Michael Geerts is a professional tennis player from Antwerp, Belgium. He is currently 27 years old and is ranked 233 in singles and 252 in doubles on the ATP tour. He has had a unique path to becoming a professional tennis player and has experienced many obstacles and successes already on tour. Check out our interview to learn about his story, what he has learned so far, and how he continues to be successful on tour.
- How would you describe your childhood growing up and your junior tennis career? Did you play other sports? Who got you interested in tennis?
My parents got me involved and were always active at their tennis club. I would play against a wall and eventually took some lessons as well. I played soccer and skiing as well. I went to the tennis federation when I was 9 and they said I could join the federations academy. It was nice because it was not far away and I started training a lot at a young age but got burnt out when I was 20. I felt professional and took a little joy away from playing. My junior career was not great, I was 150 ITF and decided to study in Brussels for University and the federation was not super happy about that. When I was 20 years old I was 350-400 ATP and the federation said I couldn’t stay so I went to Arizona State in the US and played college tennis there for 1.5 years. I was getting the joy back from playing. I thought it was an unbelievable experience and went back to Belgium when I was 23 or 24 and started to play on the professional tour again. This is the first full year I am playing a full schedule.
- You have had some wins over guys around 150 ATP. Does this get you excited for what’s to come?
It does. I know that my level is there. It is all about going into a match having a level of confidence and the mentality to beat guys who are ranked higher than you. I have gotten a mental coach to help me with that and I think I have made a few steps in that area.
- How hard was it to adjust from juniors to the men’s pro tour? Do you remember winning your first ATP Point? If so, what went through your head?
My junior career was average, I did not go out of the juniors with outstanding results so I felt like I could do my own thing without having a spotlight on me. I remember I got my first ATP point against a guy who tanked the second set. I won my first futures tournament back to back when I was 20 and then when I thought I was taking steps in the right direction the federation said my ranking was not high enough. I decided to play college tennis in the U.S and gained confidence because ATP 350 in college is quite good whereas I felt like I was not good enough for the federation in Belgium. I played the NCAA tournament and loved it, It was nice not being alone playing as well. Coach Hill made me feel special and that helped me a lot. I really grew and became more mature. College tennis is definitely a viable route and it helped me adjust from juniors to playing a full professional schedule.
- How different of an experience is it playing the challengers than the ITFS?
The ITF circuit can be compared to the jungle. When you travel to tournaments at the futures level you need to take care of your own hotel, transportation, and everything else. The ATP Challenger circuit covers hotel expenses and makes it a little easier to survive. There are ball changes, ball kids, crowds, and nicer venues at the challenger level. I do think they still need some improvements but they are making steps in the right direction. The ATP challenger circuit is like a circuit itself. I think it is important to keep promoting the challenger tour correctly. The level difference is not that big compared to other ATP tournaments.
- Can you explain the tennis leagues you play in and why they are important?
It is crucial to play in german, french, or Italian leagues because they are weekend matches where you have no costs. Gas prices and flight tickets have gone through the roof. Travelling has gotten so expensive. The prize money on the challenger tour is not improving with the standard of life. Playing the club matches in Germany or France is a way to make some extra money and make up for the weeks where you lost early or paid a coach to travel with you. They offer you a way to make money on the side and it is important for many players.
- Do you ever see yourself playing just singles? Or just doubles? You seem to be successful in both. What do you think you need to do to break the top 150 in singles and make that next jump?
I like playing doubles and it’s a way of improving your singles game. For the last two weeks, I haven’t been playing doubles because I was focusing on singles. If I can play I would like to. You get to make a little bit of extra money but like you said many guys have to stop playing doubles because their singles ranking gets them into higher-level tournaments. I think it is important to be consistent with my results in the challengers to break the top 150 in singles.
- What have you learned so far from your professional career?
The level of tennis and professionality has gotten way higher compared to 6 or 7 years ago. I feel like all players have recognized what it takes to be top 200 and be physically fit, win matches, and go far in tournaments. I think the challenger tour has made improvements as well with fitness facilities. Players know they have to be more professional to maintain their certain level. In tennis, you need to be ready to take the big opportunities. The level is the same from 100 to 250 ATP and it is about stepping up and getting a big breakthrough win and making some runs in challengers.
- How do professional players bounce back from losses?
I always try to rewatch my match and learn something from them. I try to make the click as fast as possible and get back to work. I try and get feedback from my coach as well. There are a lot of opportunities as well, you can play almost every week and that keeps me going. It definitely is not easy when you lose almost every week.
- What would you say to a junior player to help them deal with losses?
I think it is important to take positives out of certain matches. Did you do everything that you could? If you did then it is easier to handle and take something out of the match.
- What can we expect to see from you by the end of 2022? Do you have any goals?
Making it to the U.S Open will help take some pressure off of me as well. We are also playing the final stages of the Davis Cup in September and I would love to be a part of the team again. We are playing the world phase and it will be a good event. Long term, I would like to be able to make the slams consistently and make my way towards the top 100.