One latest morning, Jack Ming Jie Lin, a Columbia College tennis participant, knowledgeable his chemistry professor that he wanted to reschedule Tuesday night time’s lab as a result of he had one other engagement.
“Look,” he mentioned he advised his professor, “I’ve a vital match Feb. 12 and I perceive that we’re imagined to have lab session that Tuesday night time, however sadly, I can’t make it that night time.”
As a substitute of chemistry class, Lin, a 19-year-old sophomore, shall be taking part in his first ATP Tour main-draw match, on the New York Open at Nassau Coliseum. Lin earned a wild card into the primary spherical of the skilled occasion by profitable a university invitational in November at Billie Jean King Nationwide Tennis Middle. Thirty-two gamers from 16 New York-area universities, together with Military, Cornell, Princeton and St. John’s, competed within the match, the place Lin beat Alafia Ayeni of Cornell, 6-7 (Three), 6-Three, 7-6 (5), in a closing that lasted three and a half hours.
Lin’s look on the New York Open is a uncommon alternative for an newbie to check himself towards the professionals.
“The Knicks can by no means play a staff like St. John’s in a recreation that truly counts,” mentioned Peter Lebedevs, the assistant match director for the New York Open. “On this, it’s the execs taking part in a collegiate participant, and it counts for each of them. For a child like Jack, it’s a possibility to get factors and to get began on a possible professional profession after his school or throughout the summer season.”
A local of Markham, Ontario, Lin ended the autumn at No. Four within the collegiate doubles rankings together with his taking part in accomplice, William Matheson, and is No. 40 in singles. He helped Columbia attain the spherical of 16 within the N.C.A.A. match final season after the Lions gained the Ivy League for the fifth yr in a row. He owns victories over the present execs Taylor Fritz of the USA and Denis Shapovalov of Canada, however these got here within the junior ranks. Shapovalov is ranked No. 25 on this planet, and Fritz No. 40.
“Clearly seeing them each become such big-time gamers, I don’t assume I’m at their stage but with the outcomes that they’ve been having,” mentioned Lin, who grew up close to Shapovalov, 19, within the Toronto suburbs. “I’m simply extra content material with my very own enchancment over each month.”
The New York Open will characteristic many prime American participant, together with John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey. The previous world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt is taking part in doubles, as are Bob and Mike Bryan.
Lin will play a qualifier on Tuesday, and if he wins, he would face Johnson, ranked 34th. A few of Lin’s Columbia teammates need him to face a prime participant to see how he matches up.
“I wish to watch Jack play towards one of many high-caliber guys to see the distinction between the ATP guys and the extent in school,” mentioned the junior Jackie Tang, who performs for the Hong Kong Davis Cup staff along with competing for Columbia.
“I believe he’ll do properly as a result of I don’t assume the hole is that massive. I believe it’s simply the expertise and the data of tips on how to play sure factors accurately.”
John McEnroe, who performed a yr at Stanford, has been a supporter of school tennis, stating that top-10 gamers like Isner and Kevin Anderson have had professional success at older ages after maturing whereas taking part in school tennis. Most not too long ago, Danielle Collins, a two-time N.C.A.A. champion at Virginia, superior to the semifinals of the Australian Open at 25.
Lin mentioned: “Actually, I believe school tennis is the perfect it’s ever been. There are such a lot of transitional gamers taking part in at such a excessive stage.”
Lin’s mom, Sally Yi, is about to return from Toronto, and plenty of of Lin’s coaches and teammates plan to root him on as properly.
“I really like these play-in codecs the place it’s not simply arbitrarily granting a wild card to anyone,” mentioned the previous American star Andy Roddick, who kicked off the match on Saturday with an exhibition match towards Jim Courier. “It’s an excellent story that anyone got here in and earned it and that is what you get in your troubles.
“What’s higher than with the ability to work your approach into the matches that you simply dream about?”
Roddick joked that he would advise Lin to not take the prize cash in order that he can stay an newbie. Lin has not deliberate that far forward.
“Clearly, taking part in the occasion’s not likely in regards to the prize cash,” he mentioned. “It’s simply extra about getting the chance to play in entrance of all people on such a giant stage and play towards the highest guys on the ATP stage simply to evaluate what my stage is.”
At 5-foot-11, Lin is brief for a sport the place greater than half of the boys’s top-15 gamers are a minimum of 6-Four. However he’s a shotmaker and is engaged on turning into extra aggressive by coming to internet extra.
Lin, who hopes to sometime be a top-100 participant on the ATP Tour, considers himself a part of the rising wave of Canadian gamers that features Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. He performed for Canada’s Davis Cup staff, however opted to return to the USA to concentrate on lecturers and tennis.
“In Canada, there are numerous nice universities there too, however they form of lack the competitors in tennis of taking part in within the States,” he mentioned. “Enjoying N.C.A.A. tennis, it permits me to proceed creating my recreation and clearly on the identical time pursue my educational targets.”
Balancing the 2 units of targets has been a battle. The boys’s tennis staff as an entire carries a Three.74 grade level common, and Lin doesn’t wish to let his teammates down.
“There’s numerous issues happening, however he’s managing,” mentioned Bid Goswami, in his 37th season because the Columbia tennis coach. “He doesn’t wish to be left behind in his research. He had a very good final two semesters.”
As for that chemistry lab, Lin urged to his professor that he transfer it to Wednesday night time, but when he wins on Tuesday, he gained’t be capable to make that session, both. He’ll be again on the courtroom taking part in his second-round match on the New York Open.
The truth is, he would have a number of schedule conflicts to handle. The Columbia staff is flying to Chicago on Wednesday for the Intercollegiate Tennis Affiliation nationwide championships, which start Friday.
“If Jack wins his first match on Tuesday night time and misses our flight to Chicago for nationwide indoors,” the Columbia assistant Howard Endelman mentioned, “that’s an excellent drawback to have.”