In high school, Matt Kandath was a two-time NYSPHSAA singles champion and played junior doubles with Jack Sock, currently ranked No. 39 on the ATP Tour, the major pro tennis circuit.
Six years later, Kandath is a graduate of both Albany Academy and Stanford University, where he was a four-year varsity tennis player. He currently plays on the ITF Pro Circuit, a minor leaguer trying to make the bigs. His years competing at the NCAA level have left him a few steps behind his junior contemporaries who skipped college to go pro.
Home for the Colonie Summer Clay Court Championships this weekend, the
23-year-old Gansevoort native explained what it’s like to be a professional tennis player far removed from Wimbledon or Roland Garros. Here is the life of Matt Kandath, tennis player, in his own words (note: some of the following has been edited for space):
It’s a grind. That’s the word that everyone would associate with the Futures circuit . . . it’s a grind. You’re scrounging to save money, but you don’t want to short change yourself in terms of your nutrition, your recovery [and] your training. So, you’re trying to find a very fine balance between saving money, not spending a lot but also giving yourself the best of everything.
Some of these tournaments, they host really, really well. Families will put kids up in their own houses [and] give them meals. Then, some of these tournaments, you really have to do everything on your own. In Mexico, we had to rent our own apartment, take public transportation, cook our own food, all that kind of stuff, which is great experience especially in another country. It’s really fun trying to find your own way and manage yourself.
The time when you’re really not doing anything tennis-related is very, very small. There’s not a big portion of the day that you can dedicate to that and it’s frustrating sometimes. Sometimes, it’s draining. But at the time you know you just have to keep it in the back of your head that you’re building towards something, that the way you’re going about it is the right way.
The scheduling is huge. You really have to figure out which periods of time you’re going to be training, how long you want to train for before you play a tournament and then what’s financially the best option to play these tournaments. If you’re going to travel a long way and play a few tournaments in a row in the same area or are you going to play more local in the U.S. but play fewer tournaments or travel to a lot of different cities.
I’m so happy to see how much success [Jack Sock]’s had. But, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it [made me angry] a little bit. It gives you a little bit of a chip on your shoulder [and] a little bit of fire under your [butt] to see a kid that you felt pretty much at the same level as and you were playing with, basically one of your junior contemporaries, having that much success and still to be struggling at the lowest levels of the professional circuit.
School was always first. So, that was just how I was brought up. I definitely don’t regret, for my life, going to college. I love that I have my degree [and] that I’m done with that and I’ll have that for the rest of my life. But, from a tennis standpoint, maybe it wasn’t the best decision. Maybe I lost a little bit in those four years or wasn’t able to gain as much as everyone else.
Even if it’s just a few texts here and there from the rest of your family or friends asking how you did, giving you some advice, some confidence just little happy thoughts here and there, it just goes a long way, just feeling like you’re still supported, like you’re not out there all alone, because as an individual sport goes it’s tough.
Your friends are like, ‘Ah, man, I haven’t seen you in forever.’ Every time, your response is, ‘Man, I’ve got to train or I have a tournament.’ It does get a bit old for them and for you to have to repeat that thing every single time. But you just have to know that’s what it takes and if you’re not willing to do that then you’re not doing the right thing. It’s one or the other. You’ve got a long life to live so there’s plenty of time to see my friends. But this body’s not going to keep up too much longer.
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