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Rhyne Williams, Houston, 2013

By Chris Oddo
Monday, Aug. 12, 2013

Rhyne Williams was barely inside the ATP's top 300 when he played the U.S. Open in 2012, but a year later the 22-year-old Tennessee native is on the cusp of cracking the ATP's top 100. Williams has tennis in his blood as his mother (Michelle DePalmer-Williams) was in the WTA's top 100 and his uncle (Mike De Palmer) topped out at No. 35 in the ATP's rankings. Additionally, his father played at Duke and his cousin Christopher is now his full-time coach.

We caught up with Rhyne recently to find out how an American could list clay as his favorite surface and to check in on his goals for 2013 and beyond.

1. I read that you inked a deal with ABN Amro and that you are going to be blogging for them, can you tell us a little bit about that?

It is very exciting. I have to give all the credit to Kelly Wolf, my agent. She went to bat for me, that was awesome news to be working with ABN Amro and I'll be able to play their tournament for the next three or four years, I'm really fired up, it's an awesome opportunity.

We'll keep you posted on the blog. I'm not sure what exactly I'll be writing, but yes, there will be some blogging going on.

2. Who are some of you best buddies on tour?

My best buddy is Tennys Sandgren, he and I live together down in Boca. I also spend a lot of time with Tim Smyczek, Dennis Kudla, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock. We're all good buddies, and I hear that Jack and Ryan Harrison and Bradley Klahn will be moving down to Boca, so we're going to have a good group down there. We're all pretty good buddies and we enjoy goofing around off the court. It's going to be nice to have a good group down there.

And, we're all pushing each other up the rankings.

3. Are you going to play the challenger circuit in the States this autumn or are you going to head over to Europe to try to play some ATP main draws?

I believe I will stay over here. I think staying over here would be nice, just to kind of take a break from all the traveling overseas a bit, and we've got some great tournaments in California. I really like those places, I think that will be better for me.

4. Any goals for the rest of the season?

I would really love to be in the main draw of the Australian Open on my own ranking. I think that's doable. I don't have too many [rankings] points coming off, so I think I have a good swing coming up. I always enjoy playing those tournaments in California, the weather's nice, and I think it's a good opportunity to make a push for the top 100.

5. Have you looked down the road long term and thought about the type of career you'd like to have?

My dream is to be in the top 50 in the world and competing in Grand Slams consistently. I think that's a reasonable goal and I'm going to keep working towards that every day. I have a long way to go and still a lot to learn. You look at the average age of the top 100 now, it is around 28 or 29, and I feel like I've got plenty of time and I just need to make sure I stay healthy and pace myself because it's going to be a long journey still ahead.

6. You listed your backhand and footwork as things you'd like to improve in your game, can you elaborate on that for our readers?

Yeah, with regard to my backhand, I'm really working on trying to get under the ball a little bit more and lift it, which will push guys back off the baseline and give me a chance to run around and hit more forehands. I tend to hit it pretty flat, and if I could let the ball settle a little more and get under it and generate a little bit more topspin, that would be ideal. Logging in more time on the clay has really helped my backhand, I feel like it's definitely come a long way, but there's still a lot of improving to be done.

With my footwork, it's just putting in the time off the court and doing all the ladder drills and the quickness and agility drills, and I think it will come with time.

7. You list clay as your favorite surface and you call yourself an American?

Here in Knoxville, Tennessee, we have a ton of clay courts in the area, so I really spent a lot of time on them growing up. With my old coach (Andres Pedroso) we were out there eight of 12 months of the year on clay. I really put in the time on it. It's easier on the body, you're not so darn sore the next day after you have long practices, so it's really just about putting in the hours on it. I think anyone has the potential to play well on clay.

8. I read that your uncle was a former ATP No. 35. Do you have any plans of rubbing it in his face if you pass his career-high ranking?

I'll give him a call that's for sure. First I have to pass my mom. She was top 100. It's in the family. I've got a lot to live up to.

9. Who was your main coach when you were first introduced to the game, was it more your mom's or dad's influence?

My mom taught me tennis starting around seven or eight years old, my dad also played at Duke so we hit quite a few balls growing up, but my mom taught me all the basic strokes and all that. I was also coached by my grandfather for a few years, and also my uncle. So I've gotten bits and pieces from everyone in the family.

10. How long do you think it will take for an American man to get back in the top 10, and who do you predict it will be?

First of all I want to say that we have five, six, seven guys that all have the potential to be in the top 50. Obviously we have John Isner doing a fantastic job, and I have a feeling that he's going to make a push this summer and have a big U.S. Open. 


(Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/ Getty)

 

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