PRATT: Getting to Know US Open Wild Card Zach Svajda

Ever since he scored the biggest win of his young tennis career, 16-year-old Zach Svajda’s life has been a whirlwind.

That’s what happens when you win the most coveted prize in all of junior tennis as Svajda of Pacific Beach won the USTA National 18s Hardcourts at Kalamazoo two weeks ago to earn a main-draw singles wild card into the U.S. Open.

Just a few days after signing a professional contract, Svajda learned Thursday who he will face in the first round as he will play former Wimbledon and US Open finalist Kevin Anderson, the No. 16 seeded player. If Svajda manages the upset and beats Anderson he will face a Serbian in the second round as he would play the winner of Laslo Djere and Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

After spending a couple of well-earned days off, Svajda arrived in New York on Tuesday night and began taking in all the sites during his first trip to Big Apple.

Zach Svajda practices with Roger Federer during the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells.

Because he rarely played junior tournaments, there is not a lot known about Svajda and not much has been written. Svadja has only played two or three ITF junior tournaments the past few years, instead choosing to just hit and play practice sets. I first heard the name Zach Svajda 10 months ago when he won a main-draw wild card playoff tournament and received entry into the main draw at Barry Friedman’s USTA $15,000 Pro Circuit Futures event. Zach went out and won his first ATP point by upsetting the tournament’s No. 1 seed (ranked No. 480 in the world at the time) in the first round.

In March, Svajda lost in the second round of the Adidas Easter Bowl to the eventual 18s winner and the following week at the USTA International Spring Championships he made the finals in the 18s falling to Canada’s No. 1 junior.

Zach told father Tom he wasn’t going to play Kalamazoo, and that he was already planning on going to New York to play the US Open Juniors. “He said he was already in, and he didn’t want to play the 16s at Kalamazoo,” said Tom, who lets Zach choose what tournament he wants to play and wanted him to have the experience of playing Kalamazoo since he also played it as a junior. “I said you should play the 18s, and I know the USTA coaches were encouraging him to play.”

Tom did confirm that Zach will play the US Open Juniors during the second week, but added that his confident son said he would play, “only if I’m not still alive in the main draw,” Tom said.

Here are some other interesting notes on Svajda, who is the youngest main draw men’s player to play the US Open since Donald Young in 2005:

  • Zach told’s Colette Lewis after winning the USTA Nationals at Kalamazoo that he would be accepting the $58,000 earned for playing in the first round.
  • Earlier in the week, Zach signed a professional contract with TopNotch Management and will be co-managed by Sam Duvall and Jason Beres.
  • In June at an ITF $25,000 Pro Futures event, he beat UCLA’s Keegan Smith in straight sets.
  • Zach had also applied for a US Open wild card into the main draw of doubles.
  • Joining Svajda as main draw US singles wild cards are: Jack Sock, Christopher Eubanks, Bjorn Fratangelo, Marcos Giron, Ernesto Escobedo, Frenchman Antoine Hoang and Australian Thomas Kokkinakis.
  • Zach is currently ranked No. 1,419 in the ATP Rankings.
  • Zach’s father Tom Svajda is a teaching pro at the Pacific Beach Tennis Club. He will have one of the allotted coaching credentials during the Open.
  • The other coach credential will be given to Matt Hanlin, who coached Zach when he was first took up the game of tennis at age 2.
  • Hanlin lives in McKinney, Texas, and coaches several top-level pros and juniors. Through a connection, Hanlin set up a hitting session for Zach with Tim Smycek. Smyceck then introduced Zach to John Isner, who Zach has remained close friends with. In March Zach was used as a practice partner at the BNP Paribas Open. Zach also got to warm-up Roger Federer multiple times, including before the singles final.
  • Originally from England, Hanlin is a former University of Washington star.
  • Also in New York supporting Zach is his mother Anita and Zach’s 13-year-old brother Trevor.
  • From USTA Player Development, Zach will receive support from National Coaches Dean Goldfine, Sylvain Guichard and Diego Moyano.
  • Tom said Zach texted him the word “Yikes!” when he told his father he was asked to attend the ATP Player Council Meeting on Friday evening before the tournament starts.

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