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Mark Lajal: The Estonian who dreamt of racing now plays Alcaraz at Wimbledon

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2024

Estonian Mark Lajal was in a car on his way to site Friday, the day after he qualified for Wimbledon. The 21-year-old was enjoying the ride with his mother, coach and the driver, when he received a shock.

“My friend was looking at the live draw when they were picking the [players] and I remember they called, ‘Carlos Alcaraz will play’… and it was like, ‘Number 122, Mark Lajal’,” he told “We all started screaming, everyone screamed in our car. I got scared because they started screaming and then it was, ‘Oh my, I’m playing Carlos’.”

The No. 262 player in the PIF ATP Rankings will enjoy a memorable welcome to major main draw action. In his first three attempts to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, Lajal lost in the first round. Now not only has he qualified, but the Estonian will open the event on Centre Court against the defending champion.

“I don’t know if it really has sunk in yet because it’s incredible. Once I qualified, obviously, it’s a big thing to qualify for me and one of my goals this year was to qualify for a Grand Slam,” Lajal said. “For my first time, I wanted to play someone big, have a big first match. But for some reason, Carlos never crossed my mind. So when I saw Carlos, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m playing Carlos’.

“Then my friend told me, ‘You know, you’re going to be opening Centre Court’. I was like, ‘Wait, that’s true!’ That’s tradition. So for me, that’s just unbelievable. I’m going to be playing against Carlos on Centre Court as my first match. I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet. But I’m quite excited, honestly.”

After learning the draw, Lajal was at Wimbledon training venue Aorangi Park with his team. They passed by a court on which Alcaraz was practising with Flavio Cobolli.

“Cobolli hit a huge winner, and then we started to leave,” Lajal said. “Juan Carlos [Ferrero], he comes to me, and he says, ‘Don’t do that on Monday’. I started laughing.”

Lajal and Alcaraz had not met until Saturday, when they briefly crossed paths during Media Day at SW19. The Spaniard is a three-time major champion, while the Estonian is preparing for his first main draw match at a Slam.

It is an exciting moment for a player who was not born to play tennis, but to race. Lajal’s father, Mart, was a motocross rider. His grandfather, Hardi Mets, was a rally driver. Mark’s favourite racer was motocross star Antonio Cairoli. Now he enjoys following his countryman, rally driver Ott Tanak and Formula One star Max Verstappen.

“I don’t remember exactly at what age I started driving. I think I was like three, so I was quite young. But I started off at like two years old, two and a half, I was riding bicycles already, little ones, so I was basically born into it,” Lajal said. “And then my dad put me there and I had my little motorcycle, and I was just doing laps around the house out in the garden. And then as I got older, obviously I grew, I got bigger motorcycles. I was not pushed into it, but it was just a part of the family. It was normal for us to do it.”

Lajal raced in Estonia and was set on following the path his family had paved. But when he was still young, his father went on a trip and everything changed.

“My mom didn’t want to put me into motocross, so she put me into tennis [while he was away] and that’s how we got started,” Lajal said. “I was doing both at the same time. And then as time went on, I kind of just started racing less and playing tennis more. And then at one point, I was just like, ‘I like tennis. I want to play tennis’. My parents were super welcoming. They were like, ‘Yeah, go for it’.”

To this day, Lajal remembers his first tennis practice vividly.

“I was really proud of it. First of all, I was playing right-handed and left-handed, so I had two forehands basically,” Lajal said. “Then after the forehand, I would be spinning after every shot. I just remember the first one really clearly and I was really proud of it. I came home and I was like, ‘Mom, look at my forehand!’”

By 10, Lajal was competing on a national level and was one of the best Estonians in his age group. He played junior tournaments in countries like Finland and Latvia before travelling more starting at 12. Two years later, Lajal moved to the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, run by Patrick Mouratoglou. He is still based there today.

