Editors’ note: The following is a first-person diary account by 16-year-old Pacific Beach resident and high school junior Zach Svajda on his US Open experiences this week. On Monday, the wild-card Svajda took the first two sets off 37-year-old Italian Paolo Lorenzi before falling in five sets after experiencing full body cramps at the start of the third set. On Wednesday, some 40 hours after the memorable match, Steve Pratt caught up with Zach at the Grand Hyatt Grand Central for a one-on-one interview about his US Open adventure:
By Zach Svajda
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. – After my match on Monday, I showered, went on the bike in the gym and then went back to the locker room to do some stretching. I didn’t even see him, but that’s when Roger Federer approached me and asked how I was doing and said, “good try out there” and “good fight.”
I thought that was pretty cool because here he is supposed to be getting ready for his match and he says good job before his night match on Arthur Ashe.
When I younger I thought tennis was just hitting a tennis ball, but it’s so many other things: diet, off-court, stretching. There’s all these little things, and that’s what I’m learning from watching all these pros.
Staying healthy I think is the biggest key – doing as much as you can to stay healthy because the game today is so physical. There are a lot of smaller guys out there, but I’d like to bulk up a little bit.
The cramping began at the start of the third set. All of the sudden I couldn’t bend on my serve so I just had to use my arm. My finger was crossing the other finger on the forehand. It was tough and it was off and on. I took some electrolytes and salt and the trainer was stretching and that seemed to help.
I thought I stayed pretty focused and locked in. On the changeovers I looked around a little bit. I think I did one “Come on!” after I won the second set, but that was it. I don’t show much emotion on the court or scream.
On Tuesday I headed back out to the site to see the physio and to get some treatment. It was strange having people recognize me from my match the day before. I had to walk out on the grounds and go to the USTA Player Development site and you have to go through where the fans are and I was stopped to take some pictures.
I got some acupuncture done and I’ve never done that before. It kind of hurt with the needles going in and then coming out. I guess I was really tight on my left side and it actually helped me. I got a few massages and had an ice bath, which was tough. I’ve done it before but I don’t do it very often. It keeps the soreness down. I’m really feeling much better today (Wednesday).
My body just wasn’t used to dealing with the nerves and the cramps. The trainers said maybe I should have drank more water a couple of days before and they’re probably right.
I went to Times Square last night and I think we’re going to Central Park today. They want me walking a lot. I’m not going to do anything else today, so it’s like a total day off. I’ll start back on Thursday with a light hit for maybe an hour.
My phone is still blowing up and I’m getting a lot of notifications. But I’ve started to move on to whatever is next; if it’s the juniors or a Challenger or Futures or whatever. Just move on and focus on that and keep training.
I’m not really on social media and don’t post that much but my agent told me I should starting doing more – on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So I think I’ll start posting more and know it helps with marketing. It’s just good to keep people updated with what I’m doing.
“It’s strange to think a week ago, no one knew who I was. I don’t mind signing autographs. I’ll always sign if they ask.
I used to go to Indian Wells and I remember taking a picture with Kei Nishikori and Ivo Karlovic. So a few days ago I went up to both of them and showed them the picture I took when I was 8 years old. It was pretty funny.
My autograph has already changed since a few days ago. At first it was my whole name with a big “S” but there were so many of them I just started shortening it to “ZS”.
I got a call yesterday from the Oracle New Haven Challenger tournament director offering me a wild card into his tournament next week. So I’ll meet with the USTA coaches tomorrow and we’ll decide if I will go up there, or stay here and play the juniors. It’s a tough decision. I know that playing a Challenger gives me the ability to get my ranking up there. I have a ranking goal for each year. When I’m 17 I’d like to be ranked in the top 200 ATP.
People ask me if I’ll go back and try to win Kalamazoo again next year, and I might if my ranking isn’t high enough to get me into the Open.
People say my life has changed this week, and I know it’s going to be different. I’m definitely ready for it. This is what I’ve dreamed about my whole life, but I never thought it would happen so young. I thought it would be when I was 18 or 19. It’s pretty cool to happen at just 16. I’ll always have this experience to look back on.