Tennis Spotlight: Zach Svajda, The 18 Year Old American Rising Star

Zach Svajda has been playing tennis since he was a little kid. Born and raised in California he has dreamt of playing professional tennis since the start of his tennis career. He has had an unorthodox route to going pro, having played few junior tournaments and decided to skip the college tennis scene. He has seen success on the court at a young age and is currently working on strengthening his body to keep up with guys that are much older than him on tour. In 2018 he won 18’s at Kalamazoo and played main draw Men’s U.S Open and had a long 5 set first round match. You can follow along his successes here and check out his Instagram page here.

2019 US Open. (Photo by Darren Carroll/USTA)
  1. What age did you start playing tennis? When did you fall in love with the sport?

I started when I was 2. My dad played and got me into it. When I was 5 or 6 I started to enjoy it more and more.

  1. Did you play other sports growing up and did you ever get burnt out?

I played baseball up until 10 years old and then I chose to stick with tennis. When I was younger I never got burnt out because my dad never forced me to play. I was always the one that wanted to play every day.

  1. At what age did you play your first junior tournament?

When I was 9 I played my first junior tournament. I believe it was the Little Mo Tournament.

  1. Why didn’t you play a lot of tournaments growing up?

I wanted to do something different. I did not enjoy playing junior tournaments either. I did not enjoy winning a 10’s or 12’s tournament when I was younger. So we thought it would be best to train and do something different. From age 10-14 I only played practice matches, no tournaments.

  1. Did you find that beneficial?

I thought it was beneficial. It worked for me. A lot of players really want to win at 10 or 12 instead of getting better. We focused on improving instead of focusing on success. That might have helped prevent me from getting burnt out.

  1. What was going through your head when you got your first ATP point?

I won a wild card tournament when I was 15 to get into a $15k futures tournament. I played the #1 seed from Brazil and won that match 6-4, 6-3. I was surprised. I thought that could have been the start of my success.

  1. Can you recognize where you have improved since your first ATP point?

As I am playing more matches I am gaining confidence. I am getting stronger physically as I continue to grow too. Over the last year I have worked with a mental coach also.

Credit: Bill Kallenberg
  1. How special was it to win Kalamazoo after almost not playing it?

I did not want to play Kalamazoo until the week leading into it. I was not too motivated to play it because I was going to play a futures tournament instead. I received a wild card into Kalamazoo and won the final in 4 sets. I will always remember that tournament and the 7 rounds it took to win.

  1. What was going through your head when you walked on court at the US Open?

It was amazing, I did not know what to expect. It was my first ATP match. The crowd was amazing and helped me so much. I like having a lot of people watch me.

  1. How long did it take to get the nerves out?

It took a few games for sure. I went up 5-0 in the first. When I went up 3-0 the nerves went away and I told myself it was just a regular match. I tried to ignore the cameras and everything and just play.

  1. You have had a lot of close matches with top 200 players. Have those matches given you confidence?

For sure. I see myself at that level. I try and take positives from the losses and work with them.

  1. Can you talk about the importance of taking the positives out of a loss?

Even when I lose, I try and find all of the positives and find things to learn from. Being able to move on is super important. Thinking about the losses will affect your next matches.

  1. Did you decide to skip college? Or are you still thinking about playing college tennis?

I decided that I was going to skip college after my 2019 US Open experience. I have always wanted to go pro right away. When I was 12 or 13 I knew I wanted to just go pro and not hold back. My team supports my decision as well.

  1. How did Covid this year affect your 2020 goals and calendar schedule?

It was tough. It was supposed to be my first full year on tour filled with a lot of traveling. I played a few tournaments in January and February and took the rest of the year off. It was like an 8 month preseason. I learned so much off and on court. I took positives out of the 8 months and am trying to build on those.

  1. What does your weekly training week look like? Has it differed because of Covid?

I am training heavier and treating it like preseason. I have really been spending a lot of hours in the gym as well as on court. I would say more than usual. The biggest thing for me right now is trying to gain muscle/weight while eating healthy. All of the pros are much bigger than me. I have been able to make improvements in weights at the gym. Definitely small steps but in the right direction.

  1. Do you train with any pro’s on a consistent basis?

In Dallas I practice with my coach, John Isner, Mitchell Krueger, and some college guys. When I am at home in San Diego I train with my younger brother, Brandon Nakashima and at the USTA center in Carson.

  1. Do you have any tennis goals for 2021?

Definitely. I want to get to around 200-300 ATP. Hopefully Covid cooperates.

  1. What are some hobbies you have outside tennis?

I want to learn how to surf. I enjoy going to the beach when I am home. I also enjoy learning and making beats and music.

  1. Can you talk about how your relationship with the sport has evolved since you started playing?

I love the sport more each day as I get older.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to a young junior player what would it be?

Make sure you are always loving the sport. Enjoy the sport and do not worry about the success.

  1. Where do you see yourself at 20 years old?

I see myself stronger and more aggressive from the baseline. Hopefully top 100. As long as I keep doing the right things on and off the court I think I can get there. I still see myself living in San Diego and who knows maybe I will find the right girl too.

  1. How has the Australian Open date change affected your calendar year and affected your calendar schedule?

I am trying to stay positive. It will allow me to have a longer preseason to get stronger.

  1. How has tennis influenced you in 3 words?

Positivity, humble, Encouragement

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