- School: Duke University/ University of Arkansas
- Year Graduated: 2017
- Current Job: Professional tennis player (ATP #344)
Mike Redlicki was born on November 16, 1993 in Chicago, Illinois. Around age 16, he and his family moved to Boca Raton, Florida to train at the USTA training center. When he moved, he began online schooling in order to be more flexible for his tennis schedule.
Michael had a very successful junior career before heading to Duke University. He was ranked as high as the #7 recruit in the country. He and partner Dennis Novikov won the 2012 USTA Boys 18 National Championship, which earned them a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open. They advanced to the second round of doubles at the US Open.
Michael began his college experience at Duke University after his successful junior career. At Duke, he had a career high ranking of #29 in the country and was named to the All-ACC team and All-ACC Academic team. He was also named ITA Carolina Region Rookie of the Year. Redlicki finished his undergrad degree at Duke in 2 and a half years. After competing two seasons at Duke, Redlicki transferred to the University of Arkansas to finish his eligibility and pursue a masters in business administration. At Arkansas, Redlicki became an ITA All-American and qualified for the NCAA Individual tournament in both his seasons. He won the national indoors individual tournament in the fall, giving him the #1 ranking in the country. Redlicki played primarily at the #1 position at Arkansas and was named ITA Central Regional Senior Player of the Year and to the All-SEC first-team his senior year.
After graduating, Redlicki took his talents to professional tennis. During his time on tour Redlicki has achieved a career high ranking of #313 in singles, currently sitting at #344. He has won both a singles and a doubles futures title, earning wins over top players such as Tennys Sandgren.
Personally, I have known Mike and his brother Martin since I started college. Mike has loads of talent and it is clear that his potential to reach the top 100 and beyond is more than prevalent. He admits that once his is able to reign in the mental aspect of the game it will be smooth sailing from there, as his athleticism and ball striking are both off the charts. I root for Mike as hard as anyone else on tour and I know he will achieve his goals! Read Mike’s interview about what he got out of college tennis below and enjoy, this is an informative one!
7 Questions With Michael Redlicki
#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
Oddly enough, I had two recruiting processes. Players usually go through one, but my time was cut short on my first college team and had to finish my eligibility on another. I started talking to coaches as soon as the June 1st date came around my rising senior year, and I was blessed to receive interest from a considerable amount of universities via their letters they would send to my house and Facebook. I always knew that I was going to play for one of a few places from the get-go, so I kept my focus on this idea, while showing appreciation for all the interest that I did receive. My search was quickly refined to three main options: Duke, Illinois, and Michigan.
I’ve had a relationship with Brad Dancer (Illinois Head Coach) since I was young. I have been around him and the Illinois team more than average since I grew up in Chicago. One of my favorite coaches growing up, Mark Merklein, had taken a job at Michigan after we had worked together at the USTA Boca facility in my high school years. I personally prioritized the relationship that I would have with my coach because over the course of years, compatibility would end up being most important as you would get tested as you experience the ups and downs of tennis together.
As soon as an opportunity to play and represent Duke University became an option for me, I could not ignore it and saw it as a life changing opportunity. When choosing a university to play for, I wanted to find the best mix of a good relationship with my coach, a life changing experience studying at that school, and obviously the tennis benefit that playing for a program would give me, since I had very real aspirations to pursue tennis professionally after the fact. I ended up deciding to play for Duke University, and I completed my eligibility at the University of Arkansas with Coach Andy Jackson.
One thing I wish the NCAA would change when it comes to college recruiting is limiting the amount of exposure/time a coach could have with players in person and over the phones. This takes away from the student athlete being able to make the most informed decision for their lives, which I believe defeats the purpose of making such a big decision in the first place. The idea of limiting contact between a coach and player also just doesn’t sound right to me from a principle standpoint.
#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
I will share my favorite moments and aspect. My favorite moment would probably have to be tied between two instances. I am a team focused individual so the experience of being a part of an Arkansas team that started a season unranked and ran it up all the way to being just outside the top 10 at #12 was something I will never forget. The camaraderie that was so present and vibrant on this team was the leading factor in why we were able to achieve as much success as we did. Even though we didn’t take advantage of a massive opportunity at the end of the year with being able to host the Regional rounds of the NCAA tournament in Fayetteville, this still has to be a feeling/experience that will never leave me.
The other experience would have to be my week I had at the 2016 ITA National Indoors in NYC. To this day, it is the craziest week I’ve experienced in my tennis life, and to conclude it with a title on my mother’s birthday made it that much sweeter. I spent the week in NYC with my teammate Jose Salazar and coach Jackson, we stayed in Manhattan, and got to experience unforgettable moments in a packed Times Square, adding to the whole memory.
My favorite aspect of college tennis would have to be the respect that we as student athletes gain from professionals in the real world regarding our time management, work ethic, and our excellence in a discipline as difficult as tennis. These are the only people in my life that have really appreciated what myself and all other athletes have overcome with our nonstop lifestyles, regardless of what we studied at school. It’s a unique feeling to be valued for something that we feel as being just a part of everyday life.
