Not long ago, I spoke to Mitchell Krueger, a 19-year-old native of Aledo, Texas who’s making his way onto the ATP World Tour. The teenager, among other topics, talked about his decision to turn pro, the nature of his game, and his passion for the sport.
TENNIS.com: I understand you call Texas home. Did you grow up in a tennis family? Do your parents play?
Mitchell Krueger: Yeah, both my parents played at a junior and collegiate level. My mom teaches at a club in Dallas. And my dad, actually, his main job is with Lockheed Martin, the aeronautics company. But he umpires a lot of college matches on the weekends—Big 12 matches, mostly. He actually used to umpire at the U.S. Open. It's definitely a tennis family.
TENNIS.com: For a while last year, it seemed like you were going to play at Texas A&M.
MK: Yeah, I committed to Texas A&M. My dad played tennis there. If I was going to go to college, it was going to be there, 100 percent. But at the beginning of last summer, I was contemplating what I wanted to do, and I decided after Wimbledon to turn pro.
TENNIS.com: How did you come to that decision?
MK: I had a really good summer playing the juniors at Roland Garros. I lost in the semis. At Wimbledon, I lost in the semis, too. And I got a lot of exposure and some help from the USTA. They’ve been helping me out a lot in the past year, paying for a lot of training and travel and coaches, stuff that can be pretty expensive. And I just felt like I was ready.
TENNIS.com: Were your parents leaning one way or the other? Did they prefer that you go to college or turn pro?
MK: I think they were pretty good in not trying to influence me either way. They left it totally up to me, just to do whatever I wanted to do, and were supportive of my decision. And they understand that I feel like this is my time to show what I can do. And I can do it. They both support me no matter what.
TENNIS.com: When you’re out on the court, how would you describe yourself? What’s your demeanor like?
MK: I’m pretty calm on court, for the most part. Not too fiery. I like to think that I don’t get too mad on the court. I keep a pretty even demeanor. At least, that’s what I try to do. [Smiling]
TENNIS.com: But that’s just on the outside, right? What’s going on inside?
MK: [Smiling] You know, everyone gets frustrated, and everyone gets excited and happy. The key is finding how you can channel it in a positive way that will help you.
TENNIS.com: What do you think is unique about your game?
MK: I’m pretty aggressive on the court. I like to come to the net a lot. I have pretty good volleys. Always kind of looking to move forward and take it to my opponent.
TENNIS.com: So do you have, like, a shot clock in your head?
MK: I mean, not really. I try not to make dumb decisions with every shot, so whatever comes of that.
TENNIS.com: Playing a point, how would you describe the state of your mind? Do points develop naturally for you?
MK: Yeah, once the point’s started, it’s all like I’ve done it before. It’s all my instinct. I try not to think about it during the point, because once you start thinking about things, that’s when you start losing your focus.
TENNIS.com: Tell me: How do you try not to think?
MK: That’s kind of complicated. [Laughter] I started tennis when I was three years old. I’ve been playing a long time, and have had a lot of experience. All the guys, we’ve just hit so many tennis balls and played so many matches. We’ve done it so many times that it’s just instinct. You don’t even have to think about it anymore.
TENNIS.com: So you started playing at age three. But when did you start taking tennis seriously?
MK: Well, I played tennis and baseball both at the same time until I was about 11, when I stopped playing baseball. So I guess that was probably when I really started getting serious about it.
TENNIS.com: At one point, you were taking baseball just as seriously as tennis?
MK: Yeah, I played baseball just as much as I played tennis. I was traveling for tennis tournaments and playing baseball, like, every week. I got to the point where I had to make a decision, and I chose tennis.
MK: Once again, it was all my decision. I liked baseball just as much as I liked tennis. But I was probably better at tennis than baseball, I guess. I’m glad I chose it. [Laughter] I think I made the right decision.
TENNIS.com: Do you think playing baseball had a hand in developing your tennis game?
MK: Maybe hand-eye coordination, which comes with hitting the ball and catching. I think when you’re young, it’s good to play a lot of sports and just be active a lot.
TENNIS.com: What positions did you play on your baseball team?
MK: Played pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. I was pretty active on the team.
TENNIS.com: So you were throwing a lot.
MK: Yeah, I was. I think a baseball throw is really similar to a serve. If you can learn how to throw with the proper technique, it definitely helps your serve a lot.
TENNIS.com: You have a lot of tournament experience. What kind of advice would you give to other kids who want to reach your level?
MK: I think, you’ve just got to have fun. If you’re having fun, you’ll get better. You know, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication if you want to be good, but you still have to enjoy yourself while you’re playing. And as you get older, you start traveling more. You have to like to travel. But, you know, just competing and having fun is important.
TENNIS.com: Do you always look forward to going to the courts?
MK: Yeah. I mean, everyone has days when they feel like they don’t want to play. But I think it’s how you do on those days that really makes you a lot better—when you don’t want to play, and you’re out there, playing hard.
TENNIS.com: So a typical training day for you is like—
MK: In the morning, probably about two and half to three hours tennis and gym work. And then school. And then more tennis in the afternoon, probably about two more hours. So everyday, five hours of tennis, give or take.
TENNIS.com: But you’ve finished high school, right?
MK: Yeah, I graduated last May, so I’m done. I don’t have to do school for the time being. Obviously, my parents, no matter how my career goes, would like me to get an education past high school. Right now, I’ve not decided on anything. Depending on how my career goes, I could do school online, or I could do it when I’m 40 years old. [Smiling] But I’m enjoying just playing tennis right now.
TENNIS.com: Do you have any hobbies outside of tennis? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the road?
MK: I mean, I just like to be normal. Like when I go home, I’ll just hang out with friends, go to the movies, go to the mall. I try to enjoy being home when I’m not traveling. It’s just good to be home.
TENNIS.com: So you’re not seriously committed right now to anything outside of tennis.
MK: No, there’s nothing else. I don’t play like an instrument or anything like that, or do other sports. I’m 100 percent to tennis.
TENNIS.com: This is your skill.
MK: Yeah. [Smiling and laughing]