By Sally Milano, USTA.com
Duke University's Michael Redlicki was one of the most highly touted freshman coming into the 2012-13 season, and he is currently listed at No. 52 in singles and No. 24 in doubles in the NCAA Division I rankings. A 6-foot-7 lefthander from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., Redlicki teamed with current UCLA sophomore Dennis Novikov to win the doubles title at last year's USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships, which earned the pair a wild card into the doubles main draw at the US Open.
Redlicki, who previously trained with USTA National Coaches in Boca Raton, Fla., talks about his favorite things about Duke, the biggest differences between junior and collegiate tennis and more in the latest USTA.com College Spotlight.
USTA.com: Was the decision to go to college versus turning pro after high school a difficult one?
Michael Redlicki: To be honest, it wasn’t as tough a decision as I thought it was going to be. Growing up, I was exposed to a good amount of college tennis, given that I’m from Chicago. There were a good amount of Northwestern dual matches, along with the National Indoors being hosted at the Midtown Atletic Club downtown that I watched on a consistent basis. So since I was a kid being exposed to this crazily intense energy that occurred during these duals, I knew I wanted to be one of those guys who was on court playing for a university and being in the middle of all the buzz. As I got older, I kept learning new information about life on tour and what I would give up if I chose to go that route – my eligibility to play college tennis, athletic scholarships, etc. I feel blessed that I was able to learn the pros and cons of both lives.
USTA.com: What is your favorite thing about Duke so far?
Michael Redlicki: My favorite thing about Duke so far is the environment that I wake up to every morning. When I’m in class, I’m surrounded by people who are part of an elite population in this country when it comes to their brilliance and their knowledge. When I learned the types of students who are turned down for admission to Duke University on a yearly basis, not only was I at a loss for words, but I also felt honored to sit beside these people, and I try to learn as much as I can from them.
When I’m playing tennis or working with our fitness coach at our facilities, I’m exposed to a group of people who all share the same goal as I have – to be national champions – and they are more than willing to do anything it takes to reach that goal. The Duke players and staff are some of the most determined people I have ever known. All strive for perfection versus simple satisfaction, which to me is what differentiates the good from the best. Having everyone bring this intensity to the table on a daily basis forces me to bring my best at all times.
Aside from that, I’d say that our campus has to be one of the nicest any college has to offer. Our facilities are top-of-the-line, and I’m thankful to have all these resources at my disposal.
USTA.com: What is the biggest difference between junior tennis and college tennis?
Michael Redlicki: Everyone in college tennis is more physical, and the level of tennis is much higher than the level that exists in junior tennis. But the biggest difference by far, which people tend to overlook, is the mental warfare that occurs in college tennis. People say that it is important to handle adversity when it comes to bad calls and bad weather conditions, etc. In college tennis, this is the least of your worries. Unfortunately, bad calls are not an unusual part of the game, but there are things that are much more difficult to deal with in college tennis – like knowing the stakes of a match when you play for a university can get the best of you. Not only are you playing for yourself, but you are also representing a world-renowned institution by carrying the school logo on your shirt.
USTA.com: Describe a typical day in the life of Michael Redlicki.
Michael Redlicki: Well, this changes on a daily basis, given my schedule for the spring semester, but Monday and Wednesday I have class from 10 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon. Straight out of class, I make my way to the tennis center for practice at 1:30 and fitness that will typically last until near 5 p.m. After fitness, I have to keep it together so I can quickly shower and grab dinner before my class at 6:15 at night that is two-and-a-half-hours long. After class, I will make it back to my room around 9, and it will be the biggest blessing to see my bed.
The other three days of the week I will have an individual lesson with either (head coach) Ramsey Smith or (assistant coach) Jonathan Stokke at 9:30 in the morning. After the individual, I have time to catch up on homework until 3:15 happens, which means it’s time for team practice. After practice, we have fitness, and our day ends at about 6 p.m. The weekends are filled with dual matches that I am always so excited for.
USTA.com: What are your goals for yourself and your team this season?
Michael Redlicki: The No. 1 priority is to be the most successful Duke tennis team ever. The most success the team has ever had was winning an ACC title and reaching the quarterfinals at the NCAA tournament. We want to surpass the quarterfinals and go for it all. And we really feel like we have a legitimate chance to take the NCAA title back to Durham. We have a lineup that is one of the deepest in the nation, and all nine players possess a mentality to win. We are very excited to go into every match knowing that if we are going to be beaten, the other team has to come ready to play and execute like never before, otherwise our depth and overall team focus will prove to be too much for many squads.
USTA.com: How do you balance tennis and academics?
Michael Redlicki: Going to Duke University, there is the common belief that the school is impossible and it’s a bunch of rocket scientists just being brilliant with each other. To be honest, this isn’t too far of a stretch from the truth. [But] you can make it as hard on yourself as you want and vice versa. A student who is not on top of his studies from point A to point B will tend to have a much more difficult time than someone who knows his syllabi inside out and actually does everything it says.
Having a sport that I am fully committed to at Duke University, down time is honestly a blessing. From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, I’m always on the move doing something. Whether it is sitting in class, working hard on court or the weight room, eating or doing homework/readings for class the next day, there is rarely a time that I have no responsibilities. This makes my time at school a constant grind. The greatest part about "the grind" is that anything I achieve in my four years here, whether it is on court or in the classroom, I know that it is me who achieved it. Nothing is given to you at Duke, which could be the thing that I will be most thankful for when my time here is done.