- School: Stanford
- Year Graduated: 2012
- Current Job: Professional tennis player (ATP #126, career high #63)
Bradley Klahn was born on August 20, 1990 in Poway, California. He was raised there and picked up tennis at the age of 11. Klahn attended Poway High School before enrolling at Stanford in the fall of 2008.
Bradley was an accomplished junior tennis player. In his later years, he played mostly on the ITF Junior Tour, competing in tournaments all over the world. He built his ranking up enough to play each Junior Grand Slam multiple times, making the 3rd round in 3 of them. His highest ranking in the juniors was #14 in the world. Before going to college, he was the #1 recruit in the United States for his senior class.
In Bradley’s career at Stanford, he became one of the best collegiate players in the country. He was acknowledged as the ITA National Rookie of the Year in 2009. Over the next few years, he became a 6-time All-American (singles and doubles 3 times each). Most notably, in 2010 he took home the NCAA Singles Individual title as a sophomore, giving him a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open. In his 4 years, he amassed an astonishing 130-34 singles record (70-22 in dual matches) and a 133-33 doubles record (68-17 in dual matches). Impressively, he played exclusively at the #1 and #2 singles positions. That’s a lot of wins against a lot of good players. For a full list of his achievements in college, see his profile at gostanford.com.
After graduating at Stanford in 2012, Bradley decided to take his talents to the professional tour. He reached a career high ranking in 2014 at ATP #63. Currently, he sits at #126. He has earned a spot to compete in each Grand Slam in the main draw, reaching the second round at Wimbledon and the US Open. One of his best “on paper” wins while on tour came in 2018, when he defeated David Ferrer in straight sets.
While Klahn has established himself as a world class tennis player at every level throughout his career (juniors, college, and pro), he has also shown that he is a great character. Coming back to school after winning the NCAA singles title in 2010 will show you that to him, there is more to life than tennis. He puts 100% effort into everything he does. There is a lot to learn from this guy, so hopefully you’re able to take something away from the stories and advice that he shares. Give it up for Bradley Klahn!
7 Questions With Bradley Klahn
#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
I committed to Stanford following my junior year of High School, before the July 1st contact period started. After visiting Stanford on an unofficial visit in the winter of my junior year, it quickly went to the top of my list due to its reputation for excellence in academics and athletics. I spoke with Stanford, USC, UCLA, UVA, Duke, and Notre Dame. As the process went along, I discovered that I didn’t want to leave California, before ultimately choosing Stanford.
I really started talking to schools at the start of my junior year. I only took 3 unofficial visits to Stanford, USC, and UCLA. I was looking for the best combination of academics and athletics, a place that could challenge me on and off the court and best set me up for a future with or without tennis. While I always had the goal to play professional tennis, I knew that professional tennis has a finite shelf life and it was important for me to earn a degree. Stanford has provided me a great network of friends who are successful in many different walks of life.
One thing that really stood out to me on my unofficial visit to Stanford was how much effort the coaches put into making sure I not only met the guys on the team but spent time getting to know them throughout the trip. These are the guys you are going to spend a large majority of your college career with and it’s crucial that you find a comfortable fit amongst your teammates. From day 1, the coaches and players made it known they were eager to have me as a part of the team, which made a huge impact on my selection. It also helps that I instantly fell in love with the campus and the area, as well as the culture of success at Stanford.
#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
My favorite aspect of college was playing a sport I love on a team with some of my best friends, surrounded by a great network of fraternity brothers, friends, and professors who pushed me to succeed off the court just as much as on court. Really- I loved the entire experience, and not to say there weren’t hardships, but I look back on those times and realize how much they shaped the man I am today.
I remember freshman year flying into Chicago for Team Indoors, and we were all dressed up in our khakis, a button down, and sport coat. First stop we make upon arrival? Walk right into McDonald’s looking sharp. It felt so goofy but so hilarious, and clearly still stands out.
My favorite moment of college though: when we hosted NCAA’s my junior year. Winning under the lights against Texas A&M in front of a rowdy crowd, and then coming back two days later against UVA Saturday afternoon and having the support top the previous round, it’s an atmosphere that I’ll never forget.
I’ve been very fortunate to play on some big stages as a professional, but I’ll put those two matches up there with anything in the pros because we were representing more than ourselves- we were playing for our teammates, our school, and the community. I can still vividly see our buddies dressed up in costume- Ninja Turtles, Uncle Sam, and an elephant to name a few.
#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
Playing four years of college tennis taught me the skill of working with others toward a common goal, continued to solidify the need for daily disciplined work toward that goal, and resiliency. There is no time to dwell on mistakes or losses, whether individually, because you need to make sure you’re still supporting your teammates in their matches, or as a team after a loss when the next opportunity to perform is the following day. Simply put, it builds character. How quickly can you accept and move on? How much are you willing to sacrifice for your goals? How do you treat those around you when things don’t go your way? These qualities are imperative to any growth.
#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?
What better way to learn life skills that will serve you well in the future than to start at a young age learning to balance separate tasks? College is the first time for many where you are on your own and begin to take serious responsibility for yourself. There is nobody telling you to wake up at a certain time, show up, or do anything. It’s up to you to find out what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice. The skills I learned of time management and how to prioritize and stay focused on the task at hand are imperative to success in the future. It wasn’t until college that I really decided I was going to give professional tennis my full attention and believe I could be successful.
#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?
Know that your actions have consequences. It’s important to have fun in college- these are some incredible memories and you make friendships that often last a lifetime, so 100% take advantage of those opportunities. However, you also can’t lose sight of your own goals, academically or athletically. There will be times you have to sacrifice one thing for another. This goes both ways. You may not be able to go to the event with your friends because of an exam or match the next day, but there may be days where you’re overwhelmed with the rigors of academics/tennis and just need to decompress with friends. As long as you know WHAT your responsibilities are and WHY you are making that sacrifice, you will have an easier time brushing off any feelings of guilt and be able to sleep well knowing you made the best decision for YOU. It comes down to intention.
#6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
I would have taken advantage of the opportunities outside of tennis that Stanford provided by going and listening to speakers, learning about other career paths, and spending more time with my professors. I worked hard in school to earn good grades, but also knew I wanted to play professional tennis. It was easy to get stuck in that one-track mind, but Stanford is a place where everyone excels in his or her own unique way and there is so much to learn from each person’s path.
When I arrived at Stanford, I was overwhelmed by how accomplished and intelligent everyone was. As I progressed, I realized that all that hard work intellectually growing up was still in me and found my academic confidence again amongst my peers, which also helped me feel more confident on court. This can really be summarized as: finding balance. Something we all strive for yet can seem unattainable at times.
#7) In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?
I wasn’t physically or mentally mature enough to go straight to the pros. I also think college is an invaluable tool to develop many different sets of life skills, unless you are lighting up the professional tour before you would start college, which I wasn’t.
College presents it’s own set of personal responsibilities. There is nobody there to tell you what you can and can’t do. It can be really scary at first. I remember the first paper I wrote fall of freshman year, I procrastinated until the night before, up past 3 am writing absolute junk, and received the paper back with a note that said, “Please see me.” I walked into the professor’s office with my tail between my legs. Fast forward 3 years and I couldn’t wait to write papers, spending hours and hours doing research for my Economics Writing in the Major course and putting together a paper I was proud of. There are many other examples of this throughout my career, both on and off the court, but the biggest lesson I took from it was- life is going to keep punching you in the face. It’s your responsibility to find a way back on your feet with a determined smile on your face and take pride in your work, whatever that is.
You get to choose who you surround yourself with to support you- family, friends, professors, coaches, and mentors, but you and you alone have to create your own path.