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Tyler Cleveland: Circuit Player of the Week
10/11/05 2:48 PM

by Sally Milano, USTA.com

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 2005.

“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 college.

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 along.”


TYLER CLEVELAND BIO
Birthdate: Oct. 15, 1978
Birthplace: San Diego 
Residence: Fairfield, Iowa
Height:  6’ 4”
Weight: 180 lbs.
Plays:  Right-handed; one-handed backhand
Turned Pro:  May 2005

RANKING HISTORY
2005 – 691 (ATP)
2001 – 56 (ITA)
2000 – 37 (ITA)

2005 HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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 (7).
  • 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.

COLLEGE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Played Division I tennis at the University of Iowa from 1998-2001… Was one of the greatest players in school history.
  • Named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001, the first player to ever receive this honor in back-to-back seasons.
  • 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 rankings.
  • 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.

PERSONAL

  • 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.
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