One step at a time
Australian Open 2013 Play-off semifinalist Ben Mitchell is steadily climbing the ladder to the top 100 writes James Bett.
For Ben Mitchell, competitive sport has always been in his life. Hailing from the Gold Coast in Queensland, the 20-year-old right-hander plays the game in a very mature fashion, something he attributes to his family, particularly his dad and older brothers.
“I played with my family growing up, I have lots of older brothers, my dad was my coach, he was my biggest influence in my junior career.”
His hero as a boy was fellow Queenslander and current Australian Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter, and as he has gotten older and his own tennis has progressed, he has found admiration for Lleyton Hewitt’s internationally admired never say die attitude.
“Now I actually enjoy watching Lleyton more than I used to, even though he’s not number one in the world I just love watching him battle it out there and I need to take that into my game too.”
Coached by Brent Larkham, Mitchell turned pro in 2008 and has been making very consistent progress since then. He was runner up at the Optus U/18 Australian Championships in 2009, and in 2010 he achieved what he believes was one of his career highlights, making the final of the Wimbledon Boys Championships. He finished 2010 ranked 710 in the world, jumping 426 spots from the previous year (1136).
The transition from being a junior to senior player is often a very daunting task, but seemingly not for Mitchell, who entered the world’s top 300 in late 2011, grabbing his first Pro Tour title, the Australian F2 Futures in Mildura, a title he ranks highly in his senior career to date.
“In the seniors I think I’ve won five or six Pro Tour events now and made three quarterfinals in Challengers so hopefully I can start doing a lot better in Challengers this year.”
On Friday Mitchell will play in the semifinals of the Australian Open 2013 Play-off against New South Wales’ Matthew Barton and if he wins that match he will have a shot at a wildcard for the Australian Open. It is his home Grand Slam and he made his debut at Melbourne Park this year – a first-round defeat at the hands of American John Isner and his monster serve. Mitchell said he hopes to go all the way this week.
“Hopefully I can win this (AO 2013 Play-off) which is I guess the start and the end of the season in a way, it would be good to finish on a positive note and end on a positive note, so it’d be great to get into the Australian Open and maybe win a round there.”
Away from tennis, Mitchell loves Rocky movies, US band Kings of Leon and enjoying time with friends – all normal, basic hobbies. The 20-year-old concedes it was very tough giving up time with friends to pursue his dreams, knowing full well there are no guarantees that he will be good enough to make it.
“They’re all going out and travelling the world without having to play you know, they see me travelling the world and they think it’s so exciting but they don’t really know the work that we have to do over there. Also the birthday parties when I was younger, so a lot of sacrifices, hopefully it pays off.”
He also studies his certificate three in fitness, and admits it’s a lot easier to manage his studies now than when he was in high school. “It was quite difficult when I was finishing school now with certificate three I can find time whenever I want, which is easier.”
As for his career aspirations, Mitchell has no bold statements or ambitions, rather vying for continual improvement and seeing where that leads him. “It’s tough to say now, I don’t know where I’ll be in a couple of years when I’m fully developed but I’ll take it one step at a time, I want to be top 50 and then I want to be top 10 and from there, who knows.”