© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Tommy Paul is up to No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

Tommy Paul: 'There's No Real Secret To The Game'

Learn about the American's mindset before he plays Alcaraz

After a match, most players are fixated on the action. Did they hit a particularly sweet shot? What could they have done better? What did they learn?

After Tommy Paul defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Sunday to reach the fourth round of the Miami Open presented by Itau, the American visited the Tennis Channel set and then sat on a yoga mat on the grass field inside Hard Rock Stadium next to coach Brad Stine and fitness coach Franco Herrero. While conducting a brief interview, Paul was most interested in not his tennis, but a frisbee.

“Oh, wow. Wow! I should have brought that up [on Tennis Channel], oh my god!” Paul said. “We got here and it was like 8:15 in the morning. Brad had a frisbee and Franco walked out onto the field and direct hit to the cheek!”

“I was aiming for him!” Stine joked.

“But he was aiming to him, not at him if you know what I mean,” Paul said, cracking a smile.

The conversation was Paul in a nutshell. The 25-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career, but he does not take himself too seriously. Off court you will often find him with a smile on his face and having a good time.

“I think it’s different for everyone, but for me definitely,” Paul said of the importance of having fun as a professional tennis player. “I couldn’t do this profession if I wasn’t having fun.”

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Winning certainly does not hurt, and Paul is doing a lot of that in 2023. With his win Monday, the American is now 16-5 on the year and climbed to fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

“It’s been good. I’ve been working hard, so I’m really excited to be playing deep into these tournaments,” Paul said. “I’m not really looking at the Race too much right now. I’m here at the Miami Open and that’s all I’m really worried about right now.”

That focus has helped him make deep runs throughout the year. Paul reached his first major semi-final at the Australian Open and advanced to his maiden ATP 500 final in Acapulco.

“I feel like I’m serving better, getting some more free points on my serve. I’m competing really well, but at the end of the day there’s no real secret to the game,” Paul said. “You’ve got to put in the work and it’s a lot of effort on court and a lot of effort off court. We’ve been working hard.” 

Paul’s longtime friend and No. 1 American Taylor Fritz is not surprised by his countryman’s progress.

“I think a lot of people that have known him for a long time, including myself, have known that he is this good, that this is the level. What he's showing, we all knew that he had that,” Fritz said. “I feel like he's cut down a lot on these kind of just sloppy games where he makes a couple errors and maybe gives a break away. He seems more solid, locked in, making people earn it a lot more. He's much more solid. I feel like his serve has also improved a little bit.”

Paige Lorenze and Brad Stine
Paul's girlfriend Paige Lorenze and coach Brad Stine. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour.
The World No. 19 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings has developed into an aggressive all-court player. Paul is comfortable defending in the back of the court, but he has become increasingly willing to move forward and put pressure on opponents. He often jokes about how many times Stine urges him to do so.

The former coach of stars including Jim Courier and Kevin Anderson called the process of developing Paul’s net game a “backwards progression”. It was important to work on his volleys first so that once they shored up his transition game, Paul would be more confident finishing the job.

“You get better and better and better at it. I think he’s volleying pretty well now. I think there is still room for improvement. He can get better as a volleyer still, but I think he’s volleying pretty well,” Stine said at Indian Wells. In this day and age and amongst the guys on the Tour, I would put him among the better volleyers on Tour.” 

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Stine has played a critical role in more than just his charge’s net game development. He has helped Paul consistently ascend the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, from just inside the Top 100 when they started to a Top 20 player.

Paul will need to bring everything they have worked on to Hard Rock Stadium when he faces World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz for a place in the Miami quarter-finals. The home favourite was not thinking too deeply about the matchup before it was set, though.

“I’m excited to play either person,” Paul said. “I’m very excited for either matchup in my next round and I’m going to try and play my best tennis no matter who’s on the other side of the court.”

Paul will take confidence knowing he earned a three-hour, 20-minute victory over Alcaraz last year in Canada. He certainly has the respect of his opponent.

“I enjoy watching him… He is [a] really talented player. He makes everything easy. And, yeah, I like to watch these kinds of players,” Alcaraz said. “He is doing everything well. He moves well. He is fast. He hits great shots. Big forehand, big backhand. He's going to be really, really tough.

“I like to play battles, tough battles. So it's going to be a really tough one, and, of course, I'm going to enjoy [it].”

Paul will too.

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