“From there obviously I got even more dedicated and more serious, but it took longer than I would have liked for me to become actually focused and dedicated,” Lajal said. “At 14, 15, I was still a little bit all over the place and it’s normal when you’re young, but I think at 16 and 17, that’s really when I started really doing my stuff.”

Estonia is not known for its rich tennis history. WTA standout Kaia Kanepi has waved her country’s flag throughout her career. Jurgen Zopp did so on the ATP side, reaching a career-high World No. 71 in 2012. Zopp advanced to the third round at Roland Garros in 2018, but never won a match at Wimbledon.

“Seeing those two amazing players coming from a small country, obviously it’s an inspiration to all of us. But I’d say more, it was Jurgen,” Lajal said. “I was watching him on TV. He was a legend in Estonia. He was big.”


If Lajal defeats Alcaraz, who is one week his elder, he will become the third man in history to upset the defending champion in the first round at Wimbledon and the second Estonian man in history to reach the second round of The Championships.

For those unfamiliar with last year’s Little Rock ATP Challenger Tour champion, he brings a vibrant personality and noticeable energy to the court. “I’m an honest person. I say what I feel. The way I am on court and the way I am outside of court, I’m just my authentic self,” he said.

Fans will also quickly notice his light blonde dreads. The hairstyle back to his early childhood.

“When I was six, my half sister, she did dreads and I was so fascinated. I was like, ‘Mom, I want it, I want it, I need it’. My mom was like it’s just hair, just do it for the summer. So I did it and I loved it and I stayed with it,” Lajal said. “So it’s been with me for a long, long, long time. It has changed, shorter, longer. At one time it was really long and then I cut it off. Now it’s funny also, because every single one of my pro matches, I’ve always played with a hat. And then I had a bad tan line here from the hat.

“I was getting so frustrated. I was just like, ‘I have a week of practice. I’m just going to put up the hair and just get rid of the tanline’. And I kind of just enjoyed it and went with it. And then I was just like, ‘You know what, it’s Wimbledon, you’ve got to make something different. If there’s a place to make something different, it’s Wimbledon’.”

It is a tournament known far beyond the tennis world. Lajal received a tour of the venue from a member of the event’s player relations team and noticed the quote from Rudyard Kipling’s poem If that is displayed above the entrance to Centre Court:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

“A lot of players touch the thing before they go on court. And you could see there’s one part that is just used. You can see the wear on it, so I was like I guess this is where to touch it, so I touched it. It’s nice,” Lajal said. “I was really happy. But at the same time, I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I’ve qualified. It’s good. But technically the tournament is just getting started. It’s just the beginning’. So I was happy for I’d say an hour. And then I was back to it. So we celebrated a little bit in the evening, we had a pizza. And then the next day, I was back to it.”


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Murray: 'I would love the opportunity to play here one more time'

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2024

Andy Murray revealed in a press conference Sunday details of his recovery from recent back surgery and explained that he is still pushing to be ready to compete in one final Wimbledon.

“It’s been obviously a tough 10 days or so since Queen’s. Obviously had the operation on the back, which wasn’t insignificant. Just been trying to do everything that I can to try and get ready to start the tournament here,” Murray said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be enough. I’ve been practising for the past few days. I played a set today. It went pretty well, but I still don’t have 100 per cent sort of feeling and sensation in my leg yet.

“It’s getting better every single day. Like I said a few days ago, I want to give it every single chance that I can to get there.”

The former No. 1 player in the PIF ATP Rankings explained that he will probably make a decision Monday evening regarding his participation in the tournament. The Scot added that there have been positive signs.

“I have no back pain, which is obviously really good. But the nature of the problem that I had was I had quite a large cyst, which was squashing, compressing my nerves, which then obviously lost not all, but a lot of control in my right leg,” Murray said. “That is getting better. But it’s kind of like if you sleep on your arm funny, you wake up and you’ve got a dead arm. It’s kind of like that feeling. But it goes on for a lot longer because the nerve has been kind of squashed and a little bit damaged for a number of days. How long that takes to regain its full sort of function again is impossible to say. For some people it takes months; for some people it’s weeks.”

