Tag Archive: Mitchell Krueger

On The Road With Mitchell Krueger

Having just played his first full year on the pro tour in 2013, world No. 475 Mitchell Krueger may be one of the only Americans to have earned Platinum Frequent Flyer Miles while still in his teens. The nineteen-year-old from Dallas, Texas, achieved especial international geographical renown when he hit up four continents in four months beginning with the US Open last August.

Any pro knows that travel is a huge part of the men’s game. And on the Futures and Challenger tours, some of the destinations might be a bit farther flung than for those players in the upper echelons of the sport. I caught up with Krueger on a chilly day in Plantation, Florida, where he was kind enough to discuss the ins and outs of his hectic tour schedule with me even though I interrupted his lunch.

Mitchell Krueger - Man on the Move

Mitchell Krueger – Man on the Move

In your tennis.com profile, you said that you have to like to travel when you’re on the pro tour. But give me your No. 1 Travel Nightmare Story.

MK: Getting from Traralgon, Australia to Korea, was a long haul. All by myself. It was like a train ride to Melbourne, then a long nine-hour flight to Hong Kong, a four-hour flight to Seoul and a three-hour bus to this tiny place in Korea.  The guy I was traveling with, Bradley Klahn, was still in Australia in the finals, and our coach was with him. So I was off on my own.

How do you put your schedule together, and is there any part of you that goes, “OK, maybe less travel this time”?

MK: I’ll sit down with my coach and then some of the other players, someone like Bjorn [Fratangelo] who I travel with a lot and come up with similar tournaments we’re able to play.

But we didn’t really travel that much this year until after the Open. We went to the Netherlands for three weeks before the summer, but other than that it was all in the U.S. To break it up, it wouldn’t seem like that much, but it all came at one time, kind of one after the other, so it felt like a lot.

I know you guys like to watch a lot of sports, so what’s the weirdest place and time — outside of the U.S. — that you ever found yourself watching a U.S. sporting event?

MK: When the Mavericks won the NBA championship three years ago, I was in Germany. So the time difference wasn’t terrible.

Dirk Nowitzki Hoists His Championship Trophy. Meanwhile In Germany...

Dirk Nowitzki Hoists His Championship Trophy. Meanwhile In Germany…

While we were in Australia last October, there would be like Monday Night games on Tuesday afternoon. So we’d be sitting at lunch watching the Monday Night game.

They actually show in Australia almost every [American] football game the same that they do here, so it’s good for us. I guess they love football down there too.

Now about eating, which I’m stopping you from doing — are there challenges to maintaining a consistent diet on the road? And what kind of eater are you — are you picky or adventurous or…?

MK: I used to be picky, but obviously you can’t be too picky traveling. I think Korea was pretty hard, more because it was in a really small place, three hours from Seoul. And Korea has different cuisine. Nothing against Korean food, it wasn’t terrible, but… in Seoul it was nice because there were more restaurants, but in this tiny town there were very few options.

One night I went to a gas station and got Instant Noodles, and Pringles and stuff.  Some of the guys in the tournament were doing that. But for the most part, it’s OK.

Do you have an overriding philosophy, or inspirational sports quote, that helps you when things are challenging on the court or on the road?

MK: I just know it’s a process. You’re not going to have good weeks every week. Some week’s you’ll win the tournament, some week’s you’ll lose first round. It happens to everyone. Just have to take it week by week and not get too down after a bad week or a bad match.

So what’s your travel schedule look like from here?

MK: This tournament, Maui, and then from Maui we go to Australia (for Burnie and West Lakes Challengers), and I think I might play a few Futures there as well right after. Then after that, I’ll come back to the U.S.

When asked the dreaded and dull question about targets or goals for the year, Krueger sounded philosophical. “If I put a number on it, I’m like #460 now, if I ended the year Top 200 I’d be happy. I guess that’s my goal. But anything up. As long as you’re moving up, that’s what’s important.”

Krueger Keeps Reaching Up

Krueger Keeps Reaching Up

With another busy travel schedule planned for after Plantation Futures, I’m guessing that Krueger will be experiencing a lot more upward movement in the very near future.

It was COLLLLLD when I woke up this morning. Like 5-“L” COLLLLLD. So, like a hopeful migratory bird, I decided to travel south from my Treasure Coast dwelling, seeking the greener (clay) pastures of the USA F1 Futures in Plantation, Florida. Alas, I still needed my winter jacket there.

Now, my Northernly Exposed friends probably don’t want to hear me whinge about windy, overcast 50-degree temperatures while their mercury hunts in vain for positive numerals (witness Exhibit A, directly below), but…

Cation v Plantation

Cation v Plantation

…my fingers were freezing up whilst trying to use the ETM*!

But enough about me. (Just know that I suffered for you, beloved readers.)

There were two round one matches I was keen to see on the day, and they both did not disappoint. The first featured 19-year-old*** American Mitchell Krueger following up a successful 2013 with his first match since early November versus the former Ramblin’ Wreck of a Georgia Tech standout, the 23-year-old Columbian Juan-Carlos Spir. 

With both players ranked in the upper-400s, Spir’s penchant for slices and changes of pace, and Krueger’s attack-minded tennis, this first meeting between the two was certainly intriguing on paper.

Krueger won the toss and elected to receive, which seemed to work out well, as the tournament’s eighth seed broke Spir to 15 (actually, the Colombian helped with two double faults as well). Alas, it wasn’t the only break the first set was going to see, as the cold and wind combined for a scene-stealing cameo throughout the day, making first serves a rarity and holds of serve a dicey proposition.

A Spirited Attempt At A Service Hold

A Spirited Attempt At A Service Hold

After four breaks of serve in the first six games, the score was notted at 3-all, when Krueger broke to love with a couple of groundstruck winners combined with a Spir double fault and a backhand volley sliced wide. In the ever-so-crucial eighth game, the Dallas teen saved a break point with his nineteenth net approach of the set, forcing a diSpirited backhand error and consolidating his break with a roar.

Blistering winners off the ground from both wings and a perfect backhand dropper gave Krueger two set points. Spir saved them both, getting back to deuce, but Krueger took his third set point when Spir left a ball that ended up dropping in, the Colombian smiling ruefully. Six breaks of serve in all, with Mitch taking four of them. Advantage: wind. With a possible cold violation therein.

In the 2nd set, the Texan raced out to a 3-0* lead, Spir came back to tie it back up at 3-apiece, then Krueger untied it for good with a killer hold-break-hold combo to take the match 6-3 6-3. All in all, the American converted on six of his nine break point opportunities, while Spir was only able to reel in three of his seven.

And Hands Were Shaken

And Hands Were Shaken

Afterward, Krueger thought this match would rank pretty high on the Coldest Matches He’s Ever Played In Florida scale.  “I think with the wind, too, it was not easy. The way [Spir] played, as well, kind of an orthodox game with a lot of slices and short bounces, along with the wind made it a lot tougher. In these conditions, it’s never going to be pretty.”

Asked about his large number of body serves on this day, Krueger said it’s something he’s been working on recently, mixing up the serve and making it less predictable. “Especially with the wind, it makes it tricky for the guy I’m playing. It’s also a higher percentage play — can’t miss it wide, can’t miss it long.”

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