Zachary Viiala: A rising star of Australian tennis
Meet Zachary Viiala, one of Australia's leading junior players and a member of Tennis Australia's National Tennis Academy.
Zachary Viiala is one of Australia’s most promising junior athletes.
After undergoing hip surgery earlier this year, the 17-year-old from Perth has made a promising return. Viiala won an ITF junior title at Adelaide in September without losing a set and has recently been competing on the ITF World Junior Tour in Asia.
In our series profiling Tennis Australia’s National Tennis Academy athletes, the unassuming Viiala reveals discipline is his biggest strength …
I think I started when I was about four years old. One of my friends wanted to start playing and he asked me to play with him and it sort of took off from there. I really enjoyed it.
At my local club in Perth, a place called Onslow Park Tennis Club.
I like the individuality. I like being by myself on the court and relying on myself to win. There’s lots of different aspects in tennis and I want to perfect all of them.
Roger Federer has always been my favourite. He’s just nice to watch and he is so humble off the court as well.
I wouldn’t say there is one in particular. I know James Duckworth the best, he was around (in Brisbane) while he was injured. We had the same injury this year, so we bonded over that a bit. He is a good guy as well.
Yeah. He was always like ‘just shout out if you need anything or want to chat about the process of it’. And it was kind of good to see the exercises that he was doing.
I wasn’t too nervous. It had been reasonably boring and pretty repetitive for a few months. I don’t play tennis to train, I play to compete, so I was ready to get back out there.
I guess everyone’s going to get injured at some stage and it’s all a learning curve. I feel like I’ve learned a few different things, but nothing too outstanding. I feel like I’ve always been reasonably disciplined within myself, and I think that sort of showed.
There has probably been two. I worked with my first main coach, John Thorpe from Dalkeith Tennis Club, for about eight or nine years. I feel like I really bonded with him because our personalities are pretty similar. He was always there for me, he knows a lot about the game and helped me to get to where I am today.
The second is my old doubles partner Kent Yamazaki. He really embodied the values that I strive for with his hard work, discipline and humility. He taught me to focus on being a better person, rather than a better tennis player.
I represented Australia at the ITF Junior Tennis Finals in the Czech Republic three years ago and getting to play for your country gives you a special feeling inside. Obviously living in Australia, we don’t get too much international exposure when we’re younger. It was a bit of an eye-opener to see the European players and how hard they work. It was a good experience and makes you even more competitive.
I wouldn’t say I like it too much. There’s a lot of variables that you can’t control, but it is part of the job, so I’ll have to learn to like it eventually.
It sort of varies from person to person and depends on how much effort you want to put into school. I’ve always valued education, as it is hard to make a living out of tennis and I want to have options. I feel like I’m managing it well, but it can be tricky at times. It’s all about discipline and hard work. There’s no easy way around managing school.
I’d say maths is my favourite. It sort of just clicks with me.
I’d say disciplined and an all-rounder.
My mental state and my serve. I feel like I’m pretty composed on court, I don’t sway around too much or show too much emotion. I feel like that helps me in tough situations. And my serve has come along well these past few years and I feel like I’m relying on it more and more.
I probably say Rafael Nadal’s forehand. It is one of the best out there.
I sort of just want to develop as a person, more than a player. I feel like that’s more important. I hope I can make a living out of tennis, whether that is coaching or playing. I don’t like to expect too much, because you might end up disappointed.
You have to learn from the people around you – their strengths and weaknesses, both on and off the court, to help you bond with them and also beat them in a match. I feel like there is a lot of independence in tennis too. It can get lonely at times, so you have to learn how to deal with that.
I’m not too extroverted, I like being by myself. I enjoy chilling out and watching Netflix, but there’s not too much time in the day for other activities.
I recently finished watching Ozark and it’s probably up there right now.
I used to be a bit of a foodie back in the day, but now I sort of just eat what gets served and I’m not too fussy. If I have to choose, I’d go a good steak.
I wouldn’t say I have one. Social media is a bit of rubbish to be honest.
In Perth there are a lot of grass courts, so I grew up playing on both grass and hard courts.
My family would say I’m funny but serious. My friends would say I’m disciplined and quiet.
I remember the 2012 final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. I wasn’t there but I was watching on TV with my family. The 2017 final between Roger Federer and Rafa was a special one for me, because I like Roger a lot.
Yeah, that’s the main goal for me. There’s lots of money in the Grand Slams and all the best players play. Hopefully one day I’ll be there.
My first one might have been Nick Kyrgios at a Davis Cup tie in Perth in 2014. I remember trying to get Roger Federer’s signature at the Hopman Cup, but he just walked by me and ignored me.
I feel like the coaches here are some of the best in the world. If I ask them a question, they know the answer straightaway, and I think that really helps develop my game to the senior level. It is a big jump from juniors to seniors and they know the secrets behind success. There are also decent guys as well, so it’s nice to have them around.
I mean, there’s been lots of lessons. If I had to choose one, I’d say it is to work hard because even if you fail, people will know you for being a hard worker. While working hard won’t always get you what you want, it does open your eyes to a lot of things.
I think if you view it as an intense environment, you won’t get the most out of it because you’ll be too stressed most of the time. We all get along decently, so I think we push ourselves and each other a lot. I think having bonds off the court is important too, because even though tennis is an individual sport, it helps to work as a team during training.
At first it was quite intimidating in a way. If you’re called up for a hit with Ash Barty or James Duckworth, you do get a bit nervous. But if you want to play at that level, you have to relax into it. It’s always good to have someone to look up to and see where you want to be in the future, so it’s good to have them around.
She’s pretty intense while she’s hitting, but chilled out during the breaks. She’s a good person. The first time I hit with her I was pretty nervous. It was before this year’s Australian Open and she’d been world No.1 for a while, so I was feeling the heat a bit.
A lot of the drills were based around her needs, so it was tough to win points. But it was a great experience to see what a world No.1 level is like.
After my injury, I just want to play as much as I can.
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