by Sally Milano,
It isn’t every day that a person gets a second chance
to re-live a dream, but that’s just what Tyler Cleveland
is doing – and quite successfully.
Four years ago, the now 26-year-old said goodbye to
competitive tennis after graduating from the University
of Iowa as one of the winningest players in the Division
I school’s history. He went on to become a successful
stock trader, moving from his hometown of Fairfield,
Iowa, to Los Angeles and then Chicago, before deciding
to take another shot at tennis and turning pro in May
“I felt like I was getting a little bit bored with
the trading and just realized I better play tennis or I
wasn’t going to get a chance because I’m 26 and running
out of time,” said Cleveland.
The 6’ 4”, 180-pound right-hander actually thought
about giving the pro circuit a try when he was in
college, even taking the fall semester of his senior
year off to play a few Futures events. But he said he
had different priorities at that time of his life and
really just wanted to go to work with his brother after
He started thinking about a comeback last winter,
however, when he was working full-time as a trader and
part-time as a tennis instructor, teaching tennis for
about five hours a week to some junior players at a club
in Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago.
"All the coaches at the club said they thought I
should be playing instead of teaching, so I started to
think about [making a comeback] then,” Cleveland said.
“And it didn’t really happen until April. I was able to
work it out with the guy I was working with that I could
come back any time, so I got it all set up so that I
could play again.”
Once his plans were settled, Cleveland moved to
Southern California to prepare to compete. He played two
local cash money tournaments and also began working out
at the USTA National Training Center located at the Home
Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
“I was lucky enough to hook up with the USTA training
center at the Home Depot Center, and I got some great
practice in there,” Cleveland said. “Some of the coaches
helped me out a little bit, did some drills with me, and
that kind of got me back into it. I won the two money
tournaments that I played, and then went into playing
USTA Futures events.”
And he has been going strong ever since. Cleveland
qualified into six of the first seven events he entered
upon his return, including Peoria, Ill., the week of
July 11, where he reached the quarterfinals; Claremont,
Calif., the week of Sept. 13, where he reached the
final; and Irvine, Calif., the week of Sept. 27, where
he swept both the singles and doubles titles.
Cleveland was unsure of what kind of results to
expect upon his return to professional tennis, but he
has to be pleased with his play so far.
“I was going to give myself some time to try to play
at least for the rest of the year to see if I was still
competitive,” said Cleveland, whose plans now include
playing Challenger tournaments in Boston and Carson and
Futures events in Mexico and Hawaii before the end of
the season. “I just really had no idea what to expect. I
figured I was playing well enough to qualify and get
into the main draws, but it’s gone a little bit faster
than I thought it would, to be honest.”
Now, he hopes that his quick start will allow him to
directly enter the main draws of tournaments, rather
than having to qualify into them.
“Obviously, I want to get out of qualifying as fast
as possible because that makes it that much more
difficult,” he said. “I think after [winning in Irvine],
most weeks I should be able to get straight in.”
Cleveland also has another goal in mind – to play a
qualifying event for a Grand Slam tournament.
“That’s my goal right now,” he said. “Within the next
two years is kind of what I’m thinking, and then
anything after that I’ll just reassess as I go
2005 – 691
2001 – 56
2000 – 37 (ITA)
- Swept the singles and doubles titles at the USTA
Futures event in Irvine, Calif... Qualified into the
singles event and went on to defeat No. 8 Augustin
Gensse, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, in the final... Teamed with
David Lingman in doubles to upset No. 2 Raphael Durek
and Daniel Wendler, 6-3, 7-5, for the championship.
- As a qualifier, finished runner-up in singles at
the USTA Futures event in Claremont, Calif., losing to
Benedikt Dorsch, 6-2, 6-3, in the final.
- Qualified into the USTA Futures event in Decatur,
Ill., and reached the second round, before retiring in
the match against G.D. Jones with the score at 4-6,
7-6 (7), 1-0.
- As a qualifier, reached the second round of the
USTA Futures event in Godfrey, Ill... Lost to Jamie
Baker in three tie-break sets, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 7-6
- Qualified into the USTA Futures event in Peoria,
Ill., and reached the quarterfinals, where he lost to
Michael Yani, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (5).
- Qualified into the USTA Futures event in
Pittsburgh but fell to Michael Quintero, 6-3, 3-6,
6-3, in the opening round.
- Played Division I tennis at the University of Iowa
from 1998-2001… Was one of the greatest players in
- Named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001,
the first player to ever receive this honor in
- Named All-Big Ten all four years he attended Iowa.
- Finished the 2001 season ranked No. 56 and the
2000 season ranked No. 37 in the ITA national singles
- Compiled a 63-16 record in singles, third on the
school's all-time win list.
- His .797 career winning percentage is No. 1 on
Iowa’s all-time list.
- Began playing tennis at age 7. “My older brother
was a pretty good player, so he kind of dragged me
along, or I dragged myself along behind him.”
- Father, Clyde. Mother, Debbie. Older brother,
Kyle; older sister, Heidi; younger sister, Kerianne.
- Has an all-court game and likes to come to net.
- Favorite playing surface is hard court.
- Liked watching Boris Becker play when he was
growing up. “He was the man.”
- Enjoys playing basketball, which he played
throughout high school, and golf, which he has taken
up more recently.