#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
College tennis prepared me for life more so than I had ever expected. In addition to all of the time management and work ethic properties we as student athletes had to develop in school in order to survive (graduate), experiences that I’ve had exposed me to certain ugly truths in the world that I was simply too naïve to accept or understand beforehand. An example would be that you can’t really know what someone, who you believed to be very close to you, is capable of when things don’t go according to plan, or when tribulations test a relationship. More specifically, the change of hearts that I have experienced from those who I thought supported me most, or were in my corner, knocked me on my ass.
My naivety made some of the harder times of my college tennis career hurt more than they might have hurt someone more prepared for life at 20 years old. It forced me to start over, but I am ultimately thankful that I was able to start over with this new perspective. I really think it’s what allowed me to find Coach Jackson and the Arkansas family who have only taken my life and my tennis to new heights, and for that I will forever thank both of you. Woo Pig!!
#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?
When it comes to balancing the academic and athletic element, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but with the exception of a select few institutions that are mostly known for their academic prowess, I believe that it comes down to the level of raw intent that comes from the student athlete. I remember how easy I got sucked into the mental trap of not wanting to do homework in a timely manner and rather saved it for the last minute because I was so quick to blame the fatigue that I felt from my two hours of tennis and one hour of fitness. I understand that there are courses of study that require much more classroom presence than others because of the nature of the subject, but if I had a gun to my head, I would have to say that any anguish I felt academically was a result of my own procrastination and occasional mismanagement of time.
I also understand that for a lot of players that come from a homeschool environment during their junior years, the academics might have felt as more of a prerequisite for college tennis rather than an opportunity to advance one’s base of knowledge. My biggest recommendation would be this: try your best to see the academic element of college tennis as an opportunity to better your life skills. Challenge yourself to be optimal at managing your time, and learn to teach yourself that you indeed are capable of doing way more than you originally thought, especially when you’re ‘tired’. I believe it is much more a matter of self-motivation than a matter of simply having too much on your plate.
#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?
Another unconventional answer incoming, but it comes from the heart because of my own experience and failure to manage the social/academic/athletic life triangle that is college tennis. My best advice to an 18-year-old would be that chances are you are not going to go about your time perfectly while at school. It is an experience that literally everybody going through the system has. In my opinion, the way to go about the social life balance learning process most effectively is to understand that opportunity will be very prevalent in college, regardless of how little you were involved with outside of tennis, just like I was. There is no shortage of fun to be had in college, because college makes sure of that. With this understanding, hopefully you won’t make decisions based on the idea of FOMO, but you will make decisions that you will tell yourself are in your best long-term interest.
Should you experience the inevitable in the form of having a lapse of judgement, the most critical thing would be NOT to hate yourself, NOT to feel bad for yourself, but to understand that you have an opportunity to learn from your mistake. As you get older, you will start to realize that experience is the best teacher in life, so you need to have a few in order to learn something. If you can keep these principles in mind, your odds that you will come out of school a more well-rounded individual can skyrocket.
My advice to parents, as a new parent myself, is to let their kids live their lives (within reason), and do not try to get involved in the form of preventing your child’s inevitable mistake. It will accelerate their preparation for the real world once they come face to face with it.
#6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
I will keep this short and sweet, since my main point was expressed in the question above regarding learning from mistakes. The things that I would do differently during my near 6 year college tenure would be:
a. Meet people. As many as you can. It might feel awkward or out of place initially, but I wish I had the perspective to do much more of it during my entire 6 years in school. We are going to enter a world in where everyone has the same and correct information, so the differentiating factor will be one’s relationships in life. The saying of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” will prove to be so much more true than any of us have ever thought. Times are changing, and it’s only efficient to change with the times.
b. Give your best effort at anything you do. Yes. This is the most cliché thing I will write all day, but there is so much truth in it. Regardless of what you’re doing in college, if you give less than your best genuine effort, you are only hurting yourself by limiting yourself from experiencing what you’re capable of, and what’s possible.
I had a big difficulty with this in my earlier years, because I took it all for granted. It felt like everything I had was supposed to be that way, and it was simply the next step in my life’s process. I wasn’t able to truly value the opportunity I had being at an institution like Duke, because I let an immaturity distract me and keep me from being my best version of myself during such a pivotal time in my life LOADED with opportunity.
#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 believe that it is in everybody’s interest to go to college before committing to a professional career. First and foremost, there is no going back to college on the school’s dollar once you go pro, should you be blessed enough to be playing that game.
Second, you are as far as possible from your physical and mental peak at 18 years old, especially if you’re a guy. You are still a child, who still has a lot to learn about themselves. The argument of there not always being opportunity, but college will always be there doesn’t hold its own water when you see how many young (male) players are actually thriving in their pro tennis careers.
College was the best way to learn about myself and my tendencies, especially when my parents weren’t looking. Itgives you a chance to learn about life and the world through your own lens and perspective, and these elements of maturity go far undervalued in the context of a mentally taxing professional tennis career. I am so happy that I stuck with my gut with deciding to go to college, and I am ecstatic at the thought that I was able to finesse a 6-year stay. Without it, I wouldn’t have achieved 10% of the ‘success’ I’ve had on tour, and I will preach going to college for development until nobody asks me for my opinion anymore.
I want to thank Karue and Austin for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I have been blessed with the ultimate mix of highs and lows during my formidable college years, and I have lived through things that have given me insights that I will lean on for the rest of my days. I hope you all enjoyed my twenty cents on this matter. Stay safe during these trying COVID times and prioritize inner peace. It will be the ultimate solution in the end.