1-on-1 with Michael Laser '12
This week I Skyped with recent Dartmouth graduate Michael Laser '12, who is across the pond in Israel playing in professional tennis tournaments. Laser earned his first Association of Tennis Professionals singles point last week at a futures event in Israel and now has a professional ranking.
You had quite a career on the Dartmouth men's tennis team, playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles during your senior year and earning All-Ivy honors. How do you think college tennis prepared you for pro tournaments?
ML: Although I am out on my own traveling and I miss the team, I would not have this love for the game and desire to continue my career had I not played at Dartmouth. I was able to come up to campus for a tough practice with the team right before I came out to Israel, and it brought me back and simplified things. The game on the pro circuit is different. The pressures and experiences are as well, but the work ethic required to improve and succeed does not change. The guys on the team train harder than the majority of the competition, and that makes the difference no matter where you play.
How does the level of tennis you're facing in these pro tournaments differ from your competition in college?
ML: The Ivy League has become very competitive, so I faced strong players all the time. What I have come to realize is that guys are out on tour, and this is their life. At every event, you have ATP points and prize money on the line, so when you have an opportunity, you have to take advantage because it may be the only chance you get. I have had to become more efficient and understand how I want to play on a new level, so it's really exciting because I can see my game changing all the time.
You spent the summer in New York going through an investment banking training program at Citigroup. What led to your decision to take time off and play pro tennis?
ML: I enjoyed my experience working and learned a lot in a short period of time, so I was excited about beginning my life outside of tennis. Over the course of last year, I just loved the game and the team more and more, and I talked with coach [Chris] Drake and the guys about my thoughts of turning pro. Ultimately, I started working and spent the summer in New York, but every day I was struggling with the fact that deep down I wanted to play and see what I could do. I decided to defer working and start out on tour, and it was the best decision I have ever made, right next to my decision to come to Dartmouth.
I saw that you had the opportunity to hit a few balls with tennis legend and Hall of Famer Pete Sampras a couple weeks back. How was that experience?
ML: That was pretty surreal. Growing up watching him play and then stepping out on the court with him was just unbelievable. I was training out in L.A., and Pete had an exhibition match against John McEnroe the following day, so he was looking for a warm-up to get ready. We played for a while and he gave me some advice, so it was great.
You had to win three tough qualifying matches before taking down Jan Zednik of the Czech Republic to earn your first ATP point. How did you feel after winning that match?
ML: As I told the team, it was an unbelievable feeling, but I immediately thought back to the guys in Hanover and would have done anything for them to be there. It validated what I have been working toward, so it takes a lot of pressure off, and I had to get through a lot of nerves, so it was a good experience. Now I just need to focus on improving and winning matches, so it has simplified my goals.
What's next for you?
ML: This is the first long stretch of tournaments I have played internationally so far, and I am currently playing three in Israel. After this, I am leaving to play a few more events in Greece and Turkey before I head back home. There are typically eight to 10 tournaments every week all over the world, so I will see where I end up going. This is really the beginning, so I am excited to see where it takes me.