Athletic DNA Select athlete, Johnathan Small plays at the Lincolnshire Tennis Academy. Small had the special opportunity to shadow ATP #128 player Tim Smyczek for one week, to see what life as a professional tennis player is like on the road. Smyczek is currently the first seed in the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs. Special thanks to Small’s Coach, Jason Winegar and Smyczek’s Coach, Billy Heiser for setting up this opportunity, and submitting the story to ADNA!
Now here is the story, in Johnathan’s words …DAY ONE:
Watching the professionals train is very different from watching juniors train. When a pro is preparing for a tournament, everything they do is incredibly deliberate. It starts with their warm-up. Some pros start almost a full hour before they are supposed to play. Each warm-up is specifically designed to prepare their body for the hit. When they begin hitting, there is no short court. Every ball is hit with a purpose, and executed to the fullest. After hitting, they continue to follow various routines. They stretch and eat exactly what their body requires to play at their fullest potential. Something else that intrigued me about the professionals, is their off-court demeanor. When everything that they need to do is finished, they relax and have some fun. Apparently my voice cracks from time-to-time and Tim thought it would be funny if he called my squeaky. So from now on to the pros, I am known as squeaky. Watching the pros play also made me realize some things. There are many things that they do at a very high level, but not unobtainable. It was very motivating because I realized that I could be that good if I work on the right things. I am really looking forward to cheering on Tim tomorrow in his first round match against Christian Harrison. DAY TWO:
Today I learned more important things about the life of a pro. When I first saw Tim in the morning, there was a different look about him. There was a very apparent focus-level that held throughout his entire day, until his match was completed. He was 100% engaged, and ready for his match from the second he woke up. Before the match, Tim had everything prepared exactly as he wanted it. He meticulously poured his drinks evenly, gripped his racquets, and warmed up. There were many important lessons that could be learned from watching his match. Most importantly, the way he was hitting the ball and his movement. Tim moves very calmly and under complete control, wasting no energy, and he almost always hits the proper shot. The most important thing that Tim taught me today, however, was to always own up to your farts. Which sometimes I don’t like to do because my farts smell really bad. Life of a pro! DAY THREE:
Today was a very important day for me in my tennis career, and life. I obviously continued to watch Tim and take important information away from his matches. However, there was another chunk of time that I spent today that was very important to my development. While Tim, Billy and I were at Chipotle eating dinner, we ran into a USTA coach named Dustin Taylor. We talked for almost two hours, and I learned so many things that I can use for the rest of my life. The most relevant to me, though, would be the conversation we had on becoming a professional. Dustin stressed that dedication and decision-making is required to be a pro that is top 100. I feel as if I have it, all I need to do is continue on this path. We also discussed the new USTA system with its flaws as well as good things, and where it should go in the future. Other topics, that I have almost no knowledge of, included challenger-level events and ITFs. On a separate note, Tim’s match went very well. He and Billy had discussed a serious game plan just prior to the match so that Tim’s mind was only focused on the plan. When Tim went onto the court, he executed that plan to the best of his ability, and he absolutely dismantled his opponent. After the match Tim stayed to practice some stuff. One thing he wanted to do was practice serves. A large crowd still stayed behind to watch Tim practice. Billy asked me if I wanted to return, and, of coarse, I said I would do it. This is where things took a turn for the worst. I stepped up to return, Tim hit a kicker out wide on the deuce side to my backhand. I swung. I missed. The ball hit the screen behind me. It was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life to date. Sigh… I will never be allowed to forget it.