- School: TCU
- Year Graduated: 2019
- Current Job: Professional tennis player (ATP #472)
Alex Rybakov was born on January 27, 1997 in Plainview, New York. Rybakov was an accomplished junior player and was homeschooled during high school to promote his busy junior circuit schedule. After completing high school in 2015, Rybakov attended TCU.
Rybakov, the lefty, had a successful junior career playing on the ITF Junior Circuit. On the ITF Junior Circuit, Rybakov’s results ranked him as high as #14 in the world. Rybakov competed in the Junior Wimbledon, Junior US Open, and Junior Roland Garros. He reached the round of 16 at Junior Wimbledon in 2014, and the quarterfinals at Junior US Open in 2015. His senior year of high school, Rybakov was ranked #1 in his recruiting class.
Upon arriving at TCU in January of 2016, Rybakov made an impact instantly for TCU. During his freshman season, he played primarily at the #2 position in singles and earned a ranking of #15 in the country. His results had him named ITA Rookie of the Year, Big-12 Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big 12. During his sophomore year he was named an ITA All American and First Team All-Big 12. During his junior year, Rybakov played #1 singles and doubles (primarily with teammate Gui Nunez). He reached a ranking of #12 in singles and #4 in doubles. He was, again, named a doubles All-American and First Team All-Big 12 in singles and doubles. His senior year was more of the same, as he played #1 singles. Based on his results he was again recognized as a Singles All-American, Big 12 Co-Player of the Year, and All-Big 12 Singles First Team.
After a very successful college career at TCU, Rybakov started playing professionally. Ryabov has achieved a career high ATP ranking of #454 in singles. He has won four futures on the ITF circuit and is currently ranked #472. His quick climb up the rankings makes him a player to watch over the next few years, as he is sure to be a name you will be seeing more of.
If you know Alex, you know he wants it bad. He is hardworking and disciplined, and he expects a lot of himself at each tournament. I predict that this guy will make it with time, as he has some serious game with a nasty lefty forehand and great athleticism. Without further ado, enjoy our talk with Alex Rybakov!
7 Questions With Alex Rybakov
#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
I committed to TCU in the summer of 2015. I visited TCU and two other schools and decided TCU was the right fit for me. I started attending TCU in January of 2016. I was in contact with three schools and visited those three which were University of Florida, Wake Forest, and TCU.
I started talking to schools right before the summer of 2015 I was still considering turning pro straight out of high school so I made my decision pretty late compared to others. I knew that a lot of the top schools had very similar resources in terms of good facilities, trainers, nutritionists, etc., so I was really focused on which coaches and players I would want to be around for an extended period of time and which group of people I would fit in the best with. For me the recruiting process was a bit different I committed pretty late and I wasn’t looking at too many schools.
#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
There were a lot of great moments in my college career on and off the court, but one of my personal favorites was clinching the Big 12 regular season title my junior year. Coming into college I didn’t really know the meaning of a conference title and how much it meant to our school. I also didn’t know anything about the Big 12 and how strong of a conference it was. My freshman year we ended up bringing TCU it’s first Big 12 title. Being in school for three years and realizing how big of a deal it was for us, to clinch the Big 12 regular season title at home, against Baylor (our biggest rival), in front of our home crowd was a super special and an unforgettable moment.
One of my favorite matches personally in college was my freshman year at national indoors in the quarterfinals against USC. I came to school in January so I didn’t know much about college tennis and dual matches. I think USC at indoors was my third or fourth college tennis match that I had played, and I ended up being the last court on, saving match points, and clinching the match to send us to the semifinals. It was a surreal feeling winning the last point for the team and having all my teammates and coaches run onto the court to embrace me. This was something that I loved about college tennis and felt like it was something you can only experience in a team atmosphere.
#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
Currently I am playing professional tennis and all of my focus is on that. I have a team around me which includes coach, strength & conditioning coach, and my sponsor. I would also consider my parents as a part of that team that all together pushes me forward and helps me be the best I can on and off the court.
One of the things that college helped me with is realizing that not everything is about me. In college I realized how many people are making sacrifices and busting their butt so that the players can excel and win on the court. This includes coaches, physios, stringers, strength coaches, nutritionists, etc. This helps a lot when you’re having not so great days on the court or are down in a match. Thinking of those people pushes you forward. I feel the same way now with my personal team as a professional.
#4) A lot of juniors and parents worry that tennis will suffer because of the academic demands of college. What advice would you give an 18-year old in terms of balancing academics and tennis?
I think that having school while playing tennis is a great way to learn time management and can actually benefit you in life. Of course, not all schedules with class are perfect but that’s why the schools have academic advisors specifically for athletes to make things like this work. Having class, homework and studying while playing tennis is challenging but it can teach you good life skills such as time management, not procrastinating on things, and making the most of your time. This in turn makes you more appreciative of when you have rest and off-days.
#5) Another thing we see parents worrying about is how the social component of college will affect their kids tennis. What would you tell an 18-year old going to college in regards to having fun without compromising their tennis/academics?
Of course being an athlete will take away from some of your social time but you can’t be elite at anything without making some sort of sacrifice. In ways, being an athlete can help your social life because you can invite people to matches and most people in general love to talk about athletics. You can still have fun, go out, party, and do whatever you want to do you just have to be wise about when you choose to do it and you might not be able to do it as much as some normal students do.
Yes, with school and tennis there definitely is a bit less time for social activities but I wouldn’t say that you can’t still have fun because you are doing school and athletics.
#6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
I took the fall of my sophomore year off because I wanted to play pro. I had gotten up to around #600 in the world before college, After my freshman season my points were dropping and I was freaking out a bit. I ended up taking the fall off, not doing great and getting hurt. I was depressed and not only did I regret it, but I also fell behind in school because I only took some online classes that semester. Although this was something looking back that I could’ve done different, it also helped me realize that at that moment I wasn’t ready to play pro tennis and from that point on I enjoyed my time in college that much more.
There are a lot of things I learned in college, but nothing that I wish I would’ve learned sooner. There are mistakes I made that I learned from along the way but nothing that I feel like I figured out “too late” that I wish I would’ve known earlier.
#7) In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?
In my personal case going to college was the best route for me without a doubt. Not only did I grow as a person mentally and physically, but I had some of the best times of my life and I met people that now to me I consider as part of my family. TCU is now like family to me and also a second home. This is something unique about college and it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Not only did it prepare me to play on tour but also came with much more benefits that I didn’t know I would have when I came to school.
The aspect that I feel is most important to me is the team and the brotherhood. Tennis being an individual sport there is no other scenario where for a full season you are going to be spending all your days with your teammates, eating together, working out together, practicing, working, pushing each other, and then competing side by side to try to win for each other. This makes college extremely unique and as I said before, not only our teammates but people around you making sacrifices for you makes the pressure that much greater and the wins that much sweeter.
One of the best things for me coming to college was the people that I have been around for the last four years. David Roditi and Devin Bowen have been two big influences in my life and have taught me a lot of important life lessons. One of the biggest things might seem simple but just being grateful for everything you have and treating everyone with respect. I feel that through college David and Devin have helped me tremendously with my tennis and I have improved a lot as a player, but more importantly I feel like they have helped me be a better person.