-15 futures a year even while you are in college. (heck some schools not only host them but also have them listed as one of their 25 dates). I can't believe that with all the success college tennis has had the last 5-8 years, this is still even a point of discussion. Unless you are already lighting it up on tour (ie Donaldson) go to college for a least a year and mature. Quick story for everyone, I played host to 4 players (ATP ranking ranged from 400 to unranked, 2 of the 4 graduated from college, 2 went to college and had mediocre results but decided to turn pro early anyways) when we hosted a 10,000 futures tournament in town. I provided them housing (to help save them money) and provided them a place to train (to help save them money). After our training session 1 day, 2 of the players asked if there was somewhere I could recommend to grab lunch that was not only nutritious and healthy but also cheap (you guessed it, so they could save money). Now I get it, everyone now a days is trying to save money but as a "professional" tennis player your body is the vehicle which will allow you make money. These players were probably able to save upwards of 1,500 for the week by having their training and housing provided yet they still had to compromise on the fuel they put in their body. How exactly are you supposed to give yourself the best chance to be successful if you are constantly having to make compromises and cut corners on things that are so important to your career? A very unique few will be able to overcome these things and still be successful. Have you been to a Challenger tournament lately (rankings range from 75 to 300)? Because the difference between them and someone in the top 30 is extremely small. It could be the difference between eating a little bit better everyday or sleeping in a reasonably nice hotel each night. Do you think Joao Sousa or Roberto Bautista Agut compromise on their eating and sleeping habit? No flipping way! This brings me full circle to college tennis. EVERYTHING is paid for! Your training, your housing, your fuel (food), your school, your travel, etc. The list goes on and on. Lastly, I agree with some of the posters who say Americans sometimes have it too easy and that is why we have fallen behind the rest of the world in terms of turning out grand slam champions. Players from other countries are hungrier because they don't have college tennis so they are of the mentality of "pro or bust". But here's the thing: they do have a choice. Last I checked, our collegiate system is filled out a huge percentage of internationals who have taken advantage of this great luxury we can provide. Devarrman, Nedoysev, B. Becker are just a couple of who utilized it to their adavantage. They've realized as well that for every Dimitrov or Berdych, there are 10,000 who do not make it. Out of the 2014 class only Donaldson (and maybe Kozlov, except his ceiling is much lower) have shown the results on the pro circuit (not the juniors ie Rubin, Altamarino) to warrant turning pro immediately.

russ said...

Seattle native: my bad; should've made the change after I checked my faulty memory.

Well said! said...

tennisobserver, you nailed it. Nice to see someone who gets it on here. Loved your tales from the tour.

After asking themselves when to go pro a lot of players have to determine if it is worth it to do so. When only the top 75 in the world (if that) can make a living at it, the question should be why isn't more being done for American pros, rather than blasting these young people for not going for it and throwing it all away on a system that offers them nothing in their pursuit. Minor leagues/farm teams exist in other sports - tennis nada. Tennis has a pay as you play futures tour. This keeps the game from growing, not a lack of guts and conviction.

Igor said...

"sleeping in a reasonably nice hotel each night"

Wow, are you kidding? You think the players in Eastern Europe are not playing well the next day because they didn't get to sleep in a "reasonably nice hotel" the night before. Check out their homes, they are not reasonably nice either.

Richard said...

If you have to ask - I don't have to ask, my son is currently playing college tennis in a decent Division 1, and they share the trainer with the basketball team.
They don't have a personal trainer, or a massage therapist, or a physical therapist.

So, can you tell us this mens team that has:
"multiple personal trainers"
massage therapists
physical therapist

I am interested in their budget that they can afford all of this when other teams are suffering cutbacks.

Your silence or the statement if you need to ask you are not in the exclusive group is bs.
Maybe, other parents want to know for their rising juniors?

USTA - needs to redistribute the wealth said...

Not sure why the USTA can't take some of that money out of their salaries and push it down? If Patrick McEnroe reconsidered his million dollar salary for being the head of USTA PD and took a reasonable salary of #200,000 for a not for profit job, that would be $800.000 to spread to the future players. If you gave $10,000 dollars to each future player, you could support about 80 American players.

good laugh - said...

Had to laugh, if they don't have a comfortable bed to sleep in they can't play well the next day. And you wonder why your country is so far behind. Stay in college, the futures will definitely be too taxing. You might get a bad meal out on the road too, oh the injustice.

Dan - GA said...

Looked at Boca Class of 2010 ( player development hand chosen group).. Not much to get excited about.
This is the best group they could find?
4 of the players don't even have 1 point.
No wonder the USTA pushed them all into college, only two are top 800.

Just wondering said...

Hey Well Said,
Your saying the lack of money keeps the game from growing, not a lack of guts and conviction. How do other countries do it then? How do they have their guys in the top 100, and we as a huge country, have barely anyone in the top 100? The USTA rakes in more money than any other county with the UP Open bring in 220 million a year. Where does it all go? I know as a TD of junior tournaments they spend nada when I run my tournaments.

Coaching32yrs said...

Jared has done a fantastic job and I wish him all the best. Jared is incredibly lucky to have 2 really smart tennis gurus guiding him since he was a babe. His dad has been a genius at getting him exactly the right training and experience and Mario was critical to his early development. A junior cannot develop on his own, he needs proper guidance and support. Isn't it funny that Jared never played in the USTA syatem despite the fac he was ofered free training. Dad decided to go his own path and pay for it. How many would do that? And Dad has never played tennis!

get real said...

