Shawn Jackson and Ostap Kovalenko looked back on their doubles match at the New York Open. Despite a first-round 6-1, 6-0 loss to Robert Lindstedt and Tennys Sandgren, the Hofstra products enjoyed every moment of their time on court.
Jackson, Kovalenko speak about opportunity to play in local tour event
Talking about the experience, Jackson said "I thought it was definitely more. I feel like I've played actually better than I thought I was going to play and I think after the first few games my nerves settled down and I was much more relaxed.
"It's just amazing to be in this situation right now, like being at a press conference when i'm watching the pros do this stuff. It's amazing. I'm almost speechless."
Kovalenko stated "yeah, I also felt nervous before the match. I spoke with my family. Try to keep calm but I served on my first service games I served a double fault on deuce point, I was tight. We actually played pretty good. I think we did a nice job."
Crowd "helped us get through the match" says Jackson
With the Hofstra campus across the street from the Nassau Coliseum, the venue the tournament is being played at, Jackson stated that it "definitely gave a college experience to it a little bit to it because we had the Hofstra crew and my family 'cause they come sometimes to support for the Hofstra matches.
"If they weren't there, definitely feel like a worse experience. They really helped us get through the match. They helped me be relaxed, when I was tight I looked at them and I played better when they were watching so I know that for a fact."
When asked what the difference between this match and a college match was, Jackson stated "court size and tossing the ball up and seeing giant lights and the crowd. It's tough that way. You have to focus even harder and you have to play better" while Kovalenko said "a lot of people, it's a huge distraction. It was difficult. With the ball boys, I always wanted to pick ball by myself. Then I got used to it and it was fun."
Hofstra duo talk about chances to hold
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Americans had several chances to hold. "We were excited", Jackson said. "We were definitely excited cause we definitely thought we could win the game, but it's actually a lot harder than we thought in that moment.
"I felt like they could turn it up at any time during the match. Like if it got tight with scoring, they were able to kind of come up with a better shot or we felt the pressure and we missed.".
Kovalenko, Jackson targeting different paths for the future
When asked about turning pro, the two men had differing answers. "Yeah, we will try to play some futures to improve our pro rank", Kovalenko stated. "We actually talked about this a couple of days ago to play some pro tournaments during the summer. So we're definitely going to try."
"For me, I'm kind of towards the side of not going pro", Jackson said. "I'm actually a pre-med major at Hofstra and I am planning on following my dad's footsteps and being a doctor.
"What he (Kovalenko) was talking about with the futures tournaments and maybe in the summertime playing some ITF tournaments. For him, he might want to do that. For me I'm a bit different. I kind of know I'm a little small for the game and having an injury is a high risk.
"I know that if I get injured and I go pro I might have a setback and then I don't have Plan B. So for me being a doctor is my passion, that's what I want to do."
Hofstra coach "big influence", "very thankful" for opportunity
Third-year Hofstra coach Jason Pasion has been a huge factor in preparing Jackson and Kovalenko for this moment. "Yeah, I want to tell you coach I'm really thankful for his support and help", Kovalenko said. "We made great job last week when we knew about the wild-card we practice every day four times a day. It was pretty tough. But I think it's helped us to play a good match like we did today."
For his part, Pasion reflected on the journey he and his players took leading up to this opportunity. "It's just been an amazing couple of days", he said. "When we got the wild card, they didn't believe me at first. They thought that I was just joking around. My advice was to really enjoy the moment and to take it all in because we're not sure if we'll ever have the chance again.
"I really believed they maximized the experience. Something that they'll remember probably for the rest of their life. Really thankful for the ATP and New York Open for giving us this opportunity."