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Talking Tennis and Paddle with Jared Palmer
October 2, 2016
Retired from the ATP tour since 2005, 2-time APTA National Champion Jared Palmer found himself in the tennis spotlight once again when unheralded Marcus Willis won his first round match at Wimbledon. Every tennis reporter and television commentator all over the world noted that at #772, Willis was the lowest ranked player to win a match at a Grand Slam tournament since Jared Palmer, ranked #923, at the 1988 US Open. Palmer went on to reach career highs of #35 in singles and #1 in doubles.
LM: How did you feel when your name started popping up all over social media and TV during the first week of Wimbledon?
JP: It was fun. I had no idea I was the lowest ranked player for that many years to go through qualifying and win a round in a slam so that was cool to learn. The best part was telling my kids I made SportsCenter. I said my name was in parenthesis next to a guy you never heard of. I don’t think they were too impressed!
LM: Are you entertained or offended by the comparisons to Marcus Willis?
JP: I was happy for him. He probably has a better story than mine to be honest. In his mid 20s, struggling for years to make it on the tour, close to quitting just months before girlfriend convinced him to give it one more shot. Also, he went through the prequalifying and the qualifying, so he had to win 6 matches just to get to the main draw. I got a wildcard. I loved how he seemed to really soak it all in and enjoy the moment. Federer was a class act, too, realizing what it meant to Marcus.
LM: What was it like as a 17 year old to win a match at the US Open? Did you consider not going to college?
JP: It was exciting, and yes, I briefly considered turning pro, but I really wanted to go to Stanford, which I’m glad I did. Ironically, the guy I beat in the first round was Jeff Tarango, who was already at Stanford. Stanford had some great teams in those days, and if you could get in you knew you would be competing for a national title. On my team alone, the year we won the NCAA’s, we had three guys (me, Alex O’brien and Jonathan Stark) who would go on to be #1 in the world in doubles and top 40 in singles. I played #3 on the team.
LM: You won multiple ATP doubles titles with several partners, and you have won 2 (and counting) APTA National titles with Drew Broderick. What are the similarities and differences communicating with your partners in tennis vs paddle?
JP: I think the principles of a good partnership are pretty much the same in both sports. The best partners I’ve had are inherently great competitors, have generally positive attitudes on and off the court, enjoy playing, and are pretty even emotionally, i.e. don’t get rattled easily. The odd bit of physical talent doesn’t hurt, either. Obviously that’s a huge part. Ideally you play with someone who strikes a good balance between taking care of their own business on the court and also being aware of when you might need help figuring something out. You don’t want someone too focused on one or the other.
LM: Have you gotten any of your former tennis doubles partners out on the paddle court?
JP: Paddle is a great game, and I try to spread the word to all my tennis playing friends. My ex partner Don Johnson lives down in Atlanta, where paddle is getting more popular, and I’ve been trying for years to get him to play. I know the Bryans and Todd Martin and James Blake and Nathan Healey and others have tried the game, and there’s no question they would be great paddle players; its just a question of whether they would want to go through the learning process. In my case, living in Fairfield County, I was exposed to the game a lot and got hooked on it. I felt like, here is a sport that because of my tennis background I’m decent at right off the bat, but there are so many little things that I have to learn to really understand how to play. Tennis habits to break or to relearn in a different way. And the great thing about paddle is I still feel like I am learning. I learned from so many players over the years. Drew has been a great partner for me. He’s a smart guy and I’ve learned the most from him about winning against the best teams.