Philip Sekulic is one of the brightest young prospects in Australian tennis.
The 19-year-old achieved a career-high junior ranking of world No.22 and was named Male Junior Athlete of the Year at the 2021 Australian Tennis Awards.
Sekulic is now making his mark on the professional tour. He scored his first Grand Slam-level win in Australian Open 2022 qualifying and after progressing to the biggest singles final of his career at an Australian Pro Tour event in Cairns this month, currently sits at a career-high ranking of No.543.
In our series profiling Tennis Australia’s National Tennis Academy athletes, Sekulic outlines his future goals and shares some of his biggest lessons …
Tell us about your start in tennis. How old were you when you started playing?
I started playing tennis when I was three. There was a new club (Morningside Tennis Centre in Brisbane) opening up, so my parents decided that I should go and just try tennis. I was pretty good, so I just kept playing.
What do you enjoy most about tennis?
I like to compete and I like to play in front of people. I find it pretty fun.
What are your tennis goals?
My goal in my career is to become a top 100-ranked tennis player.
You had a successful junior career and competed at all the junior Grand Slams. Tell us about those experiences.
Playing the junior Grand Slams was a great opportunity and a great experience. The best juniors in the world play, so it was really cool and fun.
Do you have a favourite Grand Slam tournament?
My favourite to play was the Australian Open, because of the Aussie crowd support. The crowd was really good to play in front of.
You competed in the Australian Open 2022 men’s qualifying singles competition. Can you tell us how you felt about that experience?
I was pretty excited, but also nervous. But I think I played pretty well, so I’m pretty happy with how I went.
To reach the second round as a No.986-ranked wildcard, you must have been really proud of that result?
It was great. I’m just really thankful for all the support from my coaches and my parents, who were there watching me play. It was a good moment.
You travelled a lot during 2021, spending the most time overseas of any Australian junior. How difficult was that?
It wasn’t too bad. I spent, maybe, eight months with my dad just travelling. I got to play against a lot of talented juniors, which I think really helped my development. Playing on European clay was also good for me. Most of the tournaments are on hard courts in Australia, so it was a good experience to play on the clay. I feel pretty comfortable on clay now, I’d probably say it is even my favourite surface to play on.
How do you think clay suits your game?
The game’s a bit slower. You have a little bit more time to swing for your shots and I enjoy the longer rallies. It’s what I like to do.
Who have been the biggest influences in your career?
My dad, Tomo, is the biggest one. My dad’s been coaching me since I was three and he always helps me out a lot when I travel and when I play. He gives me a lot of support.
Has your dad always been a tennis coach?
He didn’t play tennis and had never coached before. When I started playing tennis, he just wanted to help me out. So he did his own research, I guess, and has spent a lot of time watching me play.
Who are your favourite players to watch?
My favourite players would probably be Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios. Nadal fights for every point and is really competitive, and Kyrgios is just entertaining to watch and is super talented.
Have you modelled your game on any professional player?
I don’t think so. I think I have a little bit of a unique game style. I guess it is similar to someone like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as I do have a big serve and big forehand.
How would you describe your game style in one sentence?
Powerful, I like to play aggressively.
What is your biggest strength as a player?
Probably my forehand.
What is your proud moment on court so far in your career?
My proudest on-court moment would probably be my first-round win in Australian Open qualifying this year. It was my first Grand Slam and a super special moment for me.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My coach at the academy, Mark Draper, tells me every day I just have to be hard working and consistent, that’s how you improve and become a better player.
How challenging was it during your junior career to juggle school commitments and competing?
It was not the easiest, but it was also not too bad. I did school online from year 10, so I got help from online teachers. It was quite a bit better than doing regular school, it made it a bit easier.
What advice would you give to other young players wanting to chase their tennis dreams?
The advice I’d give to other young players is to enjoy playing, enjoy competing and not worry too much about results. Otherwise, mentally, it can be pretty challenging if you just focus on results.
