You have been wearing Asics since January. Are you involved in creating your tennis apparel? I’m getting more involved now that we are headed into the new year. Most of what I wore in 2012 had already been designed. I really enjoy playing around with the colors and designs.
Many young aspiring players find it hard to juggle tennis and a social life. Did you have difficulty with that as a junior? I pretty much always picked tennis because I just loved it and that’s what I wanted to do. My Mom and Dad remember when I was really young, maybe 11 or 12, a friend of mine was having a party...and I went and called them early the next morning and said "Can you come pick me up I’m so bored." I just always wanted to be playing you know, so it was always my choice to do it.
Of course, I had fun with my friends and saw them after school and whatever I wanted to do. I was a normal kid, but if I had to a tennis tournament or something like that, I seemed to always want to go.
Some people say oh, you have to sacrifice this, or sacrifice that. Yes you do, but you can really sacrifice doing this [playing as a pro], as well, so it depends how you want to think about it, really.
Do you have a favorite kind of music that you listen to to psyche yourself up? I don’t typically listen to music before I play. I mean, I do in my hotel room and you know, I go to concerts or whatever when I’m at home. But before a match, I don’t really put it in.
Do you have a routine before a match?Yeah. I always try and kind of stick to the same thing but not so rigid so that if it doesn’t happen I freak out and think I’m going to play badly. So I’ve always tried to warm up, my practice warmup, a half hour, two and half to three hours before the match or what it takes.
And then always trying to eat, maybe do physio if I need to, and then my coach and I have got our own little kind of warm-up routine to get warm before we’re going in on the court to play.
A lot of rec. players warm up ten minutes and then play a match and they wonder why they’re rusty.
Sure. I think for us anyway… It’s what we do. We don’t have to go to work before we go and play and all that kind of thing. So it’s pretty easy. In some ways, it’s easier for us to know what we’ve got to do to perform.
So the racquet that you play with? It’s a Babolat Pure Storm.
And, you’ve been playing with that for a while. It’s maybe the fourth year, I think, into it. So yeah, it’s a long time.
Have you asked for any changes in your racquet over the years? No. I mean, I was going through trying to change racquets at that period and then as soon as I picked up that racquet, I actually had not been given that one to try. And I knew a friend of mine was using it so I called her and I said “Can I use your racquet tomorrow?”And I used it with bad strings and old strings but straightaway, I knew that was the racquet I wanted. And then, we just went through and weighted it, balanced it for me and customized it to what I like. It’s not exactly…
I know that what you guys are playing with is not exactly what we are buying retail. But you’re playing at such a high level it’s very different. There is really no need for most rec players to customize to such a degree. No, I wouldn’t think it’s necessary… I never did it when I was a junior or anything like that.
How about the string? What are you doing for string these days? I use Babolat RPM Blast. They came out with that about two years ago, two and a half years ago maybe and I switched from the string that I was using to using this instead.
Are you stringing hybrid at all? No. Years ago, though, I used to use a half, like a poly string similar to that and half gut. But now I use all the same and doesn’t give me any problems. I actually, a couple years ago, tried out doing the blend again and for a couple of different reasons and didn’t like it..
How do handle pressure around a match? Each week you kind of learn more about how to handle it better in a lot of ways. Sometimes you do it without thinking and it seems all natural and easy and then other times, you’ve got to work really hard at it to not get too worked up and stay calm. So it’s kind of a way to think of the situation.
But I think over the course of my career, the thing I’ve found is the more you go through something like that, the more matches you play, meeting the best players in the world on the biggest courts in the world and all that. The more times you do it, the better you tend to start to handle it.
I remember the first time I played on center court at the French Open and I was so nervous and the court is so big, there’s so much room behind the baseline to the fans that I found myself three meters behind the baseline and I never played from that far back. Because you’re out there and you just kind of lose where you are. Now I’ve played on that court I don’t know, ten times, fifteen times or something and I don’t find myself falling into that same trap. So I think things like that, you kind of learn through experience.
I think even the best players in the world…I’m sure they all get nervous still but they know how to handle it better and work out what works for them. I don’t think it ever disappears, it just isn’t as foreign anymore.
Outside of Slams are there tournaments you really look forward to going to? One that always stands out is Charleston. I love playing there. It’s just a really nice club and everybody in that town seems to really get behind the tennis and the stands are full from first rounds to the final, which is always nice at those kinds of events. I actually think it’s the longest running WTA event so they know what they’re doing and they treat us very nice and they’ve got some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to in that town….
Any advice for the player who’s feeling discouraged because it takes so long time to get really, really good. I always say no matter how old, you must enjoy what you do and have fun with it because I think if you do that then you’re always going to get the most out of yourself. And even from whether you’re twelve years old and you’ve been winning every tournament, at some point you’re probably going to lose. So even if you get a rough patch, you’re always going to get through it. You will win again.
And even at this level, you know, we feel like we go through some rough periods where you don’t win too many matches. But at the end of the day, it’s always going to come back if you work hard and keep doing the right thing and practice. It’s always going to come back around if you stick to those things. So you can always go through a rough patch but you’re going to get out of it. It’s just a matter of when.
Silly but...a favorite movie and celeb you'd like to meet? I always say Notting Hill because I really love it. I’m trying to think what I’ve watched lately. I haven’t seen that many movies lately. The ones on the plane are pretty rubbish. My favorite TV show is Modern Family.
And, probably one of my favorite actresses, and I like a lot of her movies, Cameron Diaz.
Asics has really amped up their presence in tennis in the last year expanding well beyond the gel soled tennis shoes they are known for. New are separates, tees, hats, socks, a mens tennis line (I'll cover that next) and if their new court bag is anything like their lightweight Teagan gear bag, you are going to love all the pockets and style.
Good luck Sam.