Roger Federer retired last year and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka turns 38 later this month. But the future of Swiss men’s tennis appears in good hands.
Dominic Stricker made a splash last year by competing in the Next Gen ATP Finals. On Thursday, 21-year-old Leandro Riedi will make his ATP Masters 1000 debut at the BNP Paribas Open against Jack Draper after qualifying for the prestigious tournament on his first attempt at this level. He is up to No. 120 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a bit of a struggle in the beginning, the first six, seven months were not easy. From juniors to the pros, it’s a step,” Riedi told ATPTour.com. “But it was all worth it and now I’m feeling pretty well, especially the past couple months I’ve been pretty good and I really enjoy it.”
The 20-year-old Stricker and 21-year-old Riedi are new on the scene as #NextGenATP players, but they have known each other since early in their junior days. Riedi recalls that they first met in 2011. In January 2014, before they were teens, when they represented their country together in a team event. From that year on, they began training together every Wednesday at the Swiss Federation and became close friends.
While Stricker sprinted to success, Riedi watched from afar and used the lefty’s triumphs as fuel to continue his own climb.
“I’m definitely not the guy who’s a jealous guy or feel I’m under pressure now. Maybe a bit you have this feeling that if he does it, you have to do it as well,” Riedi said. “But for me it was all motivation and I was just happy for him that he played well. Of course at the same time you’re pretty motivated if he can do it, then I can do it as well. That was my mindset a bit.”
Riedi plays football after qualifying for Indian Wells. Photo credit: Andrew Eichenholz/ATP Tour.
Mindset has proved key for Riedi. The Swiss admits that it is not his physical game that has held him back in the past. This year’s Canberra ATP Challenger Tour finalist, who nearly upset Hubert Hurkacz in Marseille, has battled against himself.
“Definitely mentally I’ve improved a lot in the past three months, four months, especially on court. I’ve improved a lot supporting myself, not destroying myself, because it’s already hard enough against those guys to play,” Riedi said. “And if you’re not helping yourself, it’s just so tough to win.”
Instead of moving on from a bad spot of form in a match, Riedi would dwell on it, exacerbating the issue. It would carry off the court, too.
“You’re alone on the court and if you [are very hard on] yourself there, it’s just really, really hard,” Riedi said. “And I felt when I started playing the Challengers and then I remember playing the qualies of the Swiss Indoors, I had some smell of what it’s like to be there and if you’re not on your ‘A’ game there mentally, you’re just not going to win. You can maybe win luckily. But to maintain it, it’s just not possible.”
Riedi’s former coach left him last year because he felt the Swiss needed to mature in his mental game. That proved a turning point for the rising star, who won back-to-back Challenger crowns in November.
“I don’t want to be that guy,” Riedi said. “I want to be the friendly guy and I guess the change happened. It’s working, it’s a lot of fun.”
The fun of the sport is what helped draw Riedi to tennis years ago. At a young age, the Zurich-born player preferred football to tennis. But by nine years old, he began competing in more tennis tournaments and enjoyed it. The travel became a perk as he has always liked visiting new places. In the past few years he even spent three months training in Delray Beach, Florida with Jose Antonio Fernandez, which he pointed to as another pivotal moment in his development
Now Riedi is competing on one of the biggest stages in the sport. He hopes to continue on his positive trajectory, with the goals of soon cracking the world’s Top 100 and qualifying for this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals. If the 21-year-old continues mastering his mind, those accomplishments could be well within reach.
“I still have stuff to improve on the tennis side as well, but everyone can play pretty good tennis here,” Riedi said. “Every match is so close and in the end I think it depends on the mental side, if you’re there or not. I just knew I could improve so much mentally if I’m really here. I can push more and see what I can do. If I still lose, I’m still happy with it.”