Last summer in Kalamazoo, Mich. Zach Krumholz ’15 came within five tennis matches of making the US Open. The Yale recruit has played with some of the top tennis stars in the world, including 2011 US Open Mixed Doubles champion Melanie Oudin. This year, he came in fifth in his first Yale tournament, facing off against some of the top players in the Ivy League. Unlike the first- through fourth-place finishers, however, Krumholz is a freshman.
The News sat down with the rising star to ask him a few questions about his career so far and his goals for the future.
Q: You’ve played with a ton of amazing people. What’s the most memorable match you’ve ever had?
A: My most memorable match was deep into nationals last year. I was playing against a player who was older, bigger and stronger than I am. But his mental game was explosive, in a bad way. As the match got into the final set, he lifted up his shirt and banged on his abs and yelled, “You want some of this?” I ended up winning, and when he lost the match, he cursed at me as well as the ref and broke his racquet, flipped the table with my drinks on it and threw chairs onto the court. I got out of there pretty quickly.
Q: How did it feel to get so close to playing in the US Open?
A: Even though I was, in theory, so close to playing in the Open, it would have been very difficult to get there since I would have had to beat many great players. I think of it like in “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” when they say, “You are only five questions away from being a millionaire!” I was only five matches away from going to the US Open, but the truth is that those five matches would have been the most challenging matches that a junior would ever play.
Q: Do you see yourself trying to make a pro tournament again in the future? What’s your biggest goal?
A: If I can continue to improve at Yale, playing professionally is something that I have always dreamed of doing. The competition is stiff and the process is difficult, but it is something that I would love to try. My biggest goal for now is the same goal that my team probably has: win an Ivy League title this year.
Q: What’s the ideal athlete like in your eyes?
A: Rafael Nadal embodies an ideal athlete in my eyes. He represents more to me than just being an incredible athlete and tennis player; he has an inner spirit and self-confidence that helps him to win matches. He displays great sportsmanship even when he loses. His game is very physical, like mine, and seeing him play reminds me of the importance of physical training.
Q: What is it like as a freshman on a varsity college team? Is it harder to fit in because of your age?
A: Playing on the Yale team is better than I ever imagined. The daily instruction from great coaches and mentoring from great teammates is invaluable. As a freshman, the constructive criticism along with the team’s support has been very helpful. I commend our coach for picking a group of guys that get along so well — our team is very close. Of course, a freshman has to pay his dues, but that is about being new to the team and not really about age, skill or respect.
Q: Why did you decide to play for Yale over another school?
A: I decided to play for Yale over any other school because I loved the coaching staff and the team. I appreciated how close-knit the team is and how everyone genuinely cares about each other and loves to have a good time.
Q: What’s a typical day like for a varsity athlete?
A: I always try to focus on academics in the morning, so that I can free up the afternoons for practice. In general, being a varsity athlete is a huge time commitment — playing on a varsity sport requires lots of dedication and love for the game. We practice as a team at the tennis center from 3–6 p.m., six days a week. This includes on-the-court drills and games as well as physical training and lifts, which sometimes last longer. Even though the official tennis season is in the spring, the team has been traveling most weekends this fall.
Q: Some people might say that the sports environment at Yale isn’t as supportive as it could be. Do you think Yale is a good place to be as an athlete, or could it be better?
A: Being a Yale athlete can be hard because of all the academic challenges and fabulous non-sports opportunities that are available to students. Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded with scholar-athletes and coaches who understand the importance of maintaining that balance between athletics and academics. As for support from the student body, I am still unsure how that will look since we haven’t had any home matches yet. I hope that we get support when they do come around.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: I see myself missing playing on a competitive tennis team!