Challenger Chronicles: Jason Jung, Part I
First off, I’d like to thank ATPWorldTour.com for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences as a professional tennis player with all of you.
Earlier this year, I faced probably one of the toughest decisions since turning pro. It was 4 January and I received an email telling me I got into the Australian Open. It is the only Grand Slam I have not played yet. A few weeks before that I was one set away from gaining a direct entry into the Aussie main draw at the Asia-Pacific Wildcard Tournament. But if I didn’t play the Aussie Open I would have the chance to make a deep run in the Bangkok Challenger since I would be seeded high. I decided to stay in Bangkok for a couple of reasons: the chance to make a good run, I know the courts well and am used to it, a lot of my friends live in Bangkok, and I just love being in Bangkok. The people are so nice and the food is amazing.
I ended up losing in the semi-finals to eventual winner and former Top 10 player Mikhail Youzhny. I was a bit nervous as the match did not even pass the hour mark. But I had the opportunity to play Youzhny again the very next week in the Philippines. The second time around I was right in the match with chances to take the second set. It’s nice to get the opportunity to play against top players because it really shows where your level is at and how you compare against the best of the best.
Traveling as a professional tennis player can be a grind at times. One of the craziest travel days I can remember was last year. I had just won a Futures tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas and was traveling to play the Guadalajara Challenger the very next day. It’s Monday morning and when I arrive at the airport, my flight is delayed. I didn’t want to wait at the airport all day so I called my friends who I stayed with in Little Rock. They came and picked me up and as they were pulling up… a fender bender (small collision). Luckily, no one was hurt. But as we put that behind us I had a notification that said my flight was going to be delayed a little longer. I was just thinking that I only had one racket in my bag that was freshly strung, all the others were broken. Since I had some time to kill I took my racket to get restrung. By the time that was finished it was time to go back to the airport. This time we were cleared to take off.
I arrived in Guadalajara around 8pm, passed through customs and was waiting for my bags…..nothing. I went to the lost baggage counter, handed the agent my baggage tags and he informed me that my bags were still in Little Rock and would be arriving on the next flight. Lucky me right? I don’t always carry my tennis bag on, but thankfully, I did for this trip. I got a call from the airline at midnight telling me my bags had just arrived and that they would be delivering it to my hotel.
They didn’t arrive to my room until 2am. I open my suitcase and protein powder is EVERYWHERE. My tub of protein exploded. It’s now 3am and I’m trying to get the powder off of my clothes, but I’m not doing a very good job. Mind you, I have to play in eight hours and I haven’t gotten any rest yet. So I gave up on trying to wash the clothes because they wouldn’t dry in time. I decided to borrow some clothes.
Match time. Still feeling delirious from the lack of sleep, the first set passed me by and I didn’t even know what the score was. But somehow by some travel luck or whatever luck I won the match in three sets and eventually ended up losing in the final – my first on the ATP Challenger Tour. It was one of the craziest travel experiences thus far.