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Beginner’s Guide: Tommy Paul carries career surge into overdue Wimbledon debut
The 25-year-old American’s grass-court game has clicked into gear as he enters SW19, the lone major he is yet to play, just shy of his career-high ranking.
Published Jun 27, 2022
WATCH: Paul visited the Tennis Channel Live Desk after his first-round Wimbledon win over Fernando Verdasco.
When Tommy Paul led a trio of American major junior champions in 2015, he surely expected a forthcoming return to Wimbledon as an ATP player. But while rival Taylor Fritz and roommate Reilly Opelka quickly became fixtures at major tournaments, it would take Paul a full five years just win his first major main-draw match.
"I made some decisions in the past that I would take back now," he told ESPN.com in 2019. "I'm just investing more in my career now, taking everything more seriously."
Now 25, Paul has made up for lost time with aplomb in the last 12 months, winning his first singles title and earning his first Grand Slam seed last month at Roland Garros. Grass courts remained his final frontier, but after laying down back-to-back quarterfinals at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne, the No. 30 seed looks poised to make the most of his long-awaited Wimbledon debut.
Get to know the New Jersey native after his first-round victory over Fernando Verdasco at the All England Club.
Flanked by longtime coach Brad Stine, Paul was one of many people for whom 2020 was supposed to be “their year.” A protracted struggle to transition onto the pro circuit had seemingly come to an end when he reached the third round of the Australian Open, shocking former world No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in a fifth-set tiebreaker. By March, he had nearly cracked the Top 50 after knocking out Alexander Zverev en route to the Acapulco quarterfinals.
COVID-19 and the subsequent tour lockdown would curtail that momentum, and it would take a full year for Paul to reignite his ascent with a semifinal finish in Parma. By the fall, he and Fritz were back going head-to-head for big tournaments: while Paul enjoyed a Masters 1000 breakthrough at Indian Wells, reaching the fourth round with wins over Dusan Lajovic and Andrey Rublev, Fritz went two better to make the semis.
Undaunted—or perhaps inspired—by his countryman’s efforts, Paul kept up his momentum in Europe, defeating Fritz on the way to his first ATP title in Stockholm.
“I feel like I’m starting to know my game better and executing my play style better,” he told the ATP after his three-set win over Denis Shapovalov in the final. “I hope I have a long peak, you know? A long peak career.”
The 2022 season hasn’t yet brought Paul to his peak, but the American nonetheless showed remarkable consistency with four quarterfinal appearances in his first five tournaments.
He scored another win over Zverev at the BNP Paribas Open and pushed Jannik Sinner to three sets in Madrid to reach a career-high ranking of No. 33 and play Roland Garros as the No. 30 seed.
A first-round exit to experienced clay-courter Cristian Garin sent Paul to grass, a surface on which he’d never won an ATP main-draw match. But after missing last year’s expected Wimbledon debut due to a foot injury, Paul appeared determined to fill the missing gap in his resume.
"Honestly, I think it suits my game," he told the ATP last week—no idle assessment given he’d just avenged his Madrid defeat to Sinner.
The result put him into a second straight grass-court quarterfinal after having made the same round at Queen’s Club thanks to wins over Shapovalov, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year, and another former, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka.
“If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said grass was my worst surface. But when I started working with my coach Brad, he said grass will end up being my best surface and I have tried to mould my game on that,” he said after beating Wawrinka. “I feel very comfortable out there, hopefully if not this year but next it will be my best surface."
I feel like I’m starting to know my game better and executing my play style better. I hope I have a long peak, you know? A long peak career. Tommy Paul
Why It Matters
Projected to move back towards the Top 30 on Monday, Paul has nothing to defend from last year’s Championships. Conversely, the No. 30 seed also has nothing to lose—a marked contrast to most others ranked above him as a result of the ATP tour’s decision not to award ranking points in response to the event’s Russian and Belarusian ban.
That guaranteed boost, however slight, will put Paul in phenomenal stead as the tour returns to North America for the hard-court summer. In the meantime, he can aim to match his best-ever Grand Slam result at the only major he is yet to play and continue working towards the player he always believed he could be.
“Whether I’m No. 80 in the world or No. 40 in the world, I like to think of myself as one of the better players,” he said back in March. “I wouldn’t say the number next to my name adds any value to myself.”