Wednesday, September 16, 2015

They Said It: Quotes from American Juniors at the US Open

Here are a few interesting quotes from last week's US Open Junior Championships that didn't make it into my daily updates. Only the singles finalists were interviewed in Room 1, where there are transcripts and placards and microphones, but a voice recorder on a cellphone in one of the media center's cubicles can often result in a more relaxed and informative conversation.

Reilly Opelka, on any American pros that have taken an interest in mentoring him and other US boys:

Steve Johnson, he’s a great role model and a great influence on all the junior guys. His work ethic, how he acts around everyone, he’s probably the most liked player. Isner as well has been very friendly to us.

Sonya Kenin, on her first round loss to Mariana Duque-Marino in the women’s main draw:

That match wasn’t really up to me. Here, when I’m playing juniors, it’s up to me if I can play good.

Michael Mmoh, on what appealed to him about tennis when he was a child:

When I was young, I wanted to become a basketball player, but shortly later, I thought it was the best option to play tennis and I started really liking it because I really like to compete, and I felt it was what I was best at, so it gave me the best chance to compete.

Patrick Kypson on his connection with Tommy Paul growing up in Greenville, North Carolina:

His stepdad was my first coach at the club that he owned there in Greenville, Courtside Athletic Club. So I’ve known Tommy and his sister, his whole family for a long time. 

JJ Wolf on being called Jeff at the US Open:

I told them JJ, but they keep saying Jeff. They said, we’re going to go with Jeff. People were saying Jeff, and I was like, is that my dad or me?

Alexa Graham, on her decision to play ITF Women’s Circuit events rather than junior tournaments, and whether she will play college tennis at North Carolina in 2016:

It wasn’t to follow in the Williams system path. It was more if we’re going to spend the money to send you to travel, we’d rather it impact you in a way that you’re going to have that ranking to go professional. When I’m 18, the junior ranking is going to expire.

I’m doing so well right now that if I can get the financial support to go pro, that’s something I’d really love to do. I have so many colleges near my house I can always get an education and a degree, but playing professionally is something I’ve always wanted to do, so I’d love to do it right out of high school.

Francesca Di Lorenzo, on the sport she left for tennis:

When I was younger I used to play soccer, actually and I liked that way more than tennis at the time. I liked the team part of it, and I did travel soccer, and did tennis on the side. But since I have three other siblings, it was just too much driving, so my mom said I had to choose between soccer and tennis.  A week earlier playing tennis, I had beaten the top girl in our group and I was so happy. So then I was, like, I love being out there alone, I love the individual part of it, so I quit the travel soccer team, which I was pretty mad about at the time, but I guess it worked out well.

Usue Arconada, on whether she is a tennis fan and who is her favorite player to watch:

I like it more live than on TV, but it depends on the match. I watched Serena the other day, with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and [Fabio] Fognini and Nadal. I love Fognini. He’s so talented. I know he’s not a great leader for the sport, but he’s so talented.

Tommy Paul on adjusting, in the space of a week, between being an unknown underdog as a qualifier in the men’s draw and a favored veteran in the junior draw:

Definitely it’s a lot easier going out playing pros. Obviously, it’s not easier, because their level’s great but it’s a lot easier on the nerves and you get out there and play really free. When I go out and play [15-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime], I’m like, all right, I’ve really got to make sure I win this match, because, well, he’s younger and you feel you should win against younger people.

Taylor Fritz, on how he’s changed since turning pro:

I’m making better decisions with training and dieting because I have in the back of my mind, I’m a pro and I have to act like it. It’s more of a sense of doing the right thing more often. I’m eating healthier, my diet has already gotten a lot better, and I’m training harder, getting a massage, doing all the maintenance, stretching, everything I need to do to stay healthy. I wouldn’t say I’ve given anything up, but I’m going to miss going to In-N-Out as much as I do when I’m home.

Steve Johnson, asked about the current crop of American boys in the juniors, particularly Reilly Opelka:

I think we have a great group of young American kids, Reilly, Tommy, Frances, a lot of kids. They’re all good kids, they work really hard. Reilly is 6-10 and can serve massive and is probably going to get taller. The one thing I think with him, he could work a little bit more on how he presents himself on the court, but other than that, he’s 18, he has a lot of time to learn. I’m happy to help these kids any way I can. We didn’t take the same route, because he didn’t go to college, but if they want help, I’d love to help. Same thing when I was coming up, Sam, if I wanted help, he’d help, John, Mardy, you name it. It’s something you just kind of pass down from generation to generation.


Tennis isn't just about one said...

More than anything, Peter Smith coaches the importance of brotherhood on his team. Stevie Johnson is obviously paying forward what he learned at USC. It is in his blood, always will be. American tennis could use more of the team approach. Many of us outside of USTA have known this for years.