From Farmer To Thrill Seeker: The Life Of Tommy Paul
Editor's Note: This story was first published 2 July, 2022.
In a couple of weeks, Tommy Paul will be on his mother’s farm in New Jersey, taking care of more than 100 animals, operating a tractor and pulling trees. But for now, the American is focussed on continuing one of the best tournaments of his career at Wimbledon.
Three years after losing in the final round of qualifying to Jiri Vesely, Paul turned the tables to down the Czech and reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time.
Victory on Court No. 3 marked another breakthrough moment for the 25-year-old, who is making his main draw debut at The Championships this week. After enjoying a standout junior career, which saw him win the 2015 Roland Garros boys’ singles title, Paul captured his first tour-level title in November, while he is at a current career-high No. 32 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings .
Following his success, Paul is now accustomed to the lights and glamour of the Tour. However, it is a world away from his life back in the United States, where he frequently swaps his racquet for farm tools when he visits his mom in New Jersey.
“My mom and stepdad live on a farm in South Jersey, where they have roughly 100 chickens, six sheep, two dogs, a horse and a cat. I grew up in North Carolina, but my mum moved back to South Jersey when I turned pro. That is where she grew up,” Paul told ATPTour.com. “The animals have built up. It is something to do for her. When she is not at work, she is outside on the farm.
“After Wimbledon I will go home and help around the farm. They have hay barrels in the field. I am operating the tractor to move the barrels around. Anything from that, to pulling trees out of the ground. I am on it. Working around the farm is fun.”
Ever since he was young, Paul has held a love for animals and adventure. The 25-year-old, who owned a dog when younger, feels that his interests away from tennis have been crucial in helping him deal with the pressure of life on Tour.
“I have always tried to be an outside kind of guy, it helps me switch off,” Paul said. “Tennis is outdoors, but even when I am not playing tennis I try and stay outside. Whether that is the beach or when I am at home visiting my family, we are outside all day. When I was younger, we had a dog, so I would spend time outside with it.
“Now I love to go the beach and visit the Everglades when I am home. Any water sport I am into. I normally choose the beach over the Everglades, though, because I am not fond of visiting the alligators!”
Alongside tennis, Paul played basketball and baseball when he was younger. While he was talented at all three, tennis was the avenue he chose.
“I played a little bit of basketball, but I played more baseball. I really enjoyed both sports and still do,” Paul said. “I follow the NBA closely, but it is hard to follow when in Europe. I usually watch highlights in the morning when I am away from America, but I try not to miss any games.
“Playing wise, tennis was always my best sport. It was nice because my sister played with me, so it was great as we grew up playing together.”
For good friend Opelka, Paul’s success is no surprise.
“Tommy is a great athlete. Physically he is very good. He has gotten stronger and has taken the natural athleticism he has to another level,” Opelka said. “His natural tennis ability is off the charts. It just took him a bit of time to get the discipline, but his success now is great to see.”
With Opelka’s words ringing in his ears and his family in support 3,500 miles away, Paul will look to break more new ground when he faces Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Sunday.