I have no regrets on electing to play college tennis instead of going pro right away. None at all.
Some may question a top-10 junior player in the world, who has had the taste of playing at venues like Roland Garros and Wimbledon, ever going to college, or even why a college player ranked in the top 300 in the world would choose to come back for a junior season, but for me, it has made all the sense in the world.
This is my story, so far.
Both of my parents were pretty good squash players, my dad even reached No. 1 in the universities in Scotland for squash. Growing up in New Zealand, I would play tennis in the driveway with sawed off squash racquets.
Why tennis then? There is no reason, not really, why I chose tennis. Growing up, I was probably better at cricket but I got bored just standing out there in the field. I loved the aspect of competing in tennis, so I went with it.
I had some great coaches in New Zealand – James Greenhalgh and Mark Lewis (his brother Chris was a finalist at Wimbledon), and they helped me start to love the game. With tennis being a pretty small sport in New Zealand, and my dad being fully Scottish and my mother born in Wales, I moved to the United Kingdom by myself when I was 16. I lived at the tennis center there at the National Training Center in London, where it was all tennis, all the time, and quite honestly, I grew a bit sick of it.
Even with the support from the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) to give me some funding for a coach and team of players and have a base in England, I felt that I wasn’t ready and mature enough to make the leap. It’s tough out there where you’re all by yourself for weeks on end. I wanted to have more of a normal life at that age.
After Wimbledon in 2013, I decided I was going to go to college. To do this, I went back to New Zealand and I finished my whole senior year of school in just three months. I didn't play tennis for those months, the entire three months. After the hiatus, I went and played the US Open juniors because my rankings still got me in, and right after that I took a visit to Michigan. There was another New Zealand guy on the team at the time and I had a great visit. I saw them play Notre Dame in football at the Big House and it was a sick visit. I didn't know how cold it was going to be because I visited in August so I committed there. I was supposed to go in August the following year, and then the summer before I was supposed to go, the head coach was fired.
I quickly messaged a bunch of schools and said, "Look, I am not going to go. The coach at Michigan has gotten fired and I am not going to go to a school where I don't know who the head coach is going to be."
In the end, I basically went on a gut feel. I felt like a lot of the college coaches talked so much nonsense and they all said the same thing. Best conference, best facilities, best this, best that. Coach Roditi was the most genuine guy out of the other coaches. Not only is he a great tennis coach, but he’s also a life coach and mentor. He actually wants you to succeed, not just on the court, but in life after college.
Having said that, there have certainly been ups and downs for me.
After starting my college career playing at No. 1 singles, I hit a rut and eventually dropped to No. 3 for the rest of the season. I learned from that adversity that everyone is going to have bad days. It’s about learning to manage those days and find a way to win. I feel like I haven’t looked back since.
Coming off a Final Four run my freshman year, the expectations for the team were high, and unfortunately, we hit a snag in the Sweet 16 match playing indoors because of the weather.