This week we hear from Dominik Koepfer, a 26-year-old German who has taken one of the more unique paths to the Top 100. After barely competing as a junior, Koepfer played college tennis at Tulane University for four years before taking a shot at the pro tour. Now he's ranked No. 68 as he heads into the Australian Open.
A talented athlete, Koepfer juggled golf, soccer, skiing, and tennis before focusing on the latter more seriously at 16. Tulane took a risk on him as his junior resume was lacking, but it paid off big-time as he would climb all the way to No. 1 in the ITA rankings.
"Some people just think they’re the best, they grow up knowing or getting told that they’re going to be No. 1 in the word," he says. "But I’ve never had that. So I still had to build my own belief and self-confidence that I belong with those guys and that I can beat those guys."
He shares his story from growing up as a sports-addicted child in rural Germany to maturing on- and off-court at Tulane, and setting up a training base in Tampa, Fla. with coaches Billy Heiser and Rhyne Williams.
Having picked up his first ATP ranking point at the age of 21, and securing his first tour-level win a year later, he gives his take on the importance of college tennis and on being labeled a "late bloomer".
"Everyone in the Top 500 is a really good tennis player. It’s not easy to get up there and it takes a lot of discipline," Koepfer says. "You take a loss every single week pretty much, unless you win the tournament, which is maybe once or twice a week if you have a good year."
This month will mark just his second main draw appearance in Melbourne Park, but Koepfer has already made a splash on the Grand Slam stage. His big break on the pro tour came in the summer of 2019, when he won the Ilkley ATP Challenger 125 to earn a wild card into Wimbledon, where he won his opening round. A few weeks later, he qualified for the US Open and made it all the way to the fourth round.
He hasn't slowed down since then. Last year, he took a set of Novak Djokovic in his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal in Rome. This year, he's hoping to rise even higher in the rankings after leaving the Top 100 milestone behind.
"You always want more," he says. "I’m not really satisfied with being where I’m at right now. You always want to win more, you want to get higher in the rankings. I think the goal is definitely to be Top 50 this year."
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