19-year-old Valkusz Máté, barely out of school, recently left behind an illustrious junior career to focus on the senior tour; and carve a niche for himself in the commercialized world of professional tennis.
Born in Budapest, Hungary; Valkusz Máté reached a career high of junior World Number 1 in January 2016. He's not had a great run in the junior Grand Slams though, where his best performance was a quarterfinal at the Mecca of tennis, Wimbledon, in 2016; and 3rd round exits at the Australian and French Open.
In doubles however, he reached the semifinals at both the junior Australian Open, and the junior French Open.
However, Valkusz has dominated smaller events on the junior tour; winning the 2015 Yucatán Cup, a Grade 1 event in Mérida; and the Canadian Open junior championships in Repentigny. He also reached the semifinals at the 2015 Orange Bowl(which is almost like the 5th Grand Slam for juniors) and was a semifinalist at the 2015 Osaka Mayor's Cup. He won the Nike Junior tour in 2012.
The right-handed Hungarian trains under the watchful eye of Zoltan Kuharszky; but had missed the first half of the 2016 season due to an ill-timed injury; the repercussions of which he still feels and which still affects his game.
In Hungarian F5 Futures, the level just below the Challenger tour, Mate reached the semifinal in September 2016. Comparatively, he's had a relatively lackluster 2017 season, with the highlight being two quarterfinal results at the Hungary F4 Futures and in the Slovakia F2 features.
Despite that, Valkusz still hasn't lost his passion for tennis and is working hard to reach the top echelons of the game once again. He has a great future ahead of him, and this writer can't wait to watch him winning at the top level very soon.
Excerpts from the exclusive interview:
AYUSHI THAKUR: You recently reached the peak of your career, as the junior no. 1, and are in the top 1000 on the pro tour. What did you change in your game recently to reach this phenomenal level?
VALKUSZ MÁTÉ: I'm just playing my game, I don't really change anything unless I feel that something is going horribly wrong but to answer the question: serve, and volley.
A.T: How many hours in a day do you practice? Run us through your daily schedule?
V.M: In the past 6-12 months I was injured, so I played only 1.5 hours a day or less, or not even played. My schedule is:
7am- 2pm : School
A.T: Has it been tough to balance school and tennis? Have you thought about joining a college and playing college tennis after you graduate from school? What are your thoughts on that?
V.M: I always put tennis as number 1 priority.(my parents get often mad at me lol) and I've got a few college offers, but I don't really wanna be a college player to be honest.
A.T: What do you think is the major difference between the senior tour and the pro tour?
V.M: It's all physical.
A.T: Do you train in Hungary, or somewhere outside the country? Hungary has had very few players who've succeeded at a higher level(Except Timea Babos and Monica Seles). What do you think is the reason for that?
V.M: We don't have a lot of good coaches like USA, France and other countries. And also the places are pretty weak but for now, a new national training center is going to be built.
A.T: Which person has influenced your life the most? Who was your idol growing up?
V.M: It has always been Roger Federer and David Ferrer.
A.T: What is the atmosphere like in the pro tour locker room? Do the older and more experienced players sometimes bully the younger ones?
V.M: We don't really meet older players but if we do we only see the bigger players like Murray, Kyrgios etc, and they look pretty familiar.
A.T: Which match/tournament do you think was the turning point in your life?
V.M: Probably the 2012 Nike junior tour which I won.
A.T: What advice would you give to upcoming younger players who want to take up tennis professionally?
V.M: Probably that stretching and warming up is really important because I didn't really do that, and now I have problems. They should focus on their body too.
A.T: What are your thoughts on the equal prize money controversy?
V.M: I think girls shouldn't get as money as men's because girls tennis is a different sport.
A.T: Novak Djokovic said that he was approached as a junior to do match fixing. Have you ever been approached the same way?
V.M: Yes I've been getting a few messages about match fixing but I always report them.
A.T: What are your end of year goals? At what ranking do you see yourself at in 5 years?
V.M: I'm not focusing on juniors anymore so probably if I end up in the top 5 I'd be happy and in the ATP, I want to be in top 800 this year.