My dad always says everything happens for a reason. Everything has meaning—every situation, every decision, and every outcome.
It all leads somewhere.
There’s a reason why I put down golf in favor of tennis when I was seven years old. There’s a reason why I dedicated all my time to the sport as a young teenager in hopes of improving each and every day. There’s a reason why I accepted an offer from the University of Illinois to attend school and play tennis there.
And there’s a reason why I made the decision to leave.
As I prepare to compete in the main draw for the Dallas Open, an ATP 250 tournament, I now understand that none of it would have been possible without all those choices. This opportunity of a lifetime wouldn’t have existed.
I still remember how proud I was when I signed with Illinois.
You know, you grow up with this dream of turning professional one day, and yet, in the back of your mind, you know college tennis is that next step.
It felt good, man. I really felt like I achieved something.
It was a new journey for me, and I was just ready to experience everything that came along with it.
And trust me, there was A LOT!
We made it all the way to the Elite Eight in my first year with the team. So, there was an instant connection there that led to that immediate success.
We all spent a lot of time together but then it all flipped on me in my sophomore year.
It was literally like someone pressed a switch.
And I knew I needed a switch, too.
My coach at the time suggested to take a look at SMU. He spoke highly of the program and SMU head coach Chen Grant who I had met in the past when he was still leading the program at UCLA.
I saw this journey as an opportunity to improve as a player. My coach from California and my parents had also moved to Dallas at the time, and I felt like being around them, as well as the team, would take my game to that next level.
At SMU, I was playing in the top spot and taking on more of a leadership role. In the beginning, it was one of the toughest, yet most rewarding, positions to be in.
The game is always bigger than yourself.
You show up at practice with a good attitude every time out, even if you’re not playing your best tennis. You’re just trying to set a good example and be that person that others can look up to, you know?
Take last year’s game at Oklahoma, for example.
We had a great team that season and had some big ambitions. I was a team captain, and the match was tied at 3-all. The match came down to my court, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t feeling really good. I was having some wrist issues and stuff like that.
I was kind of not up to it!
But fortunately, thanks to the support of my coaches and teammates, I was able to gut it out and win the match. That was our first ranked win in a few years, and it was a special moment, man.
It was just a culmination of all the years of hard work finally paying off.
But the biggest payoff, personally, was a phone call I received from Coach Grant last fall.
I’m a sports management major, and I’ve been interning for GF Sports and working closely with the tournament director for the Dallas Open, Peter Lebedevs. A few of the pro tournaments we were supposed to host that year had been canceled.
I was told a few things were in the works and to just stay tuned. I just told them to let me know if I could do anything.
Little did I know what they actually had in mind.
So, I got that call, and Coach, in the most chill voice possible, told me, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know you got the wild card for the Dallas Open.”
I was floored.
I didn’t even know what to say. Once the words came, all I could say was thank you and how appreciative I was for the opportunity—all while thinking about those words from my dad.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
I often wonder where I’d be if I never took that chance and basically uprooted everything as a sophomore and transferred to SMU.
I obviously didn’t expect any of this to happen. But at the end of the day, I guess it really is the opportunities you don’t take that you end up regretting.
My plan is still to turn pro by May with Dallas as my home base. I’m determined to see how it goes and where it takes me.
And let’s be honest, there’s no better way to start this journey than playing in the main draw at the Dallas Open.
Very few people in the world get this opportunity. So, I’m super honored and blessed to be able to do it.
It’s the people behind me that I’m most grateful for— Coaches Grant & Ben, Peter, my coach for many years – Nick, my parents, and my teammates.
Words aren’t enough, but I’ll say them anyway.