To tennisobserver

WOW. You may disagree with my points, but to attack my opinion as “bitter” is about as closed minded and intolerant of others views as it gets and arrogant. First, I don’t have a dog in this fight, just an observer like yourself. The whole point of blog like this to discuss different opinions, and clearly US men’s tennis is in need of as new path, or major tweaks with its current direction. Right now the answers are up for discussion. The challenge with choosing professional tennis as a career, whether it’s before or after some college or all four years of college , is so few actually make a living in this sport. The top ATP players are so incredibly gifted/talented, a whole other level of the game, which is why most very talented juniors and college players are just not talented enough. Sure some players who took the college route have had success on the tour, but very few crack the top 75 and the numbers still support that most who crack the top 75 turned pro instead of choosing college. But its almost a mute point as those are make it are such exceptions anyway. Also, any junior who choses the pro path is not giving up a college education because college will always be an option if professional tennis does not pan out, which I agree it won’t for most whether they go to college or not. You should also consider that many college athletes spend more time training and classes are secondary, also given a lot of assistance by athletic departments to keep up with courses, which sort questions the whole idea of student-athletes anyway. You also say “I can't name one other junior that should be doing what he is doing, not Rubin, Kozlov, or any of the USTA poster children.” Well I remember all the naysayers when Milos Raonic turned pro and look how that turned out. All I am saying, until its happens, with few exceptions like Grigor Dimitrov or Bernard Tomic who both had a lot of buzz starting in the 12s, it’s a roll of the dice to say this one has a chance and that one doesn’t. A few years ago D1 tennis had Blaz Rolo, Rhyne Williams, Tennys Sandgrens, Austin Krajicek, Steve Johnson, Bradley Klahn, John-Patrick Smith, Robert Farah. . I don’t see that level or depth and talent in the current top group at all, but that is my opinion. Whether I played D1 tennis or not is really irrelevant because the game has changed so much the last decade both on the professional and college levels.

tony said...

An excerpt from today's Bloomberg times:

Fernando Soler, managing director of the tennis division of talent agency IMG that represents tennis stars including Kvitova and Maria Sharapova, called on parents to be realistic.
“It’s very difficult to get to the top,” he said. “Only a few of them are going to make it. You’d better make sure that your kids continue to study and have a plan B in place in case things don’t work out as expected.”

get real said...

Let's take Soler's advice a step further. If it's vital for parents to keep the chances of success on the ATP or WTA real, also begs the question, if the chances are so slim, why not focus on a team sport that an athlete can develop in high school and still get a D-1 scholarship vs. tennis which typically requires home school & spending your high school years out of the mainstream.

Play for right reasons said...

getreal, that reasoning means you are only in a sport for financial gain. Maybe and hopefully the kid is playing because he loves it, not because his parents make him play because they are only looking for a free ride to college or a money making career?

And perhaps those home school kids out of mainstream are just where they want to be. Ever go by a full time academy that is run well? It is a great life whether they "make it" or not!

get real said...

to play for the right reasons...that's not what I meant. All I am saying tennis requires so much hard work, determination, sacrifice from a very early age, which many do with the dream of turning pro which is an illusion for most, or even getting a D1 scholarship for men because of Title 9. Also, in any endeavor money is real concern because tennis is a very expensive endeavor both on the junior and futures pro level and no-one can live on air.

russ said...

Colette, I wouldn't say Coric is head and shoulders above the other juniors that you mentioned in your tweet, but after watching him control play against Rosol, I'm definitely impressed with his game. He's steady in the backcourt and manipulates the ball well on his forehand side (caveat being it was Rosol). He has a good return of serve (especially on the backhand side as he was able to hit four of Rosol's kickers for winners in the set I watched). He is also fairly athletic, and though it's easier to maintain focus and composure when winning, he looked solid in that department. Comparing him to Donaldson and Kokkinakis, the only other two that I have seen in person, I definitely think he has the edge, maybe even head and shoulders edge over Donaldson who seems a little stiff, and more prone to outbursts of frustration and petulance. Coric's serve is also far more advanced than Donaldson's (20 aces) and physically, the guy is absolutely ready for the grind of the tour while Donaldson looks spindly in comparison. (It does make me wonder if he has taken advantage of any supplements. Not saying he did, but the guy is really, really muscular for a 17 year old.) Anyway, I think he has an excellent chance to make the third round. In fact, I wouldn't expect him to lose to Estrella at all.

Colette Lewis said...

Of course this could have changed in the past year, but Coric never had a handle on his emotions in the juniors. And if he's physically, imposing, well that's certainly an improvement from last year, when he was standard-issue teenager in that department.

Lang said...

As long as I can remember, Coric is an emotional player. Even in his match against Kozlov in qualifying last week, there were reports of his outbursts. Easy to maintain composure when winning.

Donaldson's serve was woeful before Taylor Dent made a change to it last November. Has gotten a lot better but still work to be done and I think it will get better.

Martin Pelletier said...

Looked back at this blog from three years ago considering where both Donaldson and Sock are right now. College is a good route of entry for some (Steve Johnson, John Isner), and probably be a waste of time for others. These four should be a model for junior tennis in the two entry pathways.

Alex Ho said...

Not to often you here people say that college is a waste of time. I listened to that pod cast with Donaldson, and he said a big part of his decision was he had financial backing to go pro. You better have some money behind you, because at challenger level you can't pay for the team support you need (coaching, physio, time off for training blocks...). Many players are just not physical enough to go pro at 18, so a year or two of college makes sense (Cameron Norrie, Mackie McDonald..). There are many players who went straight to pro's who are struggling and have to start college with no credits after their career of flailing on futures/challengers tour is over.

The reality is that most players are not going to make or stay in top 100, hindsight is always 20/20.