According to Murray, who is scheduled to face Tomas Machac in the first round and play doubles with brother Jamie Murray, he has not been taking steps backwards by returning to practice.

“It’s been getting better every day,” Murray said. “I’m hopeful that that continues and it’s going to be enough to be on the court on Tuesday.”

Murray added: “Each day it becomes more and more likely that I’ll be able to play properly. Obviously with doubles, although you’re covering less distance and less court, you still need to be able to move pretty explosively.

“If I keep progressing like I have been for the next three, four days, before the doubles starts, then… I played a set today against a good player. Was playing well. Hitting the ball well. Did absolutely fine.”


Murray hopes that with each day the likelihood he plays increases. He does not just want to compete, but play at a level he is happy with.

“I would love the opportunity to play here one more time,” Murray said. “That’s what I’m looking to get out of it. Whether afterwards I feel like that’s the right thing to do, it was the right thing to do or not, I don’t know. But right now I feel like I want that opportunity.”

The two-time Wimbledon champion hopes for “maybe a bit of closure” and to play once more on Centre Court and feel the “buzz” of that opportunity.

“Last year, I wasn’t planning on it being my last year on the Tour. I wanted to come back and play again,” Murray said. “Whereas this year I have no plans to do that. It’s coming to the end of my career and I want to have that opportunity to play here again.”


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Mensik ready to follow in Berdych's footsteps at Wimbledon

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2024

Czech stars Tomas Berdych and Jiri Lehecka have made their mark at Wimbledon over the years, with the former reaching the final in 2010 and the latter enjoying a breakout run to the fourth round last year.

Now, 18-year-old #NextGenATP star Jakub Mensik is hoping to be the next man from his country to shine at The Championships this week when he makes his tournament debut.

“I have spoken to Tomas and Jiri before a little about grass. I watched Tomas on TV playing here when I was young, watching him in the final I think in 2010. It was an early memory and an amazing performance,” Mensik told “Then Jiri [Lehecka], who I know well, was playing really well here last year and with this game style, it’s obvious that he can play really well here. I have a pretty similar style to Tomas and Jiri and now for me to be here is something special.

“I have showed to myself in the past weeks after my first events on grass that I can play also on this surface, so that’s great and I’m looking forward to it and I think I can follow [their success].”

The 13-time tour-level titlist Berdych earned victories against Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic en route to the final in 2010, while he also reached the semi-finals in 2016 and 2017. After retiring in 2019, Berdych started coaching 22-year-old Lehecka, but his charge is missing this year’s event due to injury.

Step forward Mensik, who has been one of the breakout stars on the ATP Tour this season. The Czech started the year at No. 167 in the PIF ATP Rankings and rose to a career-high No. 65 in May, reaching his maiden ATP Tour final in Doha.

Having only made his tour-level debut at the US Open last September, the experiences of competing on the Tour are new and exciting for Mensik, who won his first tour-level match on grass in Mallorca last week.

“I’m super happy with my year and I am just playing and enjoying every moment on court and the new challenges. Grass for my game style is really good,” Mensik said. “Also, it’s my first events on the grass courts on the ATP Tour this year. I just played before two years ago, Wimbledon juniors, so I don’t have too much experience on grass. That is why in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and in Halle I was finding myself on grass and Mallorca was good.

“It is so different to hard and clay but it’s so special. To play my whole life on hard or clay, to finally play on something different is special. Wimbledon is really beautiful. I had my first hit here, so I feel really good and the facilities here are just unbelievable.”


Mensik earned clay-court wins at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid earlier this year but was forced to miss Roland Garros due to a right arm injury. The 18-year-old is feeling fully fit ahead of Wimbledon after his Paris setback.

“After the injury that meant I missed Roland Garros, it was also very difficult to find the form and to keep the same level,” Mensik said. “We had a pretty tough decision not to play Roland Garros because of my right arm. But after that we did a lot of research, we visited a lot of doctors, so we started slow. Then I started to practise, play a couple of tournaments before Wimbledon and I’m feeling much better.”