What has been the biggest challenge for you transitioning from the juniors to the professional tour?
Physicality has been a challenge for me. I need to be a bit better, because in the pros, everyone’s a bit more physically developed. I’ve got to be more ready to play every week and play back-to-back weeks, play tough matches and recover to play the next day.
If you weren’t playing tennis, what would be your dream job?
I would probably be trying to play a different sport, like basketball or soccer.
What other sports did you play growing up?
I played soccer when I was younger, but I stopped playing when I was about six years old just to fully focus on tennis.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing tennis?
I like to watch basketball. I like to play basketball. I like to go to the gym with my friends and I like to play video games as well.
What is your favourite video game?
NBA 2K22. I play with my friends and it’s pretty good fun.
Do you have a favourite social media platform to use?
It would probably be Snapchat.
What is your favourite food?
What does your daily diet look like?
On a training day, I try to eat quite big meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My breakfast would probably be quite a few pieces of toast with peanut butter and an ‘Up and Go’. Lunch would be something like chicken and rice with vegetables. I like to eat a lot of carbohydrates and protein. Then dinner would maybe be beef and rice with vegetables. It’s pretty much the same on a tournament day, to be honest.
Do you have a favourite musician?
I like American rapper Polo G.
What is your favourite TV series?
Game of Thrones.
Who would be your dream doubles partner?
How would your friends and family describe you?
I’d say my friends and family would describe me as funny and competitive.
What is your earliest Australian Open memory?
The first time I went to watch the Australian Open was in 2012, so I would have been only nine years old. We bought ground passes and I tried to watch as many matches as I could and also watch the pros train. I really enjoyed it. I vividly remember Jerzy Janowicz having an explosion on court and getting super upset. Seeing that live was pretty funny.
Do you remember the first player you asked for a selfie or autograph?
I don’t to be honest.
What was it like when a fan asked you for a selfie or autograph for the first time?
I was in Spain last year and I won a junior tournament. I had a lot of younger people come up to me, asking for autographs and photos and stuff like that. It was a bit strange, but I kind of enjoyed it. It was good.
What do you enjoy most about being part of Tennis Australia’s National Tennis Academy?
I love coming in every day, putting in hard work with all my good mates and just enjoying time on court. I think it’s just really cool and I love it.
How do you think being part of the National Tennis Academy helps you grow as a player?
The people around me help me develop, help me keep working hard and give me a lot of motivation.
Do you think being a National Tennis Academy member has helped you grow as a person as well?
Yeah. I think I’m becoming more friendly, more generous. I also enjoy giving younger players advice. If I see them making mistakes, I try to help them out as much as I can.
What does a typical day at the academy look like for you?
I come in the morning, I’ll do about half-an-hour of stretching and warming up, train for about two hours or two-and-a-half hours, then have lunch. Then I’ll either train again for an hour or an hour-and-a-half and then go to the gym, or I’ll do some conditioning and go to the gym.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your time at the academy?
You have to show up every day and give it your best. Otherwise, other people are going to do that and take advantage.
So many of the Australian men are performing well this year, does this provide extra inspiration for you?
Yeah, for sure. Seeing a lot of the Australian tennis players doing really well gives me a lot of motivation and it also gives me a bit of confidence that I can do it as well. Hopefully I can get to the top 100 too one day.
A lot of the top-ranked Australian professionals also train in Brisbane, do you take a lot of inspiration from being around them?
I like to train with James Duckworth and John Millman. When I train with them, I see how they work and I think it’s really cool to be around them.
Do you remember the first time you had an opportunity to hit with a top-ranked professional player?
Yeah, I think it would have been when I was about 15 years old. It got to hit with Ash Barty in Brisbane, which was good fun. I was a bit nervous, but I ended up doing pretty well.
When it comes to goal setting at your age, what is more important: ranking or development?
To be honest, this year I haven’t really set myself a ranking goal. My goal is just to do the best I can in every tournament.
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