Tennis, perhaps more so than any other sport, is guilty of anointing players as “the next great thing” far too early. Players these days are peaking in their late 20’s and early 30’s, which gives 17-year-old Zachary Svajda plenty of time to prepare his ball-striking skills for the physical brutality of today’s game.

Last year, Svajda won the Boy’s 18’s National Championships at Kalamazoo at the age of 16, a feat accomplished only by Donald Young in the last 20 years. With his subsequent US open wild card, the Californian was a game from victory against his first-round opponent, veteran Paolo Lorenzi, before succumbing to muscle cramps.

"You don’t always know what you’re looking for, but when you see it, you know," former USC coach Peter Smith said of Svajda. "This kid is the real deal.”

You really cannot teach perfect timing and it's something Svajda has in excess. At just five years old, he was hitting the ball cleaner than most pros, and his videos went viral, or as viral as videos could get in 2008:


What he doesn’t have right now is a body that can withstand top-level ATP competition week in, week out. He’s got some growing to do as he weighs in at just 130 pounds.

This past weekend in Rolling Hills, Calif. at the Home Court Advantage exhibition, Svajda learned firsthand how to cope with relentless power when he faced big hitters Sam Querrey and Bradley Klahn.

“They both hit huge,” Svajda said. “You can’t leave anything short against these guys. They also don’t miss on the big points—30-all, game point—these guys aren’t missing. You have to find some way to gain control of the rally on the big points.”

Svajda might be able to trade groundstrokes with anyone, but both Querrey and Klahn capitalized on the teenager's serve.

“Svajda is insanely talented,” Klahn said. “It’s tough for him right now because we can take a full rip on his serve, so it’s difficult for him to hold serve time, in time out.”

Querrey would win the two-day exhibition over Brandon Holt in the final, but Svajda didn't leave empty handed.

“Overall, this was a great experience,” Svajda said. “Querrey is the best player I’ve played against, so it was a great learning experience.”