McDonald Continues Thriving On Home Turf In Stockton
Reigning NCAA champion enjoys another solid week in Stockton
Some players struggle to find real world success straight out of college, but that hasn’t been the case for reigning NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald.
Since turning pro in June after completing his junior year at UCLA, the 21-year-old American has found his footing on the ATP Challenger Tour and is now producing big results in his home state of California. McDonald reached the semi-finals last week at the $100,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Tiburon, matching his result there last year.
At this week’s $100,000 Challenger in Stockton, McDonald ousted second seed and fellow American Tim Smyczek in the second round, an identical result to the win he produced at last year’s $100,000 Challenger in Sacramento. He’s quickly learned that unlike his college days, he can’t get away with playing a loose point or service game to beat the world’s best players.
“Tennis is really an errors game and the guys make less mistakes at this level than in college or ITF Futures,” said McDonald. “They have a couple of more weapons to help them win free points, so you have to be on for every match.”
College players have been enjoying success this year on the ATP Challenger Tour, with the most recent example being Ohio State University player Mikael Torpegaard winning his first Challenger title last month on his home campus in Columbus, Ohio. Although McDonald said he now faces tougher competition in the pros, he believes his time at UCLA brought him to a place where he can succeed at this level.
“I played a lot of matches and had a lot of wins, which builds confidence,” he said last August. “It was a good stepping stone of playing at a level that’s higher than the juniors, but that also allowed me to get ready for the pros.”
But now that McDonald is able to treat tennis like a job, he’s finding it far easier to shore up the holes in his game while also building on his strengths. With no Emirates ATP Ranking points to defend in the first half of next year, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be making a significant dent on his current standing of No. 374.
“I have way more time on my hands to focus on tennis,” said McDonald. “Before I was taking classes, being social, being with the team. I think I’m improving a lot more quickly now and just really enjoying it.”