A semi-finalist at the Emilia-Romagna Open in May, Paul made the last 16 at the BNP Paribas Open with a win over Andrey Rublev. Unseeded in Stockholm, the 24-year-old American rose to the occasion in his first final, outlasting defending champion Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
ATPTour.com sat down with the World No. 52 right after he captured his maiden title in Stockholm to find out more about the significance of this milestone achievement for Paul.
What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
Everything. I’ve been working very, very hard. The first one obviously means the most and I’ll remember this one the most but hopefully I’ll have many more. It just motivates me to try to go out and try to get more now.
You’ve beaten Leo Borg, Taylor Fritz, Andy Murray and Frances Tiafoe this week, often saying you’re “playing some of your best tennis”. What’s been the key or the difference this week?
I’ve played very good matches. I think it’s been because I’ve had a lot of matches in a row in the past seven weeks, gaining confidence every week, and then also the vibes in Stockholm are amazing. I’m just having a lot of fun out on court, a lot of fun.
Of all the things you’ve achieved this year — Top 50 breakthrough, first Top 5 win and now your first ATP Tour title — what will encourage you to push even harder in the 2022 season?
I think, honestly, I don’t need too much extra motivation. I’m a very motivated guy, even if I’m, like, quietly motivated. I know my goals and I’m pretty excited to accomplish them and hopefully keep accomplishing them.
Please can you talk about the influence of Brad Stine, who you’ve known since the age of 14-15, and your team in general?
Brad has been a big influence, especially. He’s told me these things for two, maybe three years, about being more aggressive and getting to the net, but I think I really started putting it to work and putting it into the match play the past four months, and it’s been huge. I’ve been playing a lot better and I’m going to continue to play like that and should probably listen to him a bit more. And then my team in general, I just have good people around me, I think that’s very important for any player and any team. Good people around me push me in the right direction and a lot of people at home, a lot of people that aren’t even tennis involved, they support me and motivate me. It’s good to have a good team around you.
After a couple of significant injuries in the past, what sacrifices have you made off-court to help you perform better as a tennis player?
It’s a good question. There’s endless answers to this. Every day you have a million decisions that you have to make, and I think the best thing I’ve done this year is before I make any decision, I ask myself if this is best for my tennis. And that’s what I’ve been doing. So in some ways you can call that sacrifice.
At 24, do you feel you’re beginning to enter the peak years of your career?
I hope not, man. I hope my peak years are around 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 … [laughing]. I feel like I’m starting to know my game better and executing my play style better and I hope I have a long peak, you know? A long peak career.
On your ATPTour.com bio it states, “Short-term goals are to improve your net game and win your first ATP Tour title.” What are your next goals going to be?
My first ATP title was definitely my number one goal this year, and I actually got it at the last tournament of the year, just about as late as you can get it. I’m happy with that, but I want to win more. I want to win a lot more. And it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning matches than when you’re losing matches. I definitely want to do that. My next goals are to win bigger titles. Win more 250s, 500s. I just want to play big matches against my friends deep in tournaments.
Could you take a moment to acknowledge some of the key figures in your life and tennis-playing career who have helped you to reach this milestone?
Wow, there’s a lot of people. My mom. Brad, obviously. Diego Moyano, he was my coach for the longest time, taught me what being a professional was – I didn’t really listen too well, but he told it to me. My friend TJ Pura took me out of a couple of dark times in my life and just a lot of friends around me, always supporting me. Even the other Americans, Frances [Tiafoe], [Taylor] Fritz, Reilly [Opelka], they’ve all been very supportive and always try to help me out when they can. It’s endless, there’s a lot of people, my trainers and everything.
What do you consider to be your biggest passion outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about that interest?
I’m just a sports fan all round. I love sports. When I say “all round”, I’m not huge into soccer, not huge into baseball – I like watching play-off baseball. But basketball, I will play basketball any day, I will watch basketball every day. I like being outside, like watching football, college basketball, any sports, man, I love it.
This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory?
I don’t know, man, that’s a tough question. After being in Stockholm, I’m ready to go home. Obviously I’m super happy to be here and win my first title here, but I am ready to go home. I’ve been away from home for a long time and I’m going to go on a little vacation when I get back, so pumped to relax and do that.