Many of you may not recognize the name “Dominik Koepfer” since he just broke into the “big leagues” by reaching the round of sixteen at the US Open after mostly playing on the Challenger Circuit.
Dominik, literarily, came out of nowhere in terms of the traditional player-development model. He grew up playing a variety of sports, he only practiced tennis a few hours a week and played very few tournaments, he never home schooled and did not join the professional circuit until after graduating from college. In other words he is the anti-establishment poster-child of player development.
Although in theory, everyone agrees on the merits of developing a wide athletic base and on a gradual increase of the workload as a player ages, the reality is totally different. The early specialization and the race for ranking points and trophies starts early, and children with practice schedules meant for professional players are the norm rather than the exception.
I first met Dominik when I went to visit my friends and partners at TennisGate.com, Oliver Heuft and Jürgen Müller at their club in Germany.
Dominik was hoping to play college tennis in the US, and they had asked for my help. Dominik had been a member at their club since the age of 6. Recently, Dominik had surprise everyone by reaching the finals of the 16 and under German National Championships. Although Dominik was a solid player he was way behind many of the top players his age in terms of practice time and tournament experience. He was just practicing two or three days a week and only entered a few tournaments a year beside his inter club matches. The rest of the time he enjoyed playing a variety of sports and challenging himself with intense physical conditioning sessions.
The challenge was to find Dominik a full scholarship to a top program despite his less-than-impressive ranking. It was crucial to find a school and a coach that would take a chance on him based on his impressive athletic ability, his solid technical base and his remarkable competitive spirit.
I immediately contacted my friend Mark Booras at Tulane and asked him to take a look at Dominik! The rest is history! Dominik slowly climbed to the top of the college rankings, succeeded on the Future’s Circuit, then on the Challenger Circuit and will currently ranked under #70 in the world, after his fantastic run in Rome.
Dominik is a true example of successful long-term player development and proof that talent will rise to the top – fast or slow – but it will rise. Dominik is a breath of fresh air in the crazy world of training children six hours a day, homeschooling and more that 100 tournament matches a year!
Congratulation to Dominik Koepfer and his whole team!