Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp is into the third round of the US Open on his tournament debut. What is more amazing is that before flying to New York for the season’s final major, the 25-year-old had only seen the city on Netflix.
This has been a special trip for the No. 117 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings both on and off the court, as it is van de Zandschulp’s first time in the United States.
“[I know it] maybe sounds really strange from a tennis player,” van de Zandschulp told ATPTour.com. “This city is pretty nice. I only saw it from the movies and in a TV series. It’s my first time seeing it with my own eyes.”
The Dutchman remembers New York from Suits and Person Of Interest. But he has not been moseying around Manhattan as a tourist would during his time here. It has been all business for Van de Zandschulp, whose focus has been on tennis.
“I’ve been here to restaurants and you walk around the city a little bit, but I was planning to do some more if I lost in the tournament,” van de Zandschulp said. “That’s not happening right now, so hopefully I can only visit some stuff next week.”
THAT’S how you finish off an upset! ?
Botic Van de Zandschulp takes out No. 8 seed Casper Ruud to advance to Round 3. pic.twitter.com/ZQBP1MFVnV
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021
The Wageningen-native has come a long way since beginning his tennis journey at age four. His older brother, Melvin, played tennis until he was 11. Botic remembers following him to the tennis centre.
“I always had to go to the tennis court with him to go to his practice,” van de Zandschulp said. “My mother, Ingrid, played club matches in Holland at an amateur level. But a lot of the time we were at tennis clubs, so that is how I started.”
This might be his first US Open, but the right-hander’s early memories of professional tennis come from this tournament. In 2003, when he was seven, he remembers watching Andy Roddick, who eventually lifted the trophy, play for the first time. The American star hit four aces in a game, and the Dutchman was hooked.
“That’s what stuck with me,” van de Zandschulp said. “I watched a lot of Andy Roddick when I was young. I watched a lot of [Rafael] Nadal of course, and I watched a lot of [Andre] Agassi. Those are guys from when I was really young.”
Van de Zandschulp was not one of the pros who dreamt of becoming a professional tennis player from as early as he could remember.
“You start winning the matches in the juniors and winning some national tournaments. When you win, it’s always nice to play the sport,” Van de Zandschulp said. “After some years, when I was 16 or 17, I started thinking of becoming a pro.”
The Dutchman was not a heralded junior on the international stage, never cracking the world’s Top 150. And various injuries delayed his progression early on as a professional.
Van de Zandschulp then had to move through the ITF Futures circuit to position himself to compete on the ATP Challenger Tour.
“The only thing that I could do is play the tournaments and try to win them. In the Futures, I won a lot at the beginning,” Van de Zandschulp said. “If you win matches, you don’t feel sorry for yourself or you don’t feel bad. I knew once I got into the Challengers, I knew it could go fast and then I could play qualifying for the Grand Slams.”
In 2019, he broke through. Botic cracked the Top 300 and 200 in the FedEx ATP Rankings that year, claiming his biggest prize when he lifted the ATP Challenger Tour trophy in Hamburg that year.
“I started to do well at Challengers. After that was Covid, so it stopped me [improving] my [FedEx ATP] Ranking, but not my game,” Van de Zandschulp said. “From then on, I think I’ve been progressing on an upwards line and I’m trying to continue that.”
In 2021, van de Zandschulp has proven that he can compete with the world’s best. The Dutchman went 11-1 in Grand Slam qualifying. At Wimbledon, the one major where he lost in qualifying, he gained entry into the main draw as a lucky loser and made the second round. Van de Zandschulp also earned an impressive victory at Roland Garros against Hubert Hurkacz, this year’s Miami Open presented by Itau champion.
In the second round at Flushing Meadows, Botic upset eighth seed Casper Ruud to reach the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time and now he can break even more ground when he plays Argentine Facundo Bagnis on Friday for a place in the Round of 16.
The World No. 117’s big short-term goal is to crack the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time, which he is likely to do with a third main draw win in New York. But Van de Zandschulp is not ready to stop there.
“Of course it’s a big deal [making the third round], but I think I can go further in the tournament if I play like today,” van de Zandschulp said. “That’s what I’m focussed on. For me it’s not the end of the tournament if I make the third round. That’s now how I’m [thinking]. Of course it’s the first time for me, but you always want to do better.”