College Standout Kwiatkowski Adjusting To Life On Tour
Winning is never easy on the ATP Challenger Tour. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski has learned that quickly in his young professional career, as the University of Virginia standout remains in search of his first main draw victory at the Challenger level since graduating this spring.
“To be honest, I’m having a bit of a tough time,” reflected Kwiatkowski, who capped his impressive college career with an NCAA singles title this year. “I’ve been taking a lot of lumps this summer and I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s very tough week-in and week-out.”
Tuesday night was no different, as the 22 year old won five more points than lucky loser Luke Bambridge in the Atlantic Tire Championships, but fell in a third set tie-break. When Kwiatkowski got off the court in Cary, North Carolina, he received worse news — his family’s beach condo in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, had been damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Irma.
“It definitely lets you know that there are bigger things than losing a match in a third set breaker,” Kwiatkowski said. “My family evacuated and everything’s fine [with them]. Just of course major flooding in Jacksonville. Just a big storm came by.”
As competitive as Kwiatkowski is, it gave the 22 year old a moment to reflect — as much as he wants to win, there are bigger things in life than tennis.
“As long as I go out there and I treat others with respect: my coach, myself and my opponent, and I try for every point,” added Kwiatkowski. “I’m going to be okay with the result.”
This week’s loss was not the only difficult one to swallow lately, as the American had a two-sets-to-one lead in the first round of the US Open — which he entered with a wild card that came with his NCAA title — against 23rd seed Mischa Zverev. The German would claim the match in five sets and eventually advance to the fourth round.
“Walking off the court was pretty disappointing,” admitted Kwiatkowski. “I just felt like I had a lot of chances to win the match and it would’ve been really nice to get that win in terms of points, and [because] I’ve been having a tough summer. So to have won that match would have been really nice.”
Instead, Kwiatkowski went straight back to the practice court, as he continues to look to grow his game and adapt to life on the pro circuit. He hopes that moving into his first permanent residence since leaving school – at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Florida – will give him a sense of stability as he aims to improve his game.
“I definitely feel like I have the ability to play.” Kwiatkowski said. “Now I have to work really hard, trust the process that eventually I can get to that level consistently.”
Kwiatkowski will attempt to build on his position of No. 712 in the Emirates ATP Rankings this fall, playing a schedule that includes ATP Challenger Tour stops in Monterrey, Mexico, and Charlottesville, Virginia, where he attended school.
“In college, I didn’t lose a whole lot in a semester,” Kwiatkowski said. “On the tour, you’re going to lose every week most likely. So that means you have to, I don’t want to say learn how to lose, but take lessons from each loss.”
While he said he was very match tough at school, the three-time singles All-American now has to find ways to improve every single day so that those tough losses on tour turn into wins. Kwiatkowski hopes that those improvements will help him climb inside the Top 300 and gain entry into Grand Slam qualifying draws.
The American knows it won’t be easy, but understands that it is a process.
“I feel like everyone’s got to start from the bottom. Of course it’s tough. You’re going to take a lot of tough losses and the road’s not going to be easy,” Kwiatkowski said. “I’m looking forward to the journey.”