Alex Lawson graduated from Notre Dame in 2016. He was named a 2016 NCAA Doubles All American and made the semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Doubles tournament. Since graduating, he has been on tour for 4 years and is ranked 131 on the ATP Doubles tour. Keep reading to hear about how he got into the sport, his recruiting experience, memorable senior day match, Covid-19 travel struggles, and how much resilience you need to be successful on tour.
You can follow Alex’s journey here. If you want to see what he does on social media you can check out his Instagram here. This year he hopes to make the next jump in the rankings so that he can start playing ATP 250 events and break the top 100.
- When did you first start playing tennis?
I have had a racquet in my hand since I was a little kid. My mom played in college and coached me growing up. I was always at the courts because she had a coaching job.
- You grew up in an athletic family, was there pressure to play tennis? Or did you play many other sports growing up?
I played a lot of sports. I played baseball and basketball as well. I did not start focusing on tennis until I was 12. There was not any pressure to focus on tennis so I tried a few sports. Tennis was a lot easier for me than the other sports and I saw a lot of success in it. I believe playing many sports helps a child’s athleticism.
- At what age did you start competing seriously?
I played local tournaments when I was 8 or 9. I even played the Little Mo tournaments and did well enough to make it to one in San Diego, that was the first time I traveled. When I was 12 I was traveling nationally.
- Can you share your recruiting experience?
Other players that I knew were super stressed during the recruiting process but I had a lot of fun and enjoyed it. I was not looking at Notre Dame until Kalamazoo my senior year. I took a visit to LSU, Iowa, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and had one scheduled for Mississippi State but canceling it when I committed to Notre Dame. I knew after I visited Notre Date I was going to commit there. It came down to Notre Dame and Northwestern for me.
- What made you choose Notre Dame?
The combination of academics and athletics was very impressive at Notre Dame. The team was super close and they felt like a team to me whereas at some other schools, not so much. It is super important to take an official visit. You get to see what the team culture is like and get to know the coaches some.
- Do you remember what was going through your head on your first day of practice as a freshman?
When I came in as a freshman I knew these guys were good and that I would have to fight to get some playing time in. Early on in your college career, you are so tired and sore because of the training schedule that you have to stay focused and determined. I think it is also important to not get wrapped up in having that feeling that you have to prove yourself to everyone.
- What has been your most memorable moment of college tennis?
On my senior day, we played number 1 ranked UNC and I got to clinch the match 4-2. I won 7-6 in the 3rd set to clinch. The stands were packed and everyone was going nuts. I had a lot of family and friends there.
- How emotional is it when you step on the court to play your senior day match?
Senior day is emotional because you know it is going to be your last home match. I was super pumped up and I knew that I was going to play my best tennis because of the adrenaline and energy I had running through my body.
- How has your training differed since graduating from college?
My training is super specific now because I am only playing doubles. There is a lot of self-coaching going on because I do not travel with a coach. I come off the court and know what I need to work on.
- You had a successful doubles career in college, did that give you the confidence to play doubles on tour?
It gave me a ton of confidence. It wasn’t until my senior year when I thought about playing pro tennis. My coaches gave me confidence, they told me that I was already at the top 200 ATP doubles level. So many guys on the ATP doubles tour played college tennis so it gave me confidence. Knowing that I was successful in college I knew I could be on tour.
- Can you talk about the difference in level from first-round matches to the finals of challengers?
The margins are so thin and we are playing a 10 point tiebreaker for the 3rd. For that reason, I would say there is not much of a difference between your first-round match and the final. There are a ton of matches where one team would win the first set 6-0 or 6-1 and then lose the match in the 3rd but had more points won.
- Does playing that next level tournament make you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders?
You feel a little bit of weight lifted off of your shoulders but it is short-lived. The entry requirements are changing all of the time so you never know if you will always get in. Once I get to the ATP 250’s it might be different. I have not made the next jump to ATP 250s yet so I do not think you are ever exempt from challengers until you are around the top 40.
- Are you at that point in your career where you want to stick with one partner? If so, do you plan on trying to play with just one partner a lot in 2021?
I think it is super helpful to have a consistent partner and feel like you can get better together as a team and practice together. If you are playing with a different guy every week it is tougher to work on things and practice. Or, if you are playing with a singles player they do not want to practice doubles stuff so then you have to practice with other doubles players. Lloyd and I talked about playing together for all of 2020 but Covid-19 happened. We are talking about playing in 2021.
- You have made the final of 6 challengers this year. Can you talk about your feelings towards your 2020 results?
I think the end of the year results set me up well for next year. The 6 Challenger finals were good but I am not satisfied. I know the level is there but I need to win a bunch of challengers to make the next jump.
- How much more stressful has traveling been during covid-19?
Travel is stressful as is. A couple of the U.S doubles guys were stressed because we were not allowed in Europe for a while due to Covid-19. The ATP got us an exemption to get into France for a recent tournament. If we had to fly somewhere we needed a negative Covid-19 test. I got worried if the next country I went to was going to let me in. At the tournaments, we got tested twice a week and we were not told when someone tested positive. If you test positive you have to be isolated in your room for 2 weeks and cannot travel home until then.
- What has been your toughest challenge on tour so far?
I would say being your own coach and making your practice plans. Life on tour is tough and a lot of guys struggle with it. I am 4 years into it now so I think I have a pretty good grasp on being your own manager and player.
- What is one tournament you hope to play in this year?
U.S Open for sure. I feel like I have been close to a wild card consideration in the past.
- Do you have any 2021 goals?
To play the best tennis of my career and continue to get better every week. I want to make the next jump into the top 100 by the end of the year. If I can do that I am setting myself up to make ATP 250 events. As far as personal goals, I want to play in places I have not played in before. I want to travel to new parts of the world.
- How has tennis shaped you as a person?
It has made me resilient. As tennis players, we are out there by ourselves and we have to make adjustments as we go. Outside of the court, we have to deal with whatever challenges life on tour throws out at you. You have to make the best out of tough situations.