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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Part II of American Collegiate Invitational Competitors: Talking with the Men; ACI Recap

My recap of the American Collegiate Invitational at the US Open is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network today, with details on the sweep of the titles by Virginia's Danielle Collins and Thai Kwiatkowski. On Monday, I posted excerpts from my interviews with the eight women participating in the event; below are comments from the eight men who competed at the ACI.  I personally missed Michael Redlicki due to his retirement from his quarterfinal match with Kwiatkowski; the comments below are from the USTA's interview with him.

Konrad Zieba, 21, Northwestern senior:

On his first exposure to US Open: It's the first time I've been here during the Open. I've played National Indoors and I've been around here, but it's obviously a different atmosphere during the Open. It was a great experience, having a credential and being able to use the facilities, walking through Ashe and everything, it's amazing.

On his major: I'm studying Political Science with a minor in Business.

On playing professional tennis after graduation: I want to try it out. Obviously, I'm keeping my options open. I just want to finish school first and then I'll decide.

On his schedule this fall: I'm be at All-Americans and hopefully will qualify for Indoors again.

Christopher Eubanks, 20, Georgia Tech junior:

On the highlights of his summer: Definitely Atlanta (at the ATP event there). That and Davis Cup (as part of the USTA Collegiate Camp there), probably in that order.  Play in my hometown, do pretty well there, come through pre-qualies and then actually qualify was really cool. And then to get out there and be around Davis Cup, the best Americans, see what they do on a daily basis, and kind of live it up with them was really cool.

On the academic challenges at Georgia Tech, where he is majoring in business with a marketing concentration: I knew coming in that school and tennis, in that order, were going to be my main focus. I knew the social life would come in third, so I dedicated myself to those two. As long as you utilize the resources that are available, which I think I've done a pretty good job of, I don't think it's as tough as people make it out to be.

On his schedule this fall:  I'll play a few fall tournaments, All-Americans, hopefully National Indoors and I'll be going to the Oracle ITA Masters in Malibu.

Jared Hiltzik, 22, Illinois graduate:

On finishing school and relocating: I graduated with a degree in Communication, moved down to Florida about three weeks ago. That's my main training base now, Saddlebrook. My coach in juniors was Billy Heiser, so I'm with him and Christopher Williams there.

On his first few months as a pro: They've gone really well. I've gotten a lot better. This was a really good summer--I had a lot of points to defend from last year--and I did a pretty good job of that while also getting better at the same time.

On his impressions of the experiment with the 20-second serve clock: When I first heard about it, I actually thought it was going to be a good idea, but when I started doing it, it was really quick. I didn't realize how quick they started; 20 seconds is really fast.

Michael Redlicki, 22, Arkansas senior:

On participating in the American Collegiate Invitational for the first time: I want to thank the USTA for inviting me, because it's an honor to be considered one of the top eight best American players in college.  It took a lot of work to finish where I did in the nation(25). I'll always be humbled by the opportunity of coming here.

On the injury that caused him to retire from first round match: I don't know what's going on, but something's going on and I couldn't play. Not to discredit Thai, Thai came back from a slow start and all credit to him, I wish him the best of luck the rest of the week. Hopefully I don't have any serious condition or anything. I'm just scared right now.

Tom Fawcett, 20, Stanford junior:

On his health: I've been battling a few things for a month or so, but I'm finally close to being one hundred percent. I'm not quite there right now, but I should be soon.

On his major: I just declared. Science, Technology and Society. It's only at a couple of schools around the country, and Stanford's one of them.

On his summer accomplishments: I've been happy with it. We set out some goals for the summer, not result-oriented, and I feel like I'm either at those goals or getting closer and closer. I'm happy with the way I'm progressing and I think the results will come down the line.

On his fall schedule: I'll be playing for sure, a few college events this fall. I think I'm playing All-Americans. I'm not a hundred percent sure yet, but I would guess so.  And I'll be able to play a handful of those (USTA Pro Circuit) events in the fall.

Ryan Shane, 22, Virginia soon-to-be graduate:

On his struggles with his serve: It's been the same for the past year or so now, whether my serve is on or off. If my serve is on, I feel everything sort of works together, flowing pretty easily. I have it for glimpses here and there and play great matches, but when it's not on, it's pretty bad.

On his plan to get his degree: I'm one class away and I'm taking it online to transfer over, so I'll be done in the next few months. My degree will be in Foreign Affairs. I'm following in my older brother's footsteps and my dad. I like it, it was interesting, a lot of fun to study.

On his knee injury: I went to a doctor and he told me I had a tear in it. He told me it's not that bad, if I just stop playing tennis; this was a month ago, but I haven't stopped and it's kind of progressively gotten worse, especially on the serve. I'll see what I want to do after these next two tournaments, or one tournament honestly, if I'm going to take time off and let it heal or wait until the off-season, but the off-season is pretty far away.

Austin Smith, 22, Georgia graduate, with major in consumer economics:

On starting his pro career: I don't even have any (ATP) points yet. I've had a tough summer, run into some tough opponents, it's a tough road. I'm going to give it some time. In the words of Bo Hodge, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. You've got to be patient and definitely give it some time. It's a process. Someone said when you went to college you start as a freshman and you are a freshman now on the pro tour. It definitely takes time and I understand that it's not going to be easy. There will be a lot of lows, but hopefully more highs.

On his schedule this fall:  After this I'm going to Israel, going to play some Futures over there. Three weeks in a row there, come back for a week and then there's a couple out in California, then Birmingham. The goal is to pick up some points, and once I get that, hopefully getting enough so I can get in qualies of Challengers and continue. The faster you can get there the better.

On the benefits of college tennis: Manny (Diaz) has an unbelievable track record. I came in pretty immature, at least on the court, for sure on the court, and he and Will Glenn and Bo Hodge, they all did such a good job being patient. I have a pretty bad history with my attitude and those guys just found a way to put things in perspective for me, found ways to relate with me and honestly get me to have more fun out there. It was an unbelievable experience, and playing on a team, playing for someone other than yourself, it puts things in perspective for you.

Thai Kwiatkowski, 21, Virginia senior:

On playing Futures in Finland this summer: Part of being a tennis player is you get to go to a lot of cool places. For me this time, that was Finland. It was a pretty cool experience. I got to travel with a veteran (Rubin Statham of New Zealand) and kind of learn from him for the two weeks, so that was really helpful. It's nice to travel with guys who have been around and they can teach you the ins and outs of Futures, Challengers.

On Virginia having both women's and men's champions at ACI this year: That's pretty cool. The women's program at UVA is one of the best in the country.  When you have two of the eight (competitors) with Julia (Elbaba) losing a tough one in the semis,  it honestly could have been Danielle and Julia and Ryan and I.  That just shows what a powerhouse Virginia tennis is, men and women. Coach Guilbeau knows what he's doing, and obviously Coach Boland knows what he's doing.

On overcoming fatigue during the final:  The heat started getting in my head. It's when you hit that wall, you just got to find a way to push through. In the past, I haven't been able to do that, so today I just wanted to tell myself a little bit more, a little bit more. And when on one or two points you push, you can get a second wind and that happened late in the second. I was just trying to fight through.

On his fall schedule: I'm probably going to play All-Americans. I can't miss too much school because of my major. I'm in business school.