I know this thread's been dead for a while, bit I always enjoyed reading about other players' careers, so I thought I'll share mine. I have to warn everyone, this is going to be a seriously long post!!!
I'm very new to this game, but I had the experience of starting a career in many other games with a difficulty setting that's too low and making it too easy after a while, so I opted for a Pro-10 start. (I didn't know you can change it later.) Well, actually, I really only chose the Pro setting, the 10 was the default sublevel, and I had no idea what that meant at the time, so I just left it like that. I know this probably seems too high for a beginner, but I tend to be pretty good in games in general, and it turned out to be a solid choice in the end...
It didn't look like that at the beginning, though...
(By the way, I had a chance to start playing for a club in my home country when I was 11, the coach of the local team saw me hitting the ball with my cousin and offered to coach me. When he learnt that I live in a different town and I'm just visiting for a week, he gave me the contact details of a coach in my hometown and told me to find him. I told it to my parents, they didn't bother to look him up and that was the end of it... I was 11, didn't push it, liked a lot of things back then, so I found something else to sink my teeth in, I guess. So this career game will kind of emulate the "what if" scenario. Because of all this, I added some extra challenges, as you'll be able to read.)
I created myself as a 17 year old power baseliner, starting at the very bottom of the rankings. Considering that my parents probably would've been able to support me financially to travel around for a few Futures, plus there are about 15 Future tournaments reasonably close to where we lived at the time, I thought I'm going to allow myself a maximum of 25 tournaments in the first year before I need to start making some money back. I know you can't possibly hope of breaking even on the Future circuit in real life, let alone make a profit, but there are sponsorships and other opportunities to prolong things a bit further, so basically the goal was to climb into the top 500 within the first year, I think that would've given me enough leverage and sponsorship deals, etc to keep going for another year.
I entered the qualifying in Germany F1 and found out that my first opponent is Blake Strode, an American player I honestly never heard about. (Oddly enough, it turned out that out of every opponent I played throughout the first year, Strode climbed highest in the rankings since, all the way up to 259.) I had no idea how good are his numbers, only later found out that he is actually one of the most skilled guys I could've ran into...
That first match was really ugly. A double bagel, 6-0 6-0 - to Strode, of course.
As a matter of fact, I only won a single point in the first set, and that was because of an error from Strode. Second set was already 400% better (
), winning 4 points this time, even hit a couple of winners. I had no idea what I'm doing, learning the controls on the fly; it was embarrassing for sure. But I like a challenge, so I didn't back down, and my next opponent seemed a lot easier, so I kept at it. My match against Vasilis Mazarakis lasted almost twice as long, had a few really tight and long games, and although I still "lost comfortably", it was nowhere near as bad as the first one. 6-3 6-2, winning 41 points compared to his 57. Never had a breakpoint, though, but I was getting there.
At this point I thought that it surely won't take long before I get my first win, especially once I figured out that there is a slice button, too...
Had a bit more bad luck with the draws, regularly getting opponents with 2-300 points more in overall skill compared to me, all in all, it took me 9 matches to finally register my first win. (Hasn't even won a set until then...)
I beat a certain Moises Cardenas 6-4 6-2 in the qualies of Spain F5. He was a pretty unskilled player, so I knew I have a solid chance against him, and I was able to get it done. To make things even better, my next opponent was even worse, Daniel Omana had the lowest skills out of anyone I've seen in the game. He surprised me a few time in the second set, and I have to admit my concentration was dropping by then, but eventually he had no chance, I beat him too, 6-1 6-4. Unfortunately, the third round opponent, Christian Benedetti proved too strong, defeated me in straight sets, making me realise that just because I was able to beat a couple of guys, I'm still nowhere near where I want to be. I got no points or prize money for this, only the experience I can use to improve my skills. But at the same time, this tournament proved that I'm on the right track, and eventually I could reach my goals if I keep at it. Every win helps because of the extra experience, so I have to take every match seriously.
The next match was the first 3 setter of my career, losing 5-7 6-4 6-4 to Maciej Rajski - I really missed an opportunity there, but Rajski was a much better player than those I've beaten before, so it was a promising result. And in the next tournament I was facing someone with a really similar skill-level again, Japanese player, Hideki Kaneko. This match was a blast, I think the result says it all: 7-5 2-6 7-6(7) - my third ever win, and my first tiebreak. Saved a match point in the final tiebreak (wasted 2 myself), oh boy, it was nerve-racking. (I didn't feel this excited for achieving something in a videogame since I played Become a Legend mode in one of the Pro Evolution Soccer titles some 6-7 years ago - the one that introduced this mode. That was a similarly tough game with a steep learning curve, and I still remember scoring my first competitive goal late in a match as a sub to take the lead and eventually win - that was comparable to this. Nothing since.)
