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Attack And Don’t Look Back: Meet Tommy Paul 2.0
3 Min Read · March 14, 2024

The talented American needed time to find himself on tour, but he’s in full bloom now.

Anyone who watched Break Point, the Netflix documentary, knows: there were times when Tommy Paul’s career was stuck in neutral. When the former junior No.3 first came onto the tour he was partying too much, falling behind the peers he used to dominate, and wondering if he’d ever rise up to meet his potential. 

On season 2, episode 3, Paul’s mother Jill MacMillan recalls late-night gut-wrenching phone calls from her son, the extremely talented young American wondering if success would ever come on the pro tour. 

Those harrowing days are now in the rearview: Paul is setting his sights on exceeding, rather than meeting, expectations. 

“Obviously I didn't break onto the scene like some other people, but it's been constant progress every year I really feel,” Paul said earlier this week. “I've enjoyed my journey at times – I wouldn't take anything back.”

After setting the bar high in 2023, when he reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and made his Top 20 debut soon thereafter, No.17-ranked Paul is aiming even higher in 2024. 

“My goal coming into this year was to win titles,” Paul confidently told reporters after his third-round win over France’s Ugo Humbert at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. “I made two finals last year. Never won the tournament. So this year my main goal is to win tournaments.”

So far, so good for the 26-year-old – he raised a trophy just last month in Dallas, which was his second ATP title. 

“I got one title, and I want more,” he said. “I want to leave the tournament with a win. That's the goal, and that's what will eventually break me into wherever I want to be [in the rankings].”

Asked to elaborate on the key to winning titles, Paul was quick to respond. 

“It's pretty simple,” he said. “It's just getting to the net more overall. That's when I'm playing my best tennis. I think it's important to force my game on opponents.”

Paul told reporters on Thursday that he has been watching reruns of net-rushing tennis legends for inspiration. During this tournament he has watched Roger Federer, Tim Henman, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, hoping that some of their old-school wizardry will wear off on him. 

“I watch a lot of tennis, especially when I'm in the tournament,” Paul said. “I watched pretty much all the matches here this week, along with some classic tennis matches. Before my first round we watched Tim Henman versus Roger in Paris-Bercy, and then we watched Edberg before my second round. Then we watched Boris Becker yesterday. 

“Trying to get inspiration for going to the net, those are all pretty good volleyers.”

During his hard-fought win over Casper Ruud on Thursday, Paul went to the net five times in the final game of the match alone, converting four times – including a gorgeous backhand volley winner that saved a break point – as he closed out his 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 triumph to reach the semis in the California desert for the first time. 

In total he went to net 42 times, more than twice as much as his opponent. 

Paul’s victory was significant on another level. It marked the fourth consecutive year that an American man has reached the last four at Indian Wells. Told about the statistic in his post-match press conference, Paul cracked a satisfied smile. 

“I'm pumped about that,” he said. “I kind of knew, but I didn't know I had to win today to keep that streak alive. That's awesome. Pumped for the U.S. fans that we have produced some pretty good results here – I want to keep winning and keep going.” 

The scrappy win over the Norwegian also marked Paul’s first Top-10 win since he upset Carlos Alcaraz to reach his first Masters semifinal at Toronto last August. 

Going this deep in a prestigious draw is something Paul would like to make a habit of. For now, it definitely hits different for the 26-year-old. 

“It's definitely a whole different vibe at these tournaments now,” Paul said. “[Early in the tournament] you can't even sit in front of your locker, there's so many people in the locker room. Now it's pretty much you roll around wherever you want and there's nobody there. 

“It's a different vibe – it's where you want to be.”

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