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Where Are They Now?
An Interview with 2013 NCAA Champion and Rising ATP Star Blaz Rola
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Football may reign over the sports kingdom at Ohio State, but NCAA champion Blaz Rola has done his part to raise tennis's visibility in Columbus.

Former Ohio State standout Blaz Rola
© Zoo Tennis
Joining the Buckeyes in the fall of 2010, the native of Putj, Slovenia was already ranked inside the ATP Top 400. After reaching the semifinals in singles and winning the NCAA doubles championship with Chase Buchanan as a sophomore in 2012 - the first NCAA tennis title for Ohio State - Rola continued to dominate college tennis during his junior year. He went 32-1 and capped his outstanding season by defeating Jarmere Jenkins of Virginia in the NCAA singles championship, held at the University of Illinois.

After being named Ohio State Athlete of the Year in June of 2013, the 6-foot-4 lefthander turned professional, and six months later was in the ATP Top 200. He qualified and won a round at the 2014 Australian Open and advanced to the second round at Wimbledon, which helped him reach a career-high ATP ranking of 80 in July. Now ranked 81, the 24-year-old is competing in the eight-player ATP Challenger Finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil this week.

My interview with Rola at the Champaign, Illinois Challenger last week covered many topics, including his first year on tour, his decision to play college tennis, his plans for off-season training and his schedule for early next year.

 

Questions and Answers

Colette Lewis (CL): How would you describe your first full year on tour?

Blaz Rola (BR): Basically getting out of college, everything was just clicking right. I was going through Futures, going through Challengers pretty quickly, and in January I found myself playing in the first round of the Australian Open, which even myself I couldn't believe. Six months before I was still in college. So I started off really well and from Australian Open I just kept on playing well and well and well. I can't say anything bad about the season, the last 18 months since I finished my college career here in Illinois. I can't really complain about that.

 

Rola (left) and Chase Buchanan are the only doubles team in NCAA history to win the collegiate triple crown in one season
© Zoo Tennis
CL: Was playing on Centre Court against Andy Murray at Wimbledon the highlight of the year?

BR: It wasn't Centre Court. It was Court 1. I was kind of shocked that I won't play on Centre Court; I was certain I would play there. Still, Court 1 Wimbledon, grass court against Andy Murray, it was just an unbelievable experience. I did not play my best tennis; too many first things at the same time: first major tournament on grass, first time on such a big stage, and first time against such a big player. It was so many first things that I just couldn't handle it, got caught up in the moment and I couldn't really focus on my tennis game. I wouldn't say I played that bad, but Murray just destroyed me. But I would not trade that for anything else, for the third round of Wimbledon. I would take second round, losing to him on such a big stage, to see how it is, to feel everything out. I just learned from that so many things and I'm one hundred percent sure it will help me in the future.

 

CL: Where are you training?

BR: I've tried a few things throughout the year. I've had a couple of coaches during the year, but I never really stuck on it and said this is what I actually want.

I'm still looking. The preseason training is coming pretty soon and I plan to go to Florida, train at IMG. Last year, I went to Saddlebrook and went to IMG and was trying it out last year, but never really had a coach, was more trying places rather than anything else. I loved IMG, the weather is great, the facility is unbelievable, you have practice partners, but I just need the right coach to be there with me and do the preseason right. If you do that right, it shows in the season, playing matches.

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Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2019
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