Next opponent put me back in my place, Ivan Kosec, miles better than Kaneko was, 6-1 6-1 loss, once again showing me how long the road is still in front of me. As a matter of fact, I lost 3 more matches in a row, where I didn't really have much of a chance.
Than came the 2 events in my home country - I played 4 matches here with a 50% record, winning 2 and losing 2. Although I still didn't score any points, still didn't qualify for any main draws, I was happy that I was able to break my duck, so to speak, and finally win. I also played pretty well and took a set each from two players I thought to be significantly stronger than me, especially Gomez-Saigos, who I knew is capable of winning tournaments at this level. Providing the local crowd with well over 6 hours of exciting, back and forth tennis was satisfying enough.
My next tournament kind of showed where I stand, recording my easiest win to date in the first round, (def. C. Gonzales 6-2 6-1), before getting completely destroyed by Benjamin Mitchell in the second. (6-1 6-1) Another, even worse loss against Kutrovsky followed, and I started feeling that I'm running out of time. I played in 18 tournaments already, with a record of 6-18, and not scored a single point, not made any main draws. What gave me hope is that I was steadily improving in my skills, and I thought that could probably help me get over the bump - once I'll have the skills, it should get easier - or so I thought.
Next tournament was in Italy. (Oh, forgot to say, I made sure that I always picked only European tournaments, you know, because of travel costs...) There were a lot of tournaments that week, diluting the field somewhat, and my draw seemed somewhat easier. First one to play was Boris Urh. Not easy, but I beat guys like him before, so I expected a win. It was tight, but I did get him, 6-2 6-4. Next round looked tougher, a Japanese player. The first set was a battle, came back from a break down, saving 3 setpoints and forcing a tiebreak. That kind of broke him, and it was clear sailing from that point - a very solid, 7-6(2) 6-2 win to reach Q3 for the second time in my career. Unlike the last time, my opponent here wasn't a star compared to me, so I was very confident. Vojtechovsky fought hard in the first set, but it got more and more obvious that I'm the better player. A 6-3 6-0 win meant that I finally qualified for the main draw for the first time in my life, and did so in style - delivering a bagel...
So I was waiting with anticipation what kind of an opponent I'm going to get in the main draw. Pfff, Lukas Thomas, incredible skills (at this level and compared to me, of course), fast, aggressive, really bad match-up... The first set was gone before I knew it. Then I started to understand his game a bit more, even started believing that I might actually have a slight chance. I saved an insane number of breakpoints, and converted one of my own, but he broke back eventually, sending the set to a tiebreak, where his more consistent play proved to be the deciding factor. I lost 6-1 7-6(4), but I played very well against a really good player, giving me some further hope for the future.
Stayed in Italy for another week, and the qualifying round showed straight away, that I really improved a lot. My serving became more consistent (hitting first serves in regularly above 70%), developed a really solid forehand compared to the competition, and my physical skills got significantly better. Finally, I started to feel how to hit those risky shots down the line regularly. I was still having issues holding on to my own service games, and had no aces to speak of, so I wanted to improve that next, adding more power to my serve. But I needed XP for that, and you have to play for that, so I played...
My opponents in the qualies might've seemed tough earlier, but none of them looked particularly strong by now. I beat Michael Look first (6-3 6-2), followed by a win against Kaes Van't Hof (6-7(5) 6-2 6-0 - that first set was a good lesson, I really underestimated the fight in the American, kept playing very casually, until suddenly things turned very serious as he won that first set, and was a break up in the second. I certainly took him much more seriously after that, and luckily I managed to find the higher gears. In the third round I met Andrew Gregory, who seemed like a fairly difficult match-up (he's a volleyer, and I'm generally better against defenders). Gregory proved quite tough, but I was even tougher - the match was decided by my ability to win the important points, converting my own breakpoints (4/6-67%) and saving his (1/7-14%). Ended in straight sets, 6-3 6-2. Qualified for the main draw again!
Here I faced a home player, Massimo Cierro. He had a solid resume for the year, beating guys I had trouble with, so I expected a dog fight. It didn't turn out like that at all... I beat him 6-1 6-0, he didn't even have a breakpoint. It was completely one-sided, maybe I just really, really (really!) wanted those 3 points to finally move into the top1000 in the rankings.
