In this episode of your Question and Answer series, I had the pleasure of asking longtime player and friend Jason Tahir some questions. Jason currently attends Duke University as a junior and is looking to lead the Blue Devils toward big things this upcoming spring. He had a tremendous summer on the futures tour as he reached the singles quarterfinals or better in Innisbrook, Rochester, and Pittsburgh. He was the runner-up in singles and doubles in Pittsburgh. Jason is only 20 years old and has the talent and attitude to succeed after college. I hope you enjoy our conversation!
Q: You had a big summer, having 3 solid results in Innisbrook, Rochester, and Pittsburgh, how much confidence do you have now going into the college season?
A: My summer was definitely a confidence booster for both my singles and doubles game. I played a lot of matches and thankfully I was able to win a high percentage of them which gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming college season. Hopefully, this confidence can translate into success on the court.
Q: With 2 college seasons under your belt now, what are your expectations for this season?
A: I’m really excited for my junior year because I think as a team we have an awesome opportunity to create an identity that we will be proud of at the end of the year. I think every player on the team left last year with a bad taste in their mouth and we really want to change that this year. Personally, I just want to help the team reach its full potential in whatever capacity that may be.
Q: A lot of criticism this year has been directed towards the lack of a dominant US player, or players. What do you think the state of American tennis is at the moment?
A: I think American tennis definitely is on the upswing. Speaking from my experience as a college player, I think a lot more guys are pushing really hard in college to become pros because they realize they don’t have to turn pro at 18 to be successful. The average age for the top 100 is going up and I think Americans are realizing how lucky we are to have a system in place like the NCAA and what a great developmental tool college tennis is.
Q: You have certainly come a long way since we were both juniors, but what is the strongest part of your game right now? What is something you would like to improve on as the fall season begins?
A: My forehand and just overall power are probably the strengths of my game. One reason I’ve been more successful lately is that I’ve better learned how to harness my power and use it as a consistent strength. I’m looking to improve pretty much every facet of my game this fall and throughout the year. I’ve got a lot of parts of my game to work on but I’m really excited about the potential of my game if I can keep improving.
Q: As you already know, James Blake has always been my favorite player growing up. Who were your most important role models growing up? And who has had the biggest influence on your game today?
A: 5) Professionally, my favorite player is definitely Nadal just because of how mentally tough he is and how he constantly battling back from adversity. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a lot of great people who have influenced by game and have helped me reach the point I’m at now. From my coaches in juniors, Billy Nealon and Marcus Fugate, to my past and present coaches at Duke, Ramsey Smith, Jon Stokke, Stephen Armitraj and Kyle Spencer, I’ve been able to learn a lot.
Q: You have been competing very well on the futures level, what do you need to do in these next couple of years to get to that next level on tour?
A: I need to round out my game and become a complete player if I want to get onto the tour after Duke. Also, I need to improve my physicality along with becoming a better mental player.
And here’s the one we are asking everyone. What has been your favorite tournament to play at and where is your favorite place to eat there?
A: My favorite tournament I’ve played so far is the Futures in my hometown of Rochester, NY. The club (The Tennis Club of Rochester) does a great job of running the tournament and it’s pretty cool for me that I get to play a Futures at the same place as where I learned how to play the game. My favorite place to eat there is probably something that either one of my parents cooks for me while I’m staying at home during the tournament.
I would like to thank Jason for his participation in our interview and if you believe in him as much as I do, everyone should follow Jason on Twitter @jason_tahir. Enjoy everyone!