On the latest edition of the Beyond the Baseline Podcast, host Jon Wertheim talks with 21-year-old American Tommy Paul and former playeer Tim Mayotte. On the first half of the podcast, Paul discusses how he won the USTA wildcard into the main draw of the 2019 French Open and what it means for his career; how it feels to return to the French Open in the main draw for the first time after winning the junior title there in 2015; how he has dealt with injuries and develop his maturity; why he loves playing on the clay; and more. Then, in the second half of the podcast, former player Tim Mayotte talks about why he wanted to run for the ATP Board of Directors position vacated by Justin Gimelstob; some of the issues he sees; how he would've responded to some of the challenges facing men's tennis, had he been chosen for the position; and more.
Listen to Tommy Paul and Tim Mayotte on the Beyond the Baseline podcast here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on Stitcher. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jon Wertheim: You turn 22 on Friday. Happy birthday! You know you are not a teenager. You're not a junior anymore. At the same time, we talk about this a lot, that careers now go into your mid-30s. Where do you see yourself and how do you assess your career so far?
Tommy Paul: Obviously I'm not I'm not thrilled at where I am right now. I want to be a lot higher up in the rankings than where I am right now. But I've had some setbacks, with injuries and also just kind of mindset issues. Over the past couple years I would say I think that that's a big thing that I've been working on a lot is my like mindset and just working on my on my head off the court. Hopefully I'm pushing up to boost up my ranking a little bit and get to where I want to be.
JW: Can I probe there—what do you mean by mindset?
TP: It's a lot of stuff. It's just like more off the court stuff. In the past, when I'm not on the court or when I'm not at the center or training or at a tournament, I wasn't thinking about tennis at all. But now I feel like I'm making a lot more my decisions based on what's good for my tennis and just like keeping tennis in mind all the time. I'm really just trying to do everything I can.
JW: How would you assess your maturity level when you turn pro?
TP: My maturity level was not there, that was one of the biggest things. I was very, very immature, I would say, and I think that that's one of the biggest things that’s had to change. That's come with my injuries. I was one of the kids that growing up I never felt like I was at risk for injury and never had injuries growing up. And my few injuries here have really changed the way that I go about stuff. I feel like I do things a lot more professionally now and I'm telling you like when I when I hurt my knee I was basically kissing my knees to sleep at night I was treating it so well. It’s really big for me just at a maturity point—just keeping everything mature and making good decisions.
JW: Did you happen to catch the entry list for Little Rock, the Challenger this week, that was going around social media?
TP: I didn't. I saw something on Twitter but I didn't even see what it was.
JW: Well you know Jack Sock is entered and Chung…go through the list and I think casual fans would recognize a few names and hardcore fans would probably recognize most of the names. This is a long way away from Rome. What are those events like? When people come across these level events—you know you mentioned Savannah before —give us a sense of what those are like on the ground.
TP: Well it's really just a bunch of people just like grinding to get where they want to be. I don't think anyone there is happy where they are. And I think everyone is really like every time you play a challenger you're grinding to get out of those tournaments and play the bigger tournaments. It's so different than a tour event. I mean you really have to do a lot more stuff yourself. You have trainers on site obviously and the facilities are getting better, but it is just completely different. Like at some tournaments, you’re struggling for practice courts and you don't have much practice time. There are not as many trainers. It's not convenient and you really have to do everything you can in those tournaments.
JW: How do you keep your spirit up? I'm also thinking about you in terms of college tennis. College living is good living—do you ever say to yourself, Boy I could be living the good life, playing for Duke or Carolina. I could have had my pick of colleges but here I am doing my own wash at the Super 8 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
TP: Well definitely not Duke. That's not my school. I'm a UNC guy. But I mean yeah those thoughts cross my mind. But it's more just like: Is when I want to do? I turned pro for more than just because I'm good at it or I think I can make it. I'm pretty close to knowing I can make it. And I wouldn't change my profession for anything really. I don't want to sit behind a desk later on in life. That's not really what I want to do. I can't really sit still. I like being active, I like being out in the sun and I like competing. And now I feel like I've changed it around to where when I have those type of thoughts, it’s like alright, let’s go the gym and let's do everything we can and let's work really hard. And if I do, I really feel like it's going to pay off.