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Get to Know: Michael Redlicki, University of Arkansas

Michael Redlicki of Arkansas in action at the 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships.
November 5, 2016 09:54 AM

By Pat Mitsch, special to USTA.com

Two weeks before his 23rd birthday, Michael Redlicki is competing at the pinnacle of college tennis – all thanks to a well-timed phone call and, of course, football.

It’s been nearly five years since Redlicki committed to play college tennis – at Duke. He and his brother Martin – now a junior at UCLA – were top prospects and briefly trained together at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla.

The elder Redlicki is now a graduate transfer in his final year of eligibility at Arkansas, attending business school and making the most of his second chance at a career on the tennis court. USTA.com spoke with the energetic Chicago native after his 0-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over Wake Forest’s Petros Chrysochos to reach the semifinals of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.

USTA.com: Why do you think you’re playing so well this weekend?

Michael Redlicki: I’m working, man, nothing’s different. Honestly, I’ve been playing like this for most of the year. It’s just when I’ve lost in the past, it’s been a point this way or that way. At this stage, it goes either direction. This week, at this tournament, it’s been going in my direction, so … it is what it is, it goes either way. Whoever wants it more, whoever digs harder, because deep in the third, your legs hurt, so whoever is willing to put their legs through extra pain to get a ball back … one extra ball is what it takes to win.

Tennis doesn’t win deep in the third. It’s scrap, mental, focus – all the intangibles. That’s what wins deep in the third set of the quarterfinals of a prestigious national tournament like this. I’m just real happy and blessed to get to this point. It shows that all the work and all the social sacrifice – that’s real. All that’s paying off. It’s just a thrill.

USTA.com: How did you get to the point where you can compete like that?

Michael Redlicki: I’m probably one of the oldest ones here. I’m 22, going on 23 in two weeks. I’m an old dog. The kid I played today, is what, like a sophomore? A junior? These kids are babies. They’re young, and that’s the biggest thing. … Just being exposed to these kinds of situations many times before. Today was just another one of those situations. 

USTA.com: How did you get to this point?

Michael Redlicki: I started out at Duke, and then my third year, I redshirted. I finished school. I graduated with a double major in English and a mini-MBA – they call it a Markets and Management Certificate. That entire third year, I was actually committed to go to Oklahoma, and then at the last second, by the grace of God, I get on the phone with (Arkansas head coach) Andy Jackson, and he convinces me to come for a visit. I show up in Fayetteville, and it was a wrap. There was no way I was going to pass up living in Fayetteville, going to Arkansas, having the opportunity Andy was giving me. It was too good to turn down. It’ been a dream ever since Day 1. I honestly could not ask for a better situation in tennis – in life, honestly – because none of this was supposed to happen, and now we’re here.

USTA.com: When you were looking to transfer from Duke, were you preparing for life after tennis at that point?

Michael Redlicki: I thought that was the end for me in tennis. Then I get a phone call from a coach that let me know that it’s possible for me to play again, explaining how eligibility works and that I could play again. I was given another chance to play. When it came to fruition, it was just kind of like, “(Wow), this is real. I get to be a college tennis player again.”

The first thing – making sure I didn’t take (anything) for granted, appreciating everything I have, because outside of college tennis, you don’t have much. Like as a regular student, I’ve lived the life of a student – it’s not easy. Given that I was at Duke, yeah, it was hard, but just the nature of the life of a college student, it is not easy. It’s a blessing to have something like tennis to have to get your mind in different places. Now, I have the rest of this year to play and another year on top of that to be in school.

USTA.com: Are you going to try to play on tour?

Michael Redlicki: I do want to, yeah. I just have to feel that it makes sense from an ability standpoint, a desire standpoint and me wanting to do it. It starts with proving it to myself that it’s worth the grind because being a pro tennis player is not easy. It’s a grind and a half. It weeds people out real quick, and you need to be made for that kind of life, especially in the early stages. If I can answer the question, “Can I be willing to do everything associated with being a pro?” Then I’ll do it. Most definitely. Because by that point I’ll have shown myself that I’m good enough to do it and that I actually want to.

USTA.com: Do you talk about this with your brother, Martin?

Michael Redlicki: Me and Marty, man, it’s so fun to be with him this week because I don’t see him anymore. In the beginning of my college days, he was still at home. When I came home from breaks, he was there, every single day. Now, I’m lucky to see him anywhere, let alone at home. The fact that he was able to come here, it’s been really fun. I’ve been spending as much time with him as possible. It’s been really great, and we really get along really well. I hope he can continue his success that he’s been having.

USTA.com: Were you guys always into tennis?

Michael Redlicki: I’m actually a huge football player right now. I played basketball growing up, but I never played organized football. Last year, I started messing around with it as a workout, and it turned into something I’m actually good at, apparently. This is me quoting kids on the Arkansas football team. They said I have decent hands, and for a kid who’s 6-8, I can move. So I’ve been playing a lot of football, and a lot of times after practice, I’ll literally go run routes for two hours. It’s a joke. Like I’ll run all day. People don’t understand that actually one of the best workouts is to run routes. The sprint aspect of running routes is perfect for tennis, and it’s been a huge help for me. The whole cardio aspect of tennis – I got it covered. I mean – two matches today, you gotta have some legs for that. Thank football.