One current 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 informed his professor, “I’ve a vital match Feb. 12 and I perceive that we’re purported to have lab session that Tuesday night time, however sadly, I can’t make it that night time.”
As an alternative 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 successful a school invitational in November at Billie Jean King Nationwide Tennis Heart. Thirty-two gamers from 16 New York-area universities, together with Military, Cornell, Princeton and St. John’s, competed within the event, the place Lin beat Alafia Ayeni of Cornell, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (5), in a remaining that lasted three and a half hours.
Lin’s look on the New York Open is a uncommon alternative for an novice to check himself in opposition to the professionals.
“The Knicks can by no means play a crew like St. John’s in a sport that truly counts,” mentioned Peter Lebedevs, the assistant event director for the New York Open. “On this, it’s the professionals taking part in a collegiate participant, and it counts for each of them. For a child like Jack, it’s a chance to get factors and to get began on a possible professional profession after his faculty or through the summer time.”
A local of Markham, Ontario, Lin ended the autumn at No. Four within the collegiate doubles rankings together with his taking part in associate, William Matheson, and is No. 40 in singles. He helped Columbia attain the spherical of 16 within the N.C.A.A. event final season after the Lions gained the Ivy League for the fifth yr in a row. He owns victories over the present professionals Taylor Fritz of america and Denis Shapovalov of Canada, however these got here within the junior ranks. Shapovalov is ranked No. 25 on the earth, and Fritz No. 40.
“Clearly seeing them each turn into such big-time gamers, I don’t suppose 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 function 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 in opposition to one of many high-caliber guys to see the distinction between the ATP guys and the extent in faculty,” mentioned the junior Jackie Tang, who performs for the Hong Kong Davis Cup crew along with competing for Columbia.
“I feel he’ll do nicely as a result of I don’t suppose the hole is that massive. I feel it’s simply the expertise and the data of how you can play sure factors appropriately.”
John McEnroe, who performed a yr at Stanford, has been a supporter of faculty tennis, stating that top-10 gamers like Isner and Kevin Anderson have had professional success at older ages after maturing whereas taking part in faculty tennis. Most just lately, Danielle Collins, a two-time N.C.A.A. champion at Virginia, superior to the semifinals of the Australian Open at 25.
Lin mentioned: “Truthfully, I feel faculty tennis is one of the best 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 ready to come back from Toronto, and lots of of Lin’s coaches and teammates plan to root him on as nicely.
“I like these play-in codecs the place it’s not simply arbitrarily granting a wild card to any person,” mentioned the previous American star Andy Roddick, who kicked off the event on Saturday with an exhibition match in opposition to Jim Courier. “It’s a superb story that any person got here in and earned it and that is what you get on 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 novice. Lin has not deliberate that far forward.
“Clearly, taking part in the occasion’s probably not concerning 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 in opposition to 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 lads’s top-15 gamers are at the least 6-4. However he’s a shotmaker and is engaged on changing into extra aggressive by coming to web 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 crew, however opted to come back to america to concentrate on lecturers and tennis.
“In Canada, there are quite a lot of 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 growing my sport and clearly on the similar time pursue my tutorial targets.”
Balancing the 2 units of targets has been a battle. The lads’s tennis crew as a complete carries a 3.74 grade level common, and Lin doesn’t wish to let his teammates down.
“There’s quite a lot of 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 extremely good final two semesters.”
As for that chemistry lab, Lin steered to his professor that he transfer it to Wednesday night time, but when he wins on Tuesday, he gained’t be capable of make that session, both. He’ll be again on the court docket taking part in his second-round match on the New York Open.
Actually, he would have a number of schedule conflicts to handle. The Columbia crew 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 a superb downside to have.”