Sander Arends is a professional tennis player from Leeuwarden, Netherlands. He is currently 31 years old and is ranked 143 on the ATP Doubles Tour. He has a career-high ATP doubles ranking of 55 on July 16, 2018. He has won 11 ITFS, 20 ATP Challengers, and 1 ATP 250 event in doubles. He has played all four Grand Slams, most recently Wimbledon and Roland Garros this year. Check out our interview with him to learn about his tennis story and his beliefs.
- Can you talk about your childhood growing up in the Netherlands? Was tennis a popular sport where you lived? How did you get involved?
Tennis is quite a popular sport in my country, it is the second biggest sport behind soccer. I started to play tennis when I was 4 years old, and my father had a tennis school so the sport was big in my family. My older sister played as well. I started out quite young compared to most kids so the beginning was a little bit difficult because I was still too young to participate with older kids.
- Did you ever get burnt out?
I did not like the youth tournaments in our country because there was a lot of pressure from the parents, coaches, and the federation. I always believed more in character and potential instead of being results-oriented at a young age. There was a lot of cheating as well on the junior circuit which caused me to play recreationally when I was 14-22 years old. I was developing my own game and was quite lazy though, I only wanted to play points. I would find ways to avoid getting into baseline rallies by serving and volleying. When I was 18 I played one year on tour full-time to see how good I could be and after that year I went to university in Holland. After two years of studying, I realized that was not was I wanted to do. My parents talked to me and helped me decide to go pro and see how I did again. I did not like it because the atmosphere was so intimidating, that I had to have a huge shift in my mindset. I started in 2013 and after 3 years I decided to play doubles only in 2016.
- When did you decide you wanted to turn professional?
I had to decide to drop university because I was continuing to improve in tennis as my studies got worse. I was surprising myself by beating guys 600-700 in the world right away and that helped.
- Can you remember some of the initial challenges you faced when starting your professional career?
Being in a foreign country is tough while trying to compete at your best, especially for immature teenagers or young adults. I had to be self-dependent and make my own travel plans, and know how to budget. I always tried to play nearby traveling using a car due to the cost of flights. I recommend that everyone try going pro for 2 years and see how they do. You cannot know your own limit until you try it!
- Have you had any scary or funny travel stories?
Lost suitcases, missed flights, so many things happen. I was in a group of 4-5 ATP players and an ATP tour manager getting ready to fly to Morocco and someone said we needed to go to the gate in 45 minutes because the flight was going to take off. We found out that if you were connected to the wifi in the airport you had the wrong time so we missed the flight, and we had to wait for 8-9 hours and buy a more expensive ticket.
- Obviously 2018, you had your career-high ranking of 55. What do you think you need to do to get back to that position?
I am currently working on figuring this out. When you first start out on tour it is easy to make a push in the rankings. At the moment you don’t realize it but several years later you will. It’s easier because you aren’t thinking of the consequences of losing when you first start out. The average level of doubles right now is much higher than it was in 2017-2018. Our sport is getting much more professional in every way. I am also injured and can only play 75% right now and cannot go all out. I think that I am a better player now than I was in 2018 because I had a lot of weaknesses and I am more mature as well though.
- How is the quality of life different from grand slams, down to Atp 250s, to challengers, and so forth?
The treatment is getting better and better. The standard of living in ATP events is easy, you can make money just by playing the first round of ATPs. When you are making more money, you are also spending less money. This is the difficult part of the sport. You have to make very little money while spending a lot at first. Personally, I enjoy the challenger tournaments and ATPs because you get to be more social and get lunch and dinner with other players. Whereas in the grand slams you just go your own way and you don’t talk with many other players, which is normal but I prefer the socialness at the challenger level. As for the ITF tournaments, everyone thinks they are Roger Federer and thinks they are the best because most of them are young players and feel the need to be a little cocky.
- Do you have any goals for the rest of 2022, and what tournaments will you be playing the rest of the year?
I am trying to get healthy, I have had a lot of setbacks but I am playing a decent level of tennis. In tennis, you need a little bit of luck and I am hoping to bounce back from my knee injury. My physio said the knee is looking better since Wimbledon and I have to work a lot on the muscle activation and have good mobility in my ankle, and core to help stabilize the knee. I am not in a rush to play tournaments because you just need 6 months of good results, and I am confident I can do that but I am planning on playing the indoor challengers at the end of the year.
- What surface do you enjoy playing on the most? Do you have a favorite?
Results-wise, I do not have a favorite surface or one that suits me better. I do like indoor events better than outdoor events though. You typically have more of an audience indoors than outdoors as well.
- If you had one piece of advice for young tennis players what would you tell them?
Follow your passion and do it with 100% commitment. Enjoy the ride and try and have a goal, I needed 10 main draw matches to win my first ATP singles point. Do not give up and enjoy the journey. Do not try and limit yourself because the limit is way higher than you think!