Mensik faces Alexander Bublik in the first round at Wimbledon. A good run at SW19 will help further boost Mensik’s chances of competing at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF in December, with the Czech second in the PIF ATP Live Race To Jeddah.

“Before the season, I set the goal to qualify for Jeddah and to play there. I think that I’m doing pretty well so far and it would be great to play this kind of event because for us young players it is pretty exciting,” Mensik said. “It is a good opportunity to see how it works and to taste something from the background of the ATP. I think that is what I want to play at the end of this season.”

For now, Mensik’s focus remains at Wimbledon and on his match against Bublik on Monday when he will try to earn victory.


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My Wimbledon: Daniil Medvedev

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2024

Daniil Medvedev is set to make his sixth appearance at Wimbledon, where last year he earned a career-best semi-final run at the grass-court major.

The 28-year-old, No. 5 in the PIF ATP Rankings, holds a 13-5 record at the All England Club. Ahead of this year’s Wimbledon, sat down with Medvedev to chat about his favourite memories at The Championships.


What is your first memory of watching Wimbledon?
It would be Sharapova winning Wimbledon. I do not remember the year [2004], but I was really young. And she won it when she was like 17 or 18. So that was a huge story. I’m not even sure if she was seeded, and I think she beat Serena. I was too young, I don’t remember exactly, but it was huge. I remember watching it. It was fun.

What is your first memory of playing Wimbledon?
Playing Wimbledon as a junior. It was my first main draw of a junior Slam. The emotions that I had would not compare to right now, they were higher because I was more tired. I was more stressed. I had more adrenaline. Now, I’m kind of used to what I’m doing. At the time, it was something huge for me to be there, to see all the pros close to me, practising, getting ready for their match. It was an unbelievable feeling and I still remember how you arrive, you go on the court. I won the first match. I lost second round and there were big, big emotions.

What is your favourite Wimbledon tradition and why?
Strawberries are really good at Wimbledon, so I would say that’s definitely up there as one of my favorites. It’s very good. Strawberries are healthy if you don’t exaggerate and they’re really, really tasty, so that’s good. I think they don’t have as many [traditions] as we tend to think but all of them are pretty good and I feel like have their meaning, like strawberries.

Do you have a favourite court outside of Centre Court?
Court No. 1 for me because I don’t think I ever lost there. For whatever reason, I play pretty good there. It was my first win after being two sets to love down against Cilic. Last year I only played on this court and I think on Court No. 2 once. I played only on these courts last year until semi-finals, so I love it.

What is the greatest moment you have had at Wimbledon?
I haven’t won it and since I want to do better than semi-finals, it would be beating Wawrinka. It was my first Grand Slam victory and beating Stan, who just came after final of Roland Garros, that was a huge, huge win for me, huge emotions and part of my tennis journey. That was the first win where I [was like], ‘Okay, I can beat even guys like Stan’ and that was pretty big for me.”


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Learn about the ATP Player Mentoring Programme & why Sinner's Wimbledon opponent Hanfmann is 'really excited'

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2024

When the Wimbledon draw was made Friday morning at The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Jannik Sinner was drawn against German Yannick Hanfmann in the first round.

Hanfmann, a 32-year-old who is No. 95 in the PIF ATP Rankings, was not in the middle of practice, on the physio table or glued to the draw on his phone. The former World No. 45 was a mile away from the tournament venue at the ATP Tour’s London office, participating in the new ATP Player Mentoring Programme.

The objectives of the programme are to help players learn from industry-leading experts about areas of business that interest them, expand their professional networks and support the athletes through their journey as they begin to think about life after tennis and post-career opportunities.

“I’m actually glad that we have something like this. It’s new, it’s the first time, so thank you to the ATP for actually providing us with this. I’m really excited,” Hanfmann told “I just finished the ATP Business Education Programme, which is already a lot of knowledge for us, a lot of great speakers. And now we actually are provided with someone one on one to help with us and to have a mentor to guide you a little bit with the post-career opportunities.

