My dad passed away in October of 2011.
I had been pro for only about three months at this point and received one of the worst phone calls anyone could ever get. I was at a 10k future in Texas when I entered my housing for the week. It was around 8 or 9 p.m when my mother called me. I think a part of me is still in that room to this day.
I remember this conversation with my father, about four or five months prior to his passing. We were outside our house on a summer’s evening, while he was just drinking a beer and looking up at the stars. I go out and sit with him in silence. After a few moments, he just says to the air, ‘Is this all there is?’
I was twenty at the time and had no faculties to answer that question. He was a seasoned man, who worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met, to fund two kids’ tennis careers. I had no idea how to answer that question when a man who had been through the wringer couldn’t.
It was something that stuck with me.
While playing futures and challengers it resonated with me in a defeatist kind of a way. Thinking if this is all there is. That’s not how you should go about it, but it’s just how it sat with me.
When I started doing better, I took that mentality of more of a challenge than anything else. If I take care of everything that I can, how good can it be?! While going through the obstacles of playing challengers, with little hope week to week, I definitely thought about that often. When I have a good result, such as Auckland, I feel as though I am answering that question for my father, with each positive step I take. He was a tennis player, playing satellites back in the day, but he would never have believed that I would quarter the Australian Open.
The idea that all of his struggle and journey as a person is something that I can build upon is something I will never waste. He worked so hard to give us opportunities and all I am trying to do is fulfill, in any way, some of the dreams my father had for us.
— Tennys Sandgren (University of Tennessee 2011)
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