NEWPORT — The pride of Old Milwaukee — “Which one?,” Tim Smyczek asked of his status in relation to Minnesota Brewers All-Star baseball player Christian Yelich or NBA All-Pro Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Truth be told that the 31-year-old Smyczek has been on the tennis tour since 2006 and taken in a mere total of $2 million. But the Wisconsin native is still chasing any wins that he can take, hoping for any paychecks that he can earn.
Smyczek will leave the International Tennis Hall of Fame Championships with at least $5,880 in his pocket after winning two matches in two days, a qualifying round on Sunday and a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Australia’s John-Patrick Smith Monday.
Smyczek has never been ranked inside of the top 100, playing at No. 221 entering Newport with a meager total of $67,689 in earnings during the current ATP season.
For the most part, Smyczek has been reduced to playing on the Challenger Tour, the AAA of men’s professional tennis, and in qualifying rounds, hoping to advance into the main draw of events — like the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon.
A semifinalist last year in Newport, Smyczek earned notoriety in 2018 when he and his coach, Dustin Taylor, forgot to enter him into the qualifying rounds for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, this is what I do for a living,” Smyczek said while leaving a Challenger Tournament in Winnetka, Illinois, last week with another first-round setback.
Against Smith, another veteran, Smyczek served four of his eight aces in the decisive third set, emerging victorious with a service break in the eighth game. More notably, the diminutive (5-foot-9) and dynamic Smyczek won 75 percent (41-for-55) of his first service points.
“With these courts, grass courts in general, the margins are so small,” Smyczek said of moving along, having just a 42-83 record in “main draw” ATP events. “I had a few opportunities in the second set, too.
“I kind of guessed right in that last set, the last game,” Smyczek added. “I’ve played this tournament enough times (nine) that I don’t get frustrated.
“These are good tournaments for guys like me for sure, to get some points,” Smyczek said of missing several months of the indoor season with a wounded knee. “You have to stay healthy, and it’s so hard to even get one win on the tour — you really realize that when you go three or four or five weeks in a row without a win.
“At this point of my career, I’m very aware of that. I guess I don’t have anything better to do,” Smyczek said of his vagabond status touring the globe.
Also on opening day in feature matches, No. 6-seeded and the 2016 champion, 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic fell to Argentina’s Guido Andreozzi 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7); No. 103-ranked Bernard Tomic of Australia lost in the first round of his 13th tournament thus far, 6-2, 7-6 (5) to Belarus’s Ilya Ivashka; and No. 72-ranked 27-year-old American Tennys Sandgren held off Denis Istomin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.