Bradley Klahn, a rising junior at Stanford, hung in with Sam Querrey in Wednesday's first-rounder before falling in four. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
While his classmates were lifeguarding, interning or just whiling away the last few days of summer before the fall semester, Bradley Klahn had an eventful morning. A junior-to-be at Stanford and the defending NCAA singles champ, Klahn faced Sam Querrey in the first Arthur Ashe Stadium showdown today. The match had a little bit of everything -- included a groin injury that, rest assured, is coming soon to YouTube. (“It didn’t hurt for the first five seconds and then it was, ‘I need a trainer,’” said Klahn. “But I think it loosened me up.”)
Klahn, a 20-year-old lefty from outside San Diego, ended up losing in four sets. But he acquitted himself well against a top 25 player -- deploying a well-rounded lefty game and holding up in the heat -- and, afterwards, you could practically see visions of ATP success dancing in his head like sugarplums. It happens all the time here. Amateurs enter the main draw, post encouraging results and wonder why they’re not playing alongside the pros. As Klahn spoke, Ryan Harrison, a teenager from Texas, dispatched Ivan Ljubicic on Court 8, the first American teen to beat a top 20 player since Andy Roddick in 2001. A second-round loser here makes $31,000.
Klahn is standing firm. Sort of. He’s returning to Stanford, where he’s majoring in econ. As if trying to convince himself, he rattled off the reasons: College is fun. Stanford is hosting the next NCAA tournament. His parents value academics. A Stanford degree is nothing to sneeze at. But then the devil on the other shoulder made an appearance. His goal is to become a credible pro and, yeah, if had won a few rounds, the decision would have been harder. As it stands, he’ll beg off a few team matches at Stanford to play some pro events and improve his ranking. It’s a tough call. Bless John Isner, but he’s the exception, not the rule. It’s tough to launch a pro career after four years at college, when your peers have been ascending the ladder and you’ve been studying for midterms. They’re playing pros; you’re playing good juniors. At the same time, the landscape is littered with highly regarded juniors who couldn’t cut on the tour, floundered for years and forfeited college eligibility, much less a full ride. Tough call. So wish Klahn luck. In tennis. In school. And in suppressing the urge to wonder “what if.”