SARASOTA – At 23, JJ Wolf understands the stark difference between playing college tennis and trying to make it work as a professional player.
“It’s definitely a big transition,” Wolf said after winning his Round of 16 match 6-1, 6-2 over Alexis Galarneau at the Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open. “Guys are out here trying to put food on the table. It’s their livelihood. ”
Wolf certainly got the first part right at Ohio State. As a Buckeye he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2017.
Wolf went on to finish his college career with a flourish. In his third and final year at Ohio State, he posted a 45-3 record in singles and doubles and was honored as the College Player of the Year in 2019.
And while earning a living from the game isn’t the same as playing in college, Wolf keeps a special eye on the former college stars he now faces as a professional.
He kept that in mind as he took on Galarneau, who was a standout at North Carolina State, on the clay at the Payne Park Tennis Center.
“I think that guys who go to college are harder to play against because they never give up,” Wolf said. “They are used to that team mentality. I loved playing at Ohio State. They were the best years of my life. ”
Wolf’s years as a pro thus far haven’t been too shabby either. He won four ATP Challenger Tour titles in his first 13 months of playing professionally.
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So far, his brightest moment playing for cash came at the 2019 US Open, where he faced finalist Danill Medvedev in the third round in his Grand Slam debut.
“I’m just trying to follow my game plan and play the right way,” Wolf said.
Wolf’s athletic talent comes naturally. Twenty-six of his relatives have played collegiately and / or professionally in basketball, boxing, volleyball, track and field and tennis.
Grandfather Charley Wolf was an NBA player, as well as an NBA coach. His sister Danielle also played tennis at Ohio State. His father Jeff played tennis professionally and his mother Brooke played college tennis at Miami of Ohio.
Wolf grew up in Cincinnati and still resides there. Lots of those family members were in attendance, filling up the front row of the VIP section at his most recent ATP Challenger Tour event in Sarasota.
“It’s more fun for me to play in front of my family,” Wolf said. “My cousin got to be here. It’s nice to feel at home a little bit. ”
Whether it feels like home or not, Wolf will continue to grind it out in professional tournaments and live the life of a tennis nomad.
“Every tournament I play is important to me right now,” he said. “I try to take advantage of every opportunity I get. I just try to have fun and thank God I get to play healthy. ”
ELIZABETH MOORE SARASOTA OPEN
WHEN: Play in the 32-player main draw continues throughout the week leading up to the championship final scheduled for noon on Sunday.
OF NOTE: The top-ranked player in the field is Jordan Thompson of Sydney, Australia, who is currently No. 78 in the ATP world rankings.
TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $ 20 for general admission to more than $ 1,000 for certain VIP seats.
PARKING: Parking is available at the Sarasota County Public Parking Garage, as well as VIP parking for $ 20 on a first-come, first-serve basis.