My joy was soon overshadowed by finding out that my next opponent is the worst possible match-up, a huge, young Italian with surprising speed, a lot of power, and an attacking style I always have trouble with. I actually played pretty well, and still got solidly beaten 6-2 6-1. Oh well... At least I moved up to 884th! (yay)
As a reward for this, I decided that I'll allow an extra journey, and go to play in Africa after a short training session. The qualifying round in Sudan was a solid statement of my improvement. I won 3 matches losing 5 games altogether, including a Q3 beating of the same Tanizawa I had a really tight match against earlier this year. This time it was no contest (6-0 6-1).
So I qualified for the third time in a row, and in my way to get more points stood a seemingly beatable but dangerous Asian player, Chen from Korea. It was a scrappy affair, struggling to get any chances, but I was efficient when it counted. Used all my breakpoints to full effect, and got the win in straight sets (6-3 6-3).
In the second round, another Asian awaited, Siwach from India. The first set was a breakfest, culminating in a tiebreak I managed to dominate, and that took the wind out of his sails completely. Another win (7-6(3) 6-1) reached the quarter-finals for the first time!
My celebrations were cut short when I found out that my next opponent is a former top100 veteran, Stephane Robert. A gigantic skill advantage in his favour, a very fast and powerful player, nothing like I've seen before... I actually surprised myself by being able to make him fight for it, but this time it was him who won all the important points. I had 11 break-chances, wasted 9 of them, while he was 6/8 - 75% in the same category. A 6-2 6-3 loss, but it was still my best result so far, launching me up to 762nd position in the world rankings.
I stayed in Africa for the next event, which started horribly, lost the first set 6-1 to a very solid German player, Florian Krumrey. Luckily, I was able to elevate my game, while his seemed to fall apart, and turned it into an easy win with a scoreline resembling a WTA match... (1-6 6-0 6-1)
2nd round, Sebastian Chylinski, 6-0 6-0, a double bagel in 38 minutes. My easiest win yet.
Kiril Tcherveniachki in the 3rd round promised to be a much more worthy foe, and he certainly gave me a lot of headaches, but I was strong when it mattered, saved a bunch of breakpoints and won in straight sets (6-3 6-4), to qualify again for the 4th time in succession.
My match against Frederic Jeanclaude in the first round was a very strange one, he was playing impeccable tennis under pressure (insanely good at saving breakpoints -
saved 13 altogether), on the other hand, he was completely useless every other time. Eventually, the better skills prevailed, but the scoreline doesn't indicate how difficult it was (6-2 6-0).
Sergey Skakun from Russia looked fairly dangerous beforehand, but offered little resistance after all, thanks to a brand new tool I started utilising: the slice serve. I always planned to introduce new elements into my game gradually as I get more and more confident in what I already know, and Sergey fell victim to the first (relatively...) efficient use of this new weapon I had in my arsenal. Serving at 78%, with 4 aces (a new personal best). I didn't allow him a single chance, holding my serve easily, and breaking his twice in both sets. (6-2 6-2)
Quarter-final again, maybe I'll have a less intimidating opponent this time. Nope, this guy's even better then Robert was! Fredrik Ask from Norway. Practically a bigger, stronger, but equally as fast and aggressive version of the Frenchman. Terrific...
I was so disappointed by the unlucky draw that I was 2-0 down before I realised the match already started. Then I suddenly found myself looking at a couple of breakpoints on his serve - giving me a boost. I converted, but couldn't equalise, and he served out the set from here, winning it 6-3, but it wasn't nearly as one-sided as I thought it would be. The second set started similarly, he was really punishing my weaker second serves, and got the break early. I broke back, but he did it again. It looked really grim at 5-4, him having his first matchpoint, serving. I saved it, turned the game around, and eventually forced the set into a tiebreak. A minibreak here, another there, at 6-5, setpoint for me. He saves it, 7-6, matchpoint nr2 for him - I save it with an ace, but I miss the line by an inch at 7-7 to give him matchpoint nr3. An incredible, long rally ends with a perfect forehand, painting the line - matchpoint saved again. A rare mistake by him gives me a setpoint, and this time I use the opportunity, repeating the same perfect forehand seen before to wrap up the second set tiebreak 10-8. (Maaaan, I was shaking my fist at the screen ecstatically at this point...)
The level of play gets even higher in the final set, we both hold serve until 2-2, but then, rather suddenly, I start to bang my first serves into the net. I still don't understand how or why, I was serving extremely well throughout the match (hitting 5 aces), but not this time. And Freddy is irresistible, attacking everything, painting the lines without a mistake. Break advantage to him. I'm sure he can't keep this up, but he does. He holds serve, and even though my first serves start to show up again, he still makes no errors, absolutely dominating the rallies. 5-2 him, serving for the match. I don't give up, elevate my game to a level I never thought I'm capable of, breaking serve with a love-game, then holding serve with another one. But at 5-4 40-30 he has matchpoint again. I take a risk, and hit an accelerated return on a decent, but not perfect serve, he can't attack, and gives me an opportunity - my approach shot lands on the line, barely coming back, and I kill it with power and precision. Matchpoint saved again. It must've confused him, he makes an uncharacteristic error, and plays a bit tentatively at breakpoint, allowing me to take over and dominate. I don't miss my chance, it's tied again at 5-5.
