Zachary Svajda took the Williams’ Sisters route as a junior tennis player from San Diego, choosing to bypass the powerful 18-and-under SoCal circuit in favor of training…and more training.
There were naysayers who said the 19-year-old lacked the size (he’s listed on the ATP site as 5-foot-9, 145 pounds) to forgo college and enter the professional ranks, and Svajda admitted he has lacked confidence in his game as he struggled his rookie season on tour after turning pro at age 16 following winning his first of two USTA National 18s Hardcourt titles at Kalamazoo, Mich.
But Zach got hot this summer winning 10 straight matches on the SoCal Pro Circuit for two ITF $15,000 Futures titles, and his confidence slowly built culminating in the first Challenger title of his career as Svajda beat NCAA singles champion Ben Shelton, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, to win the Tiburon Challenger Presented by First Republic Bank, a $52,000 ATP Challenger event at Tiburon Peninsula Club.
“I feel like I have a chance to win every tournament,” Svajda told the Marin Independent Journal. “I have some high expectations.” Svajda came into the unseeded and ranked No. 397 in the world. The 80 ranking points bolted his ranking up 124 spots in just one week where he now resides just outside the world’s top 250. There has always been a mystique around the Pacific Beach Prodigy, who in the summer of 2021 became the first player to win the 18s division of the nation’s top junior tournament Kalamazoo in non-consecutive calendar years beating Shelton in the final.
Kalamazoo was not held in 2020 because of Covid preventing Svajda from possibly being the first three-time winner as he beat Brandon Nakashima on his way to the 2019 title.
One of the youngest to ever earn a main-draw spot at the US Open in 2019 at age 16, Svajda went up two sets to none against 37-year-old Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi before full body cramps ended any dreams of an upset.
He won his first Grand Slam match at the Open last year, then took a set off world top-15 Jannik Sinner before falling in four sets. Svajda was introduced to Roger Federer by his mentor and friend John Isner at Indian Wells in 2019, with R-Fed calling Svajda an impressive ball-striker and requesting him for extended practices every day on his way to the singles final at the BNP Paribas Open.
– Steve Pratt