Who's Next? Mitchell Krueger
by Matt Fitzgerald|
As an 11-year-old boy, Mitchell Krueger was a talented athlete, both in tennis and baseball. While his game developed on the court, leading him to compete in junior tournaments, his time away from the diamond diminished. Arriving at a crossroads, Krueger ultimately chose which direction to turn, dedicating himself to tennis. It is a decision that has proven not only to be significant, but worthy.
In 2012, Krueger blossomed into one of the world’s elite junior players, reaching a combined ranking of No. 5 to become the top-ranked American. He retained the doubles title at the acclaimed Easter Bowl, and then advanced to back-to-back semi-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the boys’ singles events.
“It's definitely required a lot of hard work and long hours on the court but I think my experience playing in big events really helped prepare me for these big results,” Krueger tells ATPWorldTour.com. “I've travelled all over the world and played in every major, so when the time came for tough matches in the biggest tournaments, I felt comfortable and knew how to handle the situation. I think imposing my game and my presence to my opponent while on the court has been my biggest improvement.”
In becoming a highly sought after junior, Krueger’s next steps moving forward were limitless. After weighing his options, the 18 year old decided to turn professional in favour of playing collegiately for an NCAA powerhouse. Having envisioned becoming World No. 1 and having the means to chase his dream, Krueger believes he made the right decision.
“I obviously had some consistently strong results at the Slams over the summer, so that gave me quite a bit of confidence and helped give me some exposure to management agencies,” Krueger says. “But I think the most important aspect about my decision was that the USTA was willing to give me a very strong backing which would allow me everything I would need to give myself the best chance of making it on the ATP World Tour. I've dreamed of playing professional tennis and being the best in the world and I feel like I'm ready to start my journey.”
The son of tennis-playing parents, Krueger’s idols growing up included Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer, and it’s evident in his style of play. Krueger has the look and feel of an all-court player, with solid groundstrokes off the baseline, the poise to come forward to net and plenty of shot-making variety. At the US Open, he had the chance to showcase his game in the qualifying rounds. He won his opening match against then 140th-ranked Martin Alund, an experience that that provided Krueger personal justification in the career pathway he has chosen.
“It was incredible and it only helped cap off my results this summer. I played a night match under the lights in New York City and it was broadcast on live television so I was super excited for the opportunity I was given,” Krueger says. “Being able to win my first-round match was huge for me and I think it was a great way to start my professional career. It definitely gave me the confidence and belief that I could hang with some of the top guys in the sport.”
As he looks to channel his positive outcome at Flushing Meadows into his first full season as a professional this year, Krueger knows the work has only just begun. He has his sights set on breaking into the 300s by the end of 2013 but is focused on the task at hand, knowing he’ll have plenty of competition around him.
“Playing these Futures tournaments is definitely very tough. It's full of people that are willing to just stay out there all day and die on the tennis court,” says Krueger. “Obviously there's not much money to be made, so the points are what everybody is after. It's definitely a test of motivation and determination. The best player doesn't always win the Futures tournaments. If you want to win you're going to have to dig deep and it’s probably going to be ugly.”
So what will it take for Krueger to move up the rankings and begin his ascension to the top of the sport?
”I think most importantly, I need to get stronger physically, because the level of tennis at the very top of today's game is incredibly physical,” Krueger states. “Guys like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have broken so many barriers as to where the game can progress and I think it's only going to get tougher physically in the future
“I know it's going to be tough but I am up for the challenge and fully believe that I can be the best player in the world.”