Octagon, a major sports and entertainment agency, announced today their signing of UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald to a exclusive representation agreement. McDonald, the 2016 NCAA Division I singles and doubles champion, will forego his senior season at UCLA to begin his pro career.
I spoke to the 21-year-old from Piedmont, California by phone shortly after today's announcement.
"I've done a lot of talking with my family and coaches and everything, and we really think this is the best time for me. I don't think there could be a much better time for me than right now to be going pro and I'm really excited and happy. I definitely feel I'm doing it the right way, with the right people, and I feel really good about the whole situation."
|McDonald was a UCLA fan way back in 2006|
McDonald, who will be playing the Wichita Futures at the end of the month, said he didn't foresee much change in his summer schedule now that he has signed.
"I have the same amount of tournaments and I was definitely going to play all the Challengers," said McDonald, currently 420 in the ATP rankings. "Maybe now a couple of more ATP events, possibly, but other than that, the same thing, just working toward the US Open."
I asked McDonald if it was difficult to leave UCLA.
"My years at UCLA have been unbelievable," said McDonald. "I've had such a great time at UCLA and it's always tough to leave somewhere like this. I definitely feel as a human being, I've grown up a lot, going to college. I feel the last two years I've matured a lot, had a lot of experiences off the court and on the court. Dealing with people, with classes, with everything. I'm going to use that to help me when I travel and play pro tennis. I've had some great times, probably some of the best times of my life, playing with a team, winning the Pac-12, we had some great results as a team. It's been fun."
McDonald said most of the improvements to his game in college came from the mental side.
"Physically, I can't say I did too much," McDonald said. "I still do the same amount I did as a freshman. But mentally, for sure. Especially the last year or two, when we played the deuce points, it was mentally tough to win matches like that, because anything can happen. That kind of helped me play every point the right way. It's a hugely different mentality playing on a college team. When I played Oklahoma in the NCAA quarterfinals, I got so nervous, and that's something I don't normally have or show. I was able to come through with that win, but just the feelings and emotions that can come out in college tennis is pretty special, I have to say. And I think that will help me when I'm in tight situations on the circuit."
McDonald said, for all its benefits, the balancing act of a student-athlete requires sacrifices he will no longer have to make.
"It's going to be a lot of weight off my shoulders not having to do school work, not having to commit to the team," said McDonald, who will be working with USTA National Coach Brad Stine at Carson facility. "I can just really focus on myself. I fell like if I do that day in and day out, I feel like things will go well."
As for setting goals for the rest of the year, "It's kind of been in the back of my mind," McDonald said. "I would like to talk to my coach about having concrete goals, but there's nothing I can really say right now. I just want to keep working hard, putting in the work now that I can."