On the 11th on January 2022, Arianne Hartono started her Australian Open adventure. She played in the first round of the qualifications against Gibson. After three wins in qualifications, the 25 years old reached to the main draw of the Grandslam for the first time. The Dutch newspaper ”De Volkskrant” wrote an article about how Hartono reached the highest level of tennis by playing college tennis at the University of Mississippi. Read the whole article below.

Hartono’s became a prof by playing college tennis in the VS

Arianne Hartono received her tennis training in the US, at the university where she had received a scholarship. The Dutch lost a large lead on her debut at the Australian Open and was eliminated.

In the Netherlands, Arianne Hartono goes through life relatively anonymously. But four years ago, the tennis player from Meppel was real famous in America. As the best tennis player of all American universities, everyone wanted something from her. She was the first Dutch tennis player to achieve this goal.

On Monday 17th of January, 25-year-old Hartono, who survived three qualifying matches, lost on her debut at a Grand Slam tournament. In the first round of the Australian Open, the world number 191 wasn’t able to stunt against Amanda Anisimova, the American global number 60: 6-2, 4-6, 3-6. “With a lead of 6-2 4-2 I thought ‘oh, it’s in there’. I’m only human and that’s when my thoughts run free out,” she said.

Hartono made her own road towards the highest level of tennis. The daughter of Indonesian parents studied psychology at the University of Mississippi for four years from 2015 and received her tennis training in American college tennis, for which she was offered a scholarship. Only in September last year, she made her debut on the WTA circuit.

Nineteen former University students

The number three in the Netherlands is not the only tennis player whose route ran through American college tennis. Nineteen former university students are competing in singles at the Australian Open 2022. Among the men, South African Kevin Anderson, finalist at the US Open in 2017, and service gun John Isner, number 25 in the world.

In doubles, the number is even higher. The Dutch doubles specialist Jean-Julien Rojer also left for America when he was thirteen. The three-time grand slam winner finished high school and then received a scholarship at the prestigious University of California-Los Angeles to combine his tennis career with a study.

Is the route through America a good alternative to reach the top? “It’s not an alternative route, it’s just one of the routes. I even think it’s an underexposed route’, says Paul Haarhuis. The six-time grand slam winner in doubles combined his studies and tennis at Florida State University for four years.

Just a few

“It’s the perfect intermediate step for tennis players aged 17, 18 or 19 who are not ready yet for professional tennis,” he says. ‘That can be in all kinds of areas: physically, mentally or just as a person. You have to be really good if you want to make that step quickly from high school. That is only possible for a few.”

Haarhuis, who was not a national high flyer at the age of eighteen, points to the average age of the players in the top 100. “It is much higher than fifteen years ago,” said the captain of the Davis Cup team. “Before players are in a place where it brings in at least as much money as it costs, many have already dried themselves out financially.”

Slamstox is one of the companies in the Netherlands that helps student tennis players to America. Owner Pedro Mol has noticed that the interest has increased in recent years. Mol also studied and played tennis in America and five years ago made it his business to organize a combination of sport and study for talented tennis players.

He estimates that through Slamstox about 150 Dutch tennis players are currently staying in America or are going there after this summer. ‘You can get a grant of 30 to 40 thousand euros to play tennis and study. Those are investments that the tennis association in the Netherlands can’t even think of,” says Mol. “In addition, the facilities are top notch and it is a wonderful adventure.”

American college tennis

Haarhuis is also aware of the criticism: he would be one of the few Dutch people who made it through the American route. According to him, it does not necessarily have to do with the American system, but with the personal level of the tennis players. “Apparently those players didn’t have the level to succeed in professional tennis at all.”

The former pro is not talking about the greatest talents in the Netherlands who train full-time. But many are not ready for that yet. ‘In America you can get a diploma, play tennis and work on your personal development.’ He came back to the Netherlands when he was 22. “I finished my studie and was much further mentally and physically, which gave me a better chance to play tennis full-time.”

Hartono, who is still waiting for her debut in the national team, returned to the Netherlands after her studie to focus on her sport full-time. In 2018 and 2019 she won the Jakarta ITF tournament. At the Australian Open she was disappointed with her missed opportunity: ‘I thought a step too far ahead. Hopefully I will learn from it and improve in that area.”

Source: De Volkskrant, Guus Peters (17 January 2022)