Local tennis legend is now serving others - and his game
MILWAUKEE - He was the last American man standing at this Summer's U.S. Open in New York, and he's all ours. Milwaukee's Tim Smyczek, a former tennis star at Brookfield Academy, had the crowds chanting on into the third round at Flushing Meadows. And although Symczek's hopes were dashed in a heartbreaking fifth set to Spaniard Marcel Granollers, what Smyczek was able to do was finally score the breakthrough that had eluded him through the first seven years of his career.
"Cracking the top one hundred (world ranking) has been a lifetime goal of mine," Smyczek says. "In my head it always seemed like if you cracked the top hundred, you kind of made it in tennis."
So what happens when you crack it all the way down to 63rd in the world, where Smyczek found himself last week? For Smyczek, that meant coming home to Wisconsin from his training headquarters in Tampa, to put the finishing touches on his passion project, Serves for Summit.
"Summit is an after school tutoring program for at-risk kids in Milwaukee," Smyczek said shortly before meeting with a group of junior players at Brookfield's Western Racquet Club on Monday. "They focus on one-on-one tutoring, and through helping these kids with their studies, their main focus is really character building."
Of course, that is a subject that Smyczek knows all about after struggling through the first several years of his career, begging the question of whether or not he ever wanted to just give up.
"Many times," he admits without hesitation. "I've been out on tour for seven or eight years now, and the first probably three years of my career were really rough. I battled some injuries, (and) just really didn't have any good results, didn't win too many matches. More than once I thought about hanging it up."
But instead Smyczek dug deeper, and after his run at the U.S. Open this year, even attracted the attention of one of the greatest of all time, Andre Agassi, who was in town earlier this year opening up his new charter school on Milwaukee's South Side.
"His game has come a long way," Agassi said of Smyczek in September. "I think he has a big game. Anybody who can step on the court and put fear into their opponent on any given day has a real look at a future."
Like Agassi has done for many years, Smyczek will be giving back, hosting his second professional tennis exhibition for "Serves for Summit" on December 7 at Wisconsin Lutheran College, with a reception the night before at the Hilton City Center. Among those that will be participating in the event, professional tennis players Dennis Kudla, Rhyne Williams, and Rajeev Ram, along with Wisconsin tennis legend Tom Gullickson. Tickets can be purchased at any local tennis shop or at ServesForSummit.com
"Maybe if I hadn't experienced those lows," Smyczek reflected, " stuff like this wouldn't feel so good."