“I think it’s amazing, because I’m 32 thinking a little bit of what’s ahead. And life is not only tennis, but of course, it’s something that we were good at. So now trying to navigate, maybe a little bit the ways after tennis and to get into certain parts of business. And we have great speakers, great people here to help us. The mentors, all of them are excellent leaders. We’re really fortunate to be able to be in this programme.”

The ATP Player Mentoring Programme group

As of now, Hanfmann does not know what he wants to do after his career. He met with his mentor, Oli Barnett, a partner at Baringa Partners LLP, who has plenty of experience with different businesses.

“I just kind of try to learn from him and see what he did. Maybe also some of the mistakes he made, some of the experiences he has to help me maybe make my own decisions,” Hanfmann said. “And then just to learn from his experience and to hopefully find myself in a place where I’m passionate about something. Maybe it is sports, maybe it’s something else. And I think they can help shape us in this way.”

The German knows he might only have a few more years competing on the ATP Tour and is eager to learn as much as he can ahead of the next phase of his journey. Education is nothing new for Hanfmann, who attended college at the University of Southern California, where he studied international relations.

“I actually really liked going to classes, learning about new things and being involved with just something other than tennis,” Hanfmann said. “So I’m excited actually to move my brain in different direction as well to learn about new opportunities.

“We’re always involved with tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis. So it’s nice to have your brain a little bit moving off of it, have some other things that are interesting. I think it also takes maybe sometimes a little bit of pressure away from everything that’s going on these majors, especially Wimbledon, there’s always a lot of things going on, which is nice. But to be here at the ATP office, to see them for the first time, it is really nice. I’m very thankful to be part of this.”

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/06/29/23/26/nys-rinderknech-atp-player-mentoring-programme-2024.jpg” style=”width:100%;” alt=”Hugo Nys and Arthur Rinderknech are being mentored by Denise Melone —Managing Director, Havas.” />
Hugo Nys and Arthur Rinderknech are being mentored by Denise Melone, Managing Director, Havas.
Hanfmann is joined by fellow players Daniel Altmaier, Zizou Bergs, Kimmer Coppejans, Taro Daniel, Alexis Galarneau, Robin Haase, Austin Krajicek, Matwe Middelkoop, Jamie Murray, Hugo Nys, Arthur Rinderknech, Jan-Lennard Struff, Michael Venus and Aleksandar Vukic in the programme.

Bergs said: “I’ve always been interested in what my dad was doing, what my grandfather was doing. So somewhere I always also feel this passion for [business and management]. And I think this programme, meeting some legends in business — especially today, I got to meet Sachin Dev Duggal — I think this is a great step up for us to see, for me personally, what are the opportunities, maybe already during and a little bit after my tennis career, to really keep building on things.

“What gets me the most happy is really to wake up with a vision and to go to sleep with it with a clear mission or a clear goal. And I really hope that after my tennis, I will also get something like that, that I really live for.”


Krajicek said: “It was important for me to participate in the ATP Player Mentoring Programme to try to expand my network. I’m always trying to learn things off the court. Unfortunately, we can’t play tennis forever. So as we go into the next phase of our life, I think it’s important to network and open up opportunities, and you never know where that may lead you. But I’m trying to learn as much as I can and educate myself so I can make that transition as smooth as possible.”

The industry-leading mentors participating in the programme are Karl Altenburg, Oli Barnett, Chris Beltran, James Cluskey, Sachin Dev Duggal, Anthony Goonetilleke, Kurt Long, Fernando Martin del Agua, Denise Melone, Ander Michelena, Eric Murciano, Peter Norris, Geoff Robinson and Stephen Twaddle.

