Hunter Reese is in a league of his own.
The 29-year-old Georgian doubles dynamo has never been the type of elite athlete who’d sit still in between matches in hopes of preserving energy for future competition. Instead, the former NCAA champ from has developed a knack for seeking adventure; or in many instances, the adventures have a way of finding him first.
Upon graduating from the University of Tennessee, where he broke numerous records that include claiming a second-ever NCAA doubles title for the Vols, Reese decided to continue his tennis journey and venture onto the pro circuit. Fast forward to today, and Hunter Reese is a top 100-ranked doubles player, who’s competing in the main draw of Roland Garros for the first time in his career starting next week. Sitting at a career-high rank of roughly 80 on the ATP world tour, Reese has never lost sight of the fact that doubles is a team sport, and your success relies heavily on how well the duo meshes together on any given day. His partner in crime for the year so far has been Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands; they first linked up as a team in 2020 at on the challenger tour and then again last summer in the Newport ATP event where they won a round and never looked back from there.
“We approach the game similarly, analyze the matches, are objective about the games and speak the same language,” says Reese of the on-court compatibility he shares with his doubles partner, which he says is hard to realize in every team. “We are focused on the long term and we don’t need results tomorrow – we clicked on all of that.”
Reese says he and his partner only intended on playing together up until this point in the year, but that could change given how well they’ve performed so far and the schedule ahead. Unlike other sports, a tennis player’s schedule is predictable in that it’s quite unpredictable; you have to be ready to gather your belongings and rush to another city depending on where you stand on an event’s entry list versus another tournament scheduled simultaneously.
With that said, you’re experiencing many sights and sounds off the court, so wouldn’t it seem natural that your doubles partner automatically becomes your best friend in activities outside of tennis? According to Reese, while he’s definitely good friends with his partner and many others on tour, spending a portion of quality time on the road by yourself without any interruption can be beneficial.
“I quite like that time alone and having time apart; I think that’s really healthy,” says Reese on how he handles himself off court. “You can’t be around the same person 24/7, even if they’re your best friend.”
In the upcoming Roland Garros championships alongside Ramkumar Ramanathan of India, Reese’s mentality remains the same: Chase after what’s in front of you.
“It was always my dream to play professional tennis,” says Reese, who’s playing in his fourth Grand Slam event with the help of the V-Feel 8-315 in hand since the US Open last fall alongside fellow American Evan King. “Realistically that wasn’t going to be an option as a kid. My highest ranking was 4 in the country; I was good but not on track to turn pro. And the way I was raised, was you go to college.”
After completing that chapter in his life, Reese had his sights set on playing professionally or perhaps teaching tennis as an assistant coach for a collegiate tennis squad. Either way, he had tennis on his mind and wanted to map out exactly how the chips would fall for him.
“I love to have a plan – but tennis has taught me and my career that you can’t always have one,” Reese says. “Days before an event and I don’t know where I am going to play next week – and then you just make a plan and go. I just learn to surrender a little bit and like the illusion of control.”
As everyone knows, winning a pro event week in, week out is an almost impossible task (unless you’re Swiatek); and you have to accept the fact that more losses happen than wins which interestingly can help you become a better tennis player as a whole. Rather than dwelling on a loss, Reese takes it upon himself to become immersed in Mother Nature by hiking after a tournament run ends.
“If I lose, I’ll just go find a mountain and hike it,” says Reese, who has backpacked throughout Brazil’s rainforest where he rented a bungalow. “Other people don’t get it, but that’s what I love.”
Bringing a bit of the nomadic lifestyle he honed abroad home here in the States, Reese has started designing a school bus that he plans on traveling in from tournament to tournament (so long as these events are driving distance from his home In Georgia, of course).
“I would go crazy if that’s all I did – eat sleep and breathe tennis,” Reese says. “Everyone just has to have that outlet of turning your brain off.”
Wishing all of our players the best of luck in this year’s Roland Garros tournament May 22-June 5! May the red clay propel you to great places and beyond! And don’t forget to enjoy Paris on and off the court!