My turn to serve, but apparently, this is not my lucky day. Freddy gets 2 lucky bounces from the net, and another 2 returns come back super deep, landing on the baseline, in the corner, forcing me out of position. He does not hesitate to use the advantage, attacks immediately and faultlessly, and gets the break. I hope he gives me a chance to retaliate, but no, unfortunately, the fairytale ends here. He serves out the set with ease, hitting serves I can barely reach, then placing thundering shots in opposite corners from the slow returns.
It was heartbreaking to lose this one, but a memorable fight for sure. Coming back from seemingly hopeless situations a million times, saving 12 breakpoints, saving 4 matchpoints at different phases of the match and subsequently turning the games/tiebreak around, clawing myself back into the final set from being 2 breaks down at 5-2, and tying the score at 5-5, it was surreal. Especially considering who I played (someone with the highest skill total I've met), and how he played. I checked the form of the day at the end of the match: +0.34... The highest I've seen in this game so far. His first serve % was 78, and I still broke serve 6 times. Still, the end result was a 6-3 6-7(8) 7-5 loss. The consolation was the 5 points for the quarter-final, improving my ranking to 635th position, setting me up to maybe reach my set goal of making the top 500 before the end of the year, considering that this was my 22nd tournament. 3 more chances to get there.
The first one was completely wasted. I was still reeling from the shocking defeat, and this was the first time I really felt weary of the grind. Having to go back to qualifying was one thing, but to suddenly find an opponent there who's every bit as good as Freddy Ask was... Johan De Beer, a WC home player with a skill total even slightly higher than Freddy's. I didn't feel like playing him, I was ready to throw in the towel, just wanted to get out of there and find and play someone I can easily beat for a change. That decided the first set, I was playing at half-steam, doing okay, but not really wanting it. 6-3 to him. Then at the start of the second set De Beer made a couple of errors, and I started paying attention. Broke his serve twice in a row while he kept making errors - forced errors, but errors nonetheless. 6-2 for me, final set coming up. Things looked good after breaking early and leading 4-2, had a ball serving for 5-2, but the ace didn't come, and suddenly it was like playing a different guy. The errors disappeared from his game, and I needed every ounce of my skill to keep my hopes alive, forcing a tiebreak. After everything that went down in the match before, here we were once again, a matchpoint for me, another for him, then rinse, repeat. We both had 4 chances, he saved 4, I could only save 3, he won the tiebreak 12-10... A 6-3 2-6 7-6(10) loss, and another heartbreak.
I had to check his Form of the day: +0.42, even higher than Freddy's. I guess I can be proud of myself, making these highly skilled players (more than 200 points up in total skillpoints over what I have) work really hard for it; on "almost Master" difficulty.
I decided to finish the season in Russia, 2 events in two weeks there. Needed more than 15 points to make the top 500, so I really had to get into the final four in at least one of these tournaments. And of course, I still had to qualify first.
Wasfy and Szmyrgala caused no trouble, 6-2 6-0 and 6-0 6-1 wins got me past them. The only thing worth mentioning here is that I served well over 80% in both matches, 89% against Szmyrgala, in fact.
In Q3 I faced Aleksandar Lazov. This guy had pedigree, solid results from earlier in the year, but he - probably - didn't expect me to really master the slice serve by this point. 10 aces, no breakpoints to save, 6-2 6-2 win.
1R - Daniel Glancy from Ireland, new record with 13 aces, 6-0 6-1 win.
2R - Yusuke Watanuki from Japan, even better, 14 aces, 6-0 6-3 win. Both these guys were fairly successful at this level, so these results were proper testaments to how far I've come, and it set up the perfect clash for the quarter-final: another supreme athlete, highly skilled, very difficult match-up in Nr1. seed, Alejandro Gonzales. However, the slice serve was something I really perfected by this point, something I was only experimenting with while losing those other close matches. I knew it could give me an edge, and it did. (Saving a breakpoint with an ace is so rewarding, in all the tennis games I played, I rarely ever had more than 1-2 aces per match, this is a completely new sensation to me.) 11 aces against Gonzales proved to be the decisive. He gave me enough opportunities to get the breaks I needed, and with a 6-4 6-3 win, I reached the Semi-final for the first time.
