As expected, 2017 was a pretty up and down year.
My original goal for the year was to be top 1000 and I just squeaked in at 987. To that end, I would say that my first half year on the professional tennis circuit was a success. I think I proved to myself that I could play with and win against people who are top 200 and 300 in the world when I am playing well. Surprisingly, I seem to also have found my doubles game since finishing college as I picked up my first professional title in doubles.
On the other hand, injury issues plagued the latter half of 2017. Coming off of a successful senior year at Yale, I was feeling confident with my game and playing well. This resulted in a fast start in Taiwan where I picked up about half of my points within a couple months of graduation. However, an elbow injury sidelined me for 8 weeks and I never really played the same after. It took a while for me to get my play back up to par and, unfortunately, as soon as I did the elbow gave out again. Another 5-6 weeks off and the end of my competitive schedule for 2017.
While I accomplished my goal of being top 1000, I felt that I could have done more. Had I been able to stay healthy and maintain my confidence, I think my ranking would most certainly be higher than it currently stands. Sadly that’s not the way the cards fell and I have to take the blame for not being as focused on prevention as I was on recovery. Regardless of missed opportunities towards the end of 2017, I am satisfied with my end of the year ranking and, most importantly, I still enjoy traveling the world for tennis.
My biggest takeaway for 2017:
Health is no joke. I don’t feel as if my strokes are any worse right now than in the summer and yet I find that I am not executing nearly as cleanly in match situations. It stems from lesser confidence in my game which results in occasional hesitation and doubt. I believe that this is an issue that is magnified in tennis due to several factors. Firstly, tennis is about as individual as it comes. Even in golf there is a caddy by your side ready to offer therapeutic or strategic advice. In tennis it is just you out there. That insecurity in your forehand or that inherent fear of failure slowly creep in and the only person capable of turning it around is you. Secondly, tennis is a game of repetition. It’s not about a single swing of the bat or a single kick, but rather the accumulation of hundreds of forehands, backhands, serves, etc. When confidence is lost in one particular stroke, the ripple effect is massive. It’s possible 3 or more quality forehands are necessary just to win one point. You need 4 points to win a game, 6 games to win a set, and 2 sets to win a a match. At MINIMUM, thats 48 times you need to successfully string together enough quality shots to win a point. When the forehand is shaky, how can you string together 3 good forehands? The end result is an inability to even win a single point let alone 48. Lastly, the level of play at the low level of the professional circuit is so close. For people outside of the professional tennis circuit, it may seem like the difference in rankings is enormous. Roger Federer just swept the table last year and between the top 5 players in the world, they’ve accounted for nearly every slam in the past decade. However, as I’ve found with most things, the scale of skill is quite exponential. At the very top, the difference between the top 5 and top 20 is extremely noticeable. And yet, between the top 50 and the top 100, it’s a little less so. That trend continues and, honestly, it’s by no means a given for a player inside the top 200 to beat a player who is 500 in the world. The difference between each level gets smaller and smaller but because of the consistency in execution and the repetitive nature of tennis, that tiny difference in skill manifests itself into big leads. As consistency drops, the highs and lows of performance widen and, as a result, you see a large number of upsets at the Challenger level and even more at the Futures level. It’s tough to maintain confidence when you lose virtually every week.
Had I stayed healthy and confident in my strokes, I’d like to think that I would be around 800 but I realize that there are holes in my game that need to be patched before I can continue to advance. Perhaps it is a good thing that I struggled with injuries towards the end of 2017 as the first things you lose confidence in are your weakest links.
Goal for 2018: