In this edition of our Question and Answer series, I got a chance to ask rising American star Bradley Klahn some questions. Bradley is a graduate of Stanford University, where he won the 2010 Singles National Championship. I saw him play Sam Querrey in the first round of the US Open that same year and it was clear that there was some talent in this kid. He has a huge lefty forehand, a nice serve, and he is definitely on the rise after a solid 2013 season including a victory in the Aptos Challenger last month. I hope you enjoy our interview with him!
You have been playing pro events for a couple of years now and you continue to rise in the rankings, what has been the biggest adjustment to life on tour since you finished up at Stanford?
The biggest adjustment to life on tour is the realization that this is your livelihood and your job, and every day there is a person across the net trying to steal your lunch money. You are constantly adapting to different surroundings each week, and must bring your greatest intensity and focus each and every point. You can never be too high on your wins or too low on your losses, because every week there is another opportunity for a break through, which is the beauty of this sport.
How has your game and work ethic changed over the years since you first started playing on the tour?
I think my game has evolved a great deal since I first started playing on the tour. My biggest focus when I started out last year was improving my serve and backhand, and I feel that although there is still plenty of work to be done in both areas, they have come a long way. I really don’t feel that my work ethic has changed too much since leaving school, but there certainly has been an increase in the intensity and urgency in which I go about my practices. After being around the top players and seeing firsthand the work it takes for them to be great, I have a better understanding of how I need to conduct myself on and off the court in order to achieve my goals.
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?
Times have certainly changed in this era of tennis, and you aren’t going to see the Americans dominating the game like they once did because of how many incredible athletes there are globally. That being said, I do think there are plenty of younger Americans who have the ability to break through in the next few years. There is a good group of guys who are all training together and pushing each other to get better. The only thing we can control is our work ethic and striving to get the most out of our games, wherever that leads us.
What is the strongest part of your game right now? What is something you would like to improve on as the off-season approaches?
I would say the strongest parts of my game currently are my serve and forehand. This off-season, my biggest focus will be improving my strength and conditioning, as well as cleaning up my backhand and returns. This off-season will be crucial for me to establish my base for the upcoming year, and I am looking forward to tackling those challenges.
Did you have any role models growing up? And who has had the biggest influence on your game today?
The three biggest role models in my life have been my parents and my long time coach, Lee Merry. They truly have led by example, on and off the court. Lee deserves all the credit in molding my tennis game from the time we began working together at the age of 11, but it would be narrow-minded of me to think that he has only influenced my tennis and nothing else. I also am very grateful to the USTA for their coaching and support.
You were very successful in your college tennis career as a Cardinal. How has your experience at Stanford University helped you during your young pro career?
Attending Stanford and playing college tennis for four years was the best decision of my life and I would not trade the experiences I had there for anything. I was not ready, physically or mentally, to play professionally when I graduated from high school at 17, and my family has always stressed that education is the number one priority. Graduating from Stanford was one of the single best feelings I have had, and it gives me freedom knowing I have something to fall back on after tennis. I was able to mature physically and mentally in a more controlled environment, and when I finished school, felt I was ready to immediately jump into the day-to-day lifestyle of the pro tour.
You have played the US Open a couple times now, how was that experience for you and what do you need to do to continue the kind of success you have been having there and the other pro events?
Playing the US Open the last few years has been an incredible experience for me to see the level that I hope to compete against in the future, and observe how the top players go about their business. I think I have gained more and more confidence each year in my ability to compete at this level, and it serves as great motivation for me to keep putting in the extra work to consistently play on the World Tour.
You are currently #133 in the rankings right now, what short and long term goals have you set for yourself as the off season approaches?
Right now going into the last couple months of the season and off-season, my biggest focus is cracking the top 100 and making the main draw of Australia in January. I try to stay away from such specific ranking goals, but it would be a great accomplishment to gain direct acceptance for my first grand slam. In order to do that, however, I need to really focus on improving my consistency from point to point. If I take care of the little details, the rest will take care of itself.
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?
My favorite tournament to play is the US Open. As an American growing up watching tennis, it was always a dream to play there, so to be able to fulfill that childhood dream and play in my home country’s grand slam is pretty special. The energy and buzz around the grounds is incredible, and brings out the best in my game. My favorite place to eat during the tournament is San Martin in Midtown. I don’t really branch out in regards to new restaurants, so I usually will end up there 4 to 5 times a week!
We would like to thank Bradley for his answers and we will be back this weekend with more interviews and an update for the action of tour!