Chris Beltran, Founder, Investor and Creator said: “What first got me about the ATP Player Mentoring Programme is it represents sort of an inflection point in the athletes’ life. It’s not the beginning of their career, when they’re excited about approaching the sport and all of the things that come with it. It’s more at a point where they can feel like it’s the end of something. And yet, a lot of them are so young, and being a startup founder myself, and running companies and things like that, you can really see where, ‘Oh, you get to an exit of a company and your whole identity is enveloped in what you do, and where do I go from there?’

“I think there’s just a really, really positive, interesting opportunity there for these athletes to figure out that there’s so much happiness and joy after the sport. Sometimes that includes the sport and involves it, other times it doesn’t. But there’s so much optimism and positivity after. And I think it’s really, really important for them to realise that. I’m just so excited to be part of that.”

Denise Melone, Managing Director, Havas, said: “I think professional athletes live and breathe their sport. And what they do on a daily basis is in the moment. I think the reason why I’m so excited about this programme, why I think it’s so important, is that there is life after tennis. And I think the ATP Player Mentor Programme ultimately is going to be able to help them prepare now for their future. It’s not to say that tennis isn’t their future, it’s just to say that the life after tennis is just as important as their life today. So if we can help them to be prepared for that, to start thinking about that early, then we’re going to be winning.”


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Graduation Day: Fearnley, junior conqueror of Alcaraz & Sinner, set for Wimbledon debut

  • Posted: Jun 30, 2024

All eyes will be on World No. 1 Jannik Sinner and Roland Garros champion Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon. Not as many fans will be focussed on a player who defeated them both in the juniors: wild card Jacob Fearnley of Great Britain.

Fresh off a distinguished five-year career playing college tennis at Texas Christian University, the 22-year-old will make his major debut as a wild card at The Championships, the same event where he hit with eight-time champion Roger Federer four times as a teen.

Fearnley is well aware that he has not followed the same path as those three superstars, all of whom reached the top of the PIF ATP Rankings. Instead, the Briton put professional tennis on hold and became a four-time ITA All-American for TCU and two-time qualifier for the ATP Next Gen Accelerator, which increases the development pathway for top players in the American Collegiate system by providing direct entry into ATP Challenger Tour events.

Earlier this month, Fearnley, who just completed his college career, had never cracked the world’s Top 500. But everything changed when he entered qualifying at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham as an alternate. After battling through a final-set tie-break in his opening match, he successfully qualified for an ATP Challenger Tour main draw for the first time. One week later, the former college standout lifted the trophy.

On 19 June, Fearnley was awarded a main draw wild card into Wimbledon.

“It feels a bit surreal, but it’s a great feeling,” Fearnley told “I was a bit surprised that I was able to win, but I’ve been working hard and played well. So yeah, just super, super happy and super grateful to be given the opportunity to play.”

One week before competing in Nottingham, Fearnley was at the LTA’s National Training Centre in London practising with the likes of in-form Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie, another former TCU star. “It just gave me confidence that I could play with these guys,” he said.

Suddenly, just days after storming to glory on the Nottingham grass, Fearnley’s phone was ringing. British Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith called him with the news of his Wimbledon wild card.

“I didn’t really know how to react to be honest. It’s not something that you really prepare for,” Fearnley said. “I honestly didn’t really know what I was going to get. I thought I was going to get qualifying for sure. But I know how difficult it is to get a Wimbledon main draw wild card, so I was just super, super excited.”

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/06/29/22/36/fearnley-nottingham-2024-trophy.jpg?w=100%25&hash=C1CAEB92F809A92CBB55283DC218A0CA” style=”width:100%;” alt=”Jacob Fearnley” />
Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA
# # #

Fearnley’s tennis journey began in Scotland, where he grew up with his mother, Samantha. She woke up early to provide for him by heading into work at the National Health Service as a human resources manager.

“My mom obviously has made a huge impact on me just supporting me, believing in me more than anyone. I’m super grateful for her,” Fearnley said. “She’s an unbelievable human and she’s done so much for me, especially in tennis.”

The Briton also made sure to point out the role played by his grandparents, who have since passed away.

