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Oliver Golding won junior US Open in 2011 and then reached a career high 327 in April 2014: a few weeks later he decided to stop his pro career.
He explained the reason behind his choice in this interview in December 2014.
“It’s a hell of a tough life. The rewards are very limited. When you look at the conditions at a Futures, it’s below the minimum wage. I entered one 128-player draw, qualified and won a round, and reached the semis of the doubles. I was there from Thursday to Thursday and after tax my pay packet was 88 Euros. A lot of British tennis boys I’ve grown up with think it’s a jolly, that you’re going to play some tennis, get all the girls, go out, but it doesn’t work like that. People who say that wouldn’t have any idea how difficult it is. How much you have to put in and how little you get back. I was incredibly hungry, I used to get frustrated on the court because I wanted to win so much. I gave it absolutely everything for six or seven years of my life, travelling for 25 or 30 weeks a year. In the end I felt I didn’t have much in the tank, and that it wasn’t honest to take sponsorship from people in that state.”
When I saw him in the qualifying draw in an Italian low level event, the ITF Pro Circuit Piombino Futures, with a total prize money of 15.000 USD I felt like I had to know him better.
I saw you in the Belarus Futures draw a few weeks ago and now here in Italy, everyone wants to know if this is a real comeback
I don’t know, I am playing because I am enjoying it, if it leads somewhere it leads somewhere, I have not any plan or expectation at the moment.
Anyway you took out the first seed here (Shyla #401) so your level has to be decent at least
Yeah, I played a local tournament in France last week and I beated some pretty good guys so I knew I was playing ok and yesterday I played a perfect match: I served well and returned well. I know at this level I can beat anybody but also lose to anybody, it will be interesting to see if I can keep a good level for a few days in a row
Any short term plan? Did u sign-in in any Futures for next weeks?
I didn’t sign-in anywhere, maybe I will play in Roehampton Futures in 2 weeks because it’s 5 minutes from my home but I am unranked and I don’t even have a national ranking (that helps you entering in tournaments) so it’s pretty tough to enter, also here I was 30th out the day before start of qualies. If I start getting ATP points of course it will be easier.
What about the last few years? What have you done?
I had a completely different job outside tennis for about an year and after that I was running a small tennis business in London where I live. I started a degree and it will really be my main focus for the next years, I don’t think I will be playing tennis for the rest of my life
But did you keep practicing and playing?
Not really, for about an year I didn’t pick up a tennis racquet at all.
Do you have any regret about stopping the pro career?
Absolutely zero, I am a much happier person now than I was at that time, I was struggling in many ways: was 100% the right decision at that time so I have no regrets at all, I have a son now which changed everything, carrying on with tennis I would not have so many things that I have now in my life which for me are more important than tennis.
I read your interview on Telegraph with Simon Briggs where you explained perfectly how did you feel at that time, that the pressure was too high and that there were too many guys that wanted it more than you
Yeah I mean I love tennis but I didn’t have that drive, that desire: it’s too difficult to play without that fire.
I am enjoying playing tennis right now and of course I am competitive but I don’t know how I would feel doing this for 3-4 months, being away from my son and stuff like that.
The situation by the financial point of view didn’t change much in last years, there is just a little more money (for example the Piombino Futures passed from 10k prize money to 15k)
That’s obviously an issue, I knew before going here that nothing really changed. I was very fortunate when I played before because I had support from LTA and sponsors that was a blessing but also added some pressure: now situation is different because I have an income and I can support myself, I am not in a situation like I have to give up everything just to play tennis again.
The transition from juniors to professional tennis can be very tough for juniors, you need to have a good financial support and be mentally very strong
The most important thing is patience: is very difficult when as junior you are winning a lot of matches and you are expected to win a lot of matches again as pro and it just doesn’t work like that when you are playing against men that are doing it for a living and that if don’t win can’t go to the next tournament especially considering that you are going into that environment from juniors where everything is nice. When you are doing good in juniors you become a target and the other guys want to show to that boy who is the boss, that’s why you don’t see many young guys breaking through anymore.
If you don’t break through quickly it becomes very tough, because you can’t stay like 3-400 ranked many years, you lose money every year.
Especially if you are like 300th ranked it’s very tough because you don’t really get into Challengers that give the “big” points but in Futures you need to literally win the tournament every week to make any money: they say something will change in the next 2 years but it’s tough, there is barely any spectator in tournament like this so the revenue can’t be much bigger for the organizers.
In England you don’t have so many tournaments, while in Italy we have a lot of Futures and Challengers which help young players with Wild Cards and also because they can play every week without much travel expenses
We used to have a decent number of tournament but then they decided to stop, to cut funding for that (the low professional level) and focus on other areas: I have my doubt it will help in the long term, it’s a strange decision
The LTA really has a lot of money
Yes they do but I don’t know where money goes: they have a difficult job, I guess as a governing body their overall remit is to get people playing tennis and I guess they’ve spent a lot of money on that in the hope that in 10 years they will have a bigger pool of players to choose from
Are you still in touch with other players?
Not really, I am in touch especially with Jonny (O’Mara), we are good friends and he is the Godfather for my son. I still keep in touch with a few of the British guys, not a huge amount to be honest. I don’t know whether it’s a sad thing or not but I think you realize that a lot of people who you socialise with on a daily basis in tennis because you don’t really have a choice. It’s not that I’m saying negative about any of these players, I have a lot of friends in tennis but I gradually drifted away from tennis and I guess I didn’t really have much in common with people playing tennis, maybe I will now.
Are you alone here or with family?
I am here alone, my son and my girlfriend are back in London. She is Russian, she used to play (Marta Sirotkina, br #115 WTA). I haven’t seen my son for a couple of weeks so I have a win/win situation: if I win I get points, if I lose I see my son.
So many people wrote to me on Twitter curious about your comeback, they want you back.
So many people tried to convince me for like three years but it was really the last thing I wanted to do.
Were you surprised to be so competitive already?
To be honest if you would have seen me in Belarus…I was playing absolutely horrible but last week I was playing a local tournament in France and I kept playing better and better, I beated Roman Jouan and lost in the final to Maxime Teixeira so I started feeling more confident. Also I like these (hard) courts, I grew up on this exact surface: we’ll see what happens!