Depuis le Tennis Universitaire vers le Circuit Pro!

By Danielle Rossingh

Au lieu de vivoter de tournoi en tournoi à 18 ans, pourquoi ne pas se garantir un diplôme, tout en s’entraînant dans des infrastructures professionnelles grâce à une bourse sportive d’une valeur de plus de $50,000/an ? Des joueurs qui ont ensuite fait le pas vers le circuit pro témoignent!


There may be close to £32 million up for grabs at Wimbledon but half of all 14,000 professional tennis players make no prize money at all.

John Isner developed his game at the University of Georgia before turning pro
John Isner developed his game at the University of Georgia before turning pro

Instead of joining the tour at 18 and grinding it out in far-flung places around the globe for next to no money and ranking points, why not try to land a tennis scholarship at an American university and play tennis at the same time for free?

With both male and female pros now peaking much later than ever before, college tennis is a route an increasing number of talented teenage players are taking before turning pro.

Take Jennifer Brady, one of six former US college players in Wimbledon’s ladies’ singles this year.

“I would definitely recommend it,” the American world No.93 said about her time at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“I went to UCLA for two years and I left after my sophomore year in June 2015,” the 22-year-old said.

“It was a great experience for me, personally. I felt like I developed mentally, physically, pretty much overall. I felt it helped me grow as a person, too.”

Irina Falconi said her time at Georgia Tech in Atlanta greatly benefited both her tennis as well as her business skills.

“I got over 70 singles matches in the two years I was there,” the 27-year-old American said after losing to top seed Angelique Kerber in the first round.

“It helped me a lot when I came on tour, it took me about 10 months to get to the top 100. I credit it to college,” said the 247th-ranked Falconi, who had been as high as No.63 last year before injury. She finished her business degree in December.

It took me about 10 months to get to the top 100. I credit it to college

– Irina Falconi

Each year, about 5,000 students enter the US college tennis system. The levels can vary, with the top Division I universities such as UCLA, Stanford University and the University of Florida attracting the best players.

Athletes who successfully made the transition from college to the pros include former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, John Isner, Steve Johnson, doubles legends Bob and Mike Bryan and former top-10 player Kevin Anderson from South Africa.

By landing a scholarship, students – and their parents – can save themselves close to $500,000 in training costs and tuition fees.

“From a training perspective, it’s probably worth close to $45,000 or $50,000 a year,” said Stephen Amritraj, the director of collegiate tennis for the US Tennis Association (USTA).

“That includes coaching, travel, the equipment and the facilities,” Amritraj said. “And then tuition at a place such as Duke University [in Durham, North Carolina] can cost as much as $70,000. So you are really getting a pretty incredible package financially, worth around $120,000 a year, times four.”

As a general rule, college players have to complete a minimum of two years of studies. After that, they can leave to pursue a pro career but are allowed to come back to complete their degrees for free.

To help make the transition from college tennis to the pro circuit more easily, the USTA has created more lower-tier Futures and Challenger tournaments in the summer, autumn and winter so players can maintain a professional ranking while in college rather than leaving unranked.

Britain’s Cameron Norrie is one player who has benefited, and has just begun his pro career with a ranking around the mid-200s after studying sociology for three years at Texas Christian University.

“He’s obviously playing at a very good level and has had two top-200 wins in the last two weeks,” said Amritraj, who graduated from Duke before turning pro. “He has grown up and matured a lot.”

With the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams still winning Grand Slam titles at the age of 35, there is no rush to go on tour.

“The average age of a tennis pro is now 27-and-a-half, there is still plenty of time for these kids to make it,” said Matthew Manasse, assistant coach of the women’s team at Duke University, who was at Wimbledon to look at potential recruits for the team.

“If you go to university, and you are out by 21, 22, you still have your whole career,” Manasse said. “You have 10 years to play on tour. And you can use your degree to do whatever you want.”



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