“They were huge. They actually got me into tennis when I was younger. They had a big back garden and I used to play with them on it when I was really young. They were huge, my biggest supporters,” Fearnley said. “My mom had to go to work pretty early after I was born, so I would spend my whole days at my grandparents’ throughout my childhood. So it’s probably since I could walk. I was either playing with a table tennis bat and a table tennis ball when I was about two into hitting volleys, maybe when I was about four or five.”

Fearnley would develop into one of the Top 30 juniors in the world. He defeated both Sinner and Alcaraz when they were 15. The match against Alcaraz was in the final of a Grade 2 event held in Spain, and the older Briton triumphed in a final-set tie-break.

“Obviously those guys, their careers went in a totally different way than mine,” Fearnley said. “I went to college and those guys are the best in the world. It’s still a pretty cool thing to tell people.”

Coaches who played a role in his development include David Brewer and Marcel du Coudray. Despite his junior success, Fearnley opted to postpone a potential professional career to continue his growth at TCU.

“I think college helped me a lot. TCU was the best decision I ever made. I learned so much from being there. I got the opportunity to be coached by, I think, two of the best coaches in the world,” Fearnley said of head coach David Roditi and associate head coach Devin Bowen. “Aside from the fact of physically developing more, I think I’m definitely mentally stronger and deal with things a little bit better than maybe I did in the past. And I think that the other big thing is that I just believe in myself a little bit more. And that belief has come through just a lot of hard work and a lot of people supporting me. I’d say that’s the big thing that’s changed, just the belief in myself.”

That was something Bowen specifically pointed to. According to the coach, who has long been a trusted resource for Norrie, Fearnley’s story has been about finding the belief that he belongs and can play the sport at a high level.

“It took him all five years to mature, and he’s still 22 years old,” Bowen said. “But he’s definitely one of those players that if he had tried to go play at 18 or 19, you’d be throwing him to the wolves, and I think that’s the case with a lot of players.”


It was more than just a mental challenge, though. Fearnley suffered a series of injuries that hindered his progress in college: a stress reaction in his rib, a torn posterior tibialis, a right rotator cuff injury, pubic osteitis in his pubic bone, a lower back injury due to a trapped nerve and “a lot” of torn abdominals.

Bowen worked hard to help Fearnley with his serve, at first to more significantly revamp it as well as after it was affected by injuries. Jake even hit underarm serves at one point.

“At one stage, I kid you not, he was probably averaging 15, 20 double faults a match. Couldn’t put a serve in the court. Just would go and double fault match after match,” Bowen said. “That summer he ended up staying at TCU and we rebuilt his serve completely, which was great, because it gave him a fresh start on it and probably his best shot right now is probably the serve.”

From struggles with confidence to trouble with injuries, Fearnley has consistently persevered. He made the decision to prioritise tennis and the results have shown as much. The former Horned Frog this year became a two-time ATP Next Gen Accelerator and no matter how he performs at Wimbledon, wild cards on the ATP Challenger Tour await.

“It’s huge. It’s a great incentive for all the college guys. It’s just more motivation to work hard and to do well in college,” Fearnley said. “It’s also great assurance that you’ll have opportunities coming out of college because a lot of guys like myself, while I was a bit lucky to play some pro tournaments in the fall, they don’t have the chance to play, to get ATP points until they’re out of college. So to have those tournaments to get into, it’s huge just to kick-start your pro career.”

At a career-high No. 271 in the PIF ATP Rankings, Fearnley has already made a good start. He plays Spanish qualifier Alejandro Moro Canas in the Wimbledon first round and could face seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round.

Bowen summed up the 22-year-old’s journey thus far: “This is really a special player in that he’s been through a lot in college in terms of just his tennis, the ups and downs, probably more so than any player that we’ve worked with, and the struggles emotionally and physically. He was injured a tonne. And he really made a decision a couple of years ago that he was going to put everything into tennis… He just put his head down and has been so determined ever since. It’s been an incredible story.”


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