I faced Enrique Olivares, who did a favour and eliminated the 4th seed. He had some solid results, but not very good skills. It turned out to be a double bagel. Yep, 6-0 6-0, giving me my very first Final!
The 3rd seed, Lorenz Ilg waited for me there, a German player. When I saw his sheet, I was shocked - he wasn't very good at all. I had a hard timekeeping my concentration up throughout the match, the difference in skill was so obvious - only served with 69%, hit just 4 aces and still won comfortably - 6-1 6-0 - to get my very first trophy!!! That also meant that I managed to reach my preseason goal, by climbing up to 442nd place in the world rankings. Bye-bye, future qualifiers, I'll - hopefully - never have to play in these again...
Second week in Russia, let's see if I can keep up the good form of late. Another thing worth mentioning, I was seeded (15th) for the first time in my career.
1R - Zeballos - 6-0 6-1 win, smashed my ace record, ending up with 23 aces in this game...
2R - Cerutti - 6-0 6-0 win, a double bagel I had to fight for, he saved a lot of breakpoints, but I kept my foot on the gas.
3R - Kosec - 6-0 6-0 win, and sweet revenge, this guy beat me 6-1 6-1 only a few months ago. I got a bit better since...
In the semis I got Julien Dubail, who is no slouch. A big server, volleyer, with loads of speed, I'm not really good against these guys. It was a tight match with a lot of breakpoints but only a few breaks. He got one early in the first and carried the advantage all the way. Then I turned it around, and did the same to him. Twice. 4-6 6-3 6-4, my toughest win for quite a while but a win nonetheless. On a further note, I hit my very first 200Km/h serve in this one. So cool.
So I reached the final for the second week in a row, having to play a qualifier, Marin Franjicevic, but the only surprise there was his poor ranking, he certainly had the skills to be a worthy foe in a final. This match could've been a lot different if he takes his chances; he had more breakpoints than me, but simply couldn't convert any. I was almost flawless in this department, closing out the match in 62 minutes to win 6-3 6-2, and complete the clean sweep in Russia: 2 trophies in 2 weeks! Another massive jump in the rankings, now in 378th!
Considering that there was still 3 weeks left of the season, and I did get a few solid paychecks towards the end, I decided to do a little extra "holiday", and play in a final future event in Brazil to close out the year. (My first Challenger next year will be in Brazil anyway, so playing a bit of tennis, then partying on the beaches for a week before having to get at it again seemed like a solid way to celebrate achieving my goals.)
I'll keep it short - I was 1st seed, showing my competition what to expect...
1R - Wedege - 6-4 6-3 win - a tight affair, this Danish guy was surprisingly good with his bombastic serve and solid net play. I always have trouble against guys like him, but my efficiency allowed me to get past him.
2R - Inoue - 6-1 6-2 win - he never had a chance, could've been bagels if I really push.
QF - Cerutti - 6-0 6-3 win - I just destroyed this guy easily last week, he found something late in the match, coming back from 5-0, then I found my serve again.
SF - Raffa - 6-1 6-0 win - no challenge, I was barely paying attention, serving with 63%...
Final - Robert Quiroz, from Ecuador - a surprise entry, unseeded, average skills, should be an easy win. And it was. 14 aces, 6 out of 6 breakpoints converted - 6-1 6-2 win.
3 tournaments, 3 titles to wrap up the season. Wow, who would've thought this after not having a single point in 18 tries... (Well, I kind of did, that's why I kept playing...)
Ended the season with a 43-24 record (started with 0-8, remember?), 3 trophies, a winning streak of 18 matches since that heartbreaking loss against De Beer, 311th position in the world rankings and total career winnings of 8'557 USD.
Next year the goals are:
- reach the top 200
- win a challenger tour title
- qualify for the main draw at a Grand Slam
- win a few matches on the main tour
- get my yearly winnings over 30k
Since I'm already number 1 in my country, and close to the top 300 in the world at the age of 18, I think most of the financials are taken care of for now, and I can go to any tournament I want to. I checked the current RL ATP rankings, only 6 guys in the top 300 aged 18 or younger, so I'm pretty sure I'd have some help from both the national federation and from sponsors.
I'll start my year in the qualifiers of the 35k Sao Paolo Challenger that was won last year by a veteran French top100 player, Michael Llodra.
(Actually, I already played this tournament, but the end of the season seems like a nice way to end this never-ending post.)
So, that was the first year of my tennis career, if you got to the end, congratulations
, and thank you for reading it. It was a lot of fun, a tough start, some really memorable matches and solid success towards the end, promising a really bright future.