We have a new local sports celebrity in our midst who has burst through the scene in only 8 months on the professional ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour, 28 year-old Andrew Bogdanov. He has learned he will be playing in the U.S. Open August 30th through September 10th of this year in singles and doubles.
An avid tennis player for a little over 3 years total and in many ways due to the COVID outbreak – where playing a sport with few people in the open air gave him and his buddies an outlet to continue having a fun, safe sport they could play in a competitive manner while most other outlets were closed.
After he broke his neck snowboarding in Flagstaff at the age of 19, Andrew did an about face with his life. He went to college, got his degree, took up as many sports as he could manage the time for and became a fitness trainer and entrepreneur.
The question for Andrew wasn’t what he couldn’t do, it was always – what he wanted to do.
After he took up the game of tennis and got hooked, he entered some amateur wheelchair tournaments, first winning C division events, then B, then A and Open championships.
The idea presented itself that just maybe he had the right stuff to try and play professional wheelchair tennis and with that all kinds of questions needed to be answered, as well as seeing if he qualified for the quad division, or would have to play in the Open division where he’d probably be outclassed due to their having much more body function.
Andrew has pretty good use of his arms, but has no function with his core or legs. With his injury he also has no sweat glands that help cool down his body on a hot day, thus he has to use spray bottles to cool his body when temperatures soar..
He flew to Montreal, Canada and found out he qualified for the quad professional division and the journey began.
In Andrews words, here’s what he’s up to now after going from zero ITF ranking to #20 in the world, becoming the #2 player in the United States in the quad division, having won a number of tournaments in singles and doubles, getting selected to be on the World Cup Team that was played in Portugal and winning the bronze there, and most recently given a wild card to play this year’s U.S. Open.
Let’s backtrack a little and hear Andrew’s words about the question, “Why tennis on a professional level?”
When I started playing, I never thought I was going to make a career out of it. I just enjoyed playing with friends in my free time. Once I started playing tournaments and winning matches, I started to realize maybe there was something more for me with the sport.
So is it easier or harder playing professionally than you thought it would be?
“Definitely harder. Training is daily, sometimes twice a day. Nutrition, sleep, and exercise are all important factors as well. Once you start climbing the ranks the level of tennis is so much more demanding and competitive. I used to win matches by being consistent and smart. Now it’s so much more. You have to have all the components. Speed, pace, spin, touch… it’s all necessary for success.”
To get and stay in the top ten players in the world, what do you think it’ll take?
“So much mental and physical strength. Being healthy and minimizing injuries is so important as well. When you’re traveling overseas to different countries, dealing with jet lag, eating differently etc it takes a toll on your body. Not to mention that you’re expected to perform physically at your peak performance all the time.”
“To make it to the top you need to make many sacrifices as well. You pretty much have to eat and breath tennis everyday. Also unfortunately it takes money. It’s not cheap to travel full time playing tennis tournaments on tour. And if you’re not winning matches you’re not getting paid. I’m blessed to have a part time job running the New Horizons gym which allows me to have flexibility and travel when I need to.”
Nannette Oately Johnson said about Andrew and his journey, “As a former U.S. Open Champion (2001) myself, I know the dedication, cost, time, hard work, and sacrifice involved in professional sports. Unlike stand-up tennis where players receive generous prize money and lucrative endorsements, there is minimal compensation for the pro wheelchair tennis athlete.”
“It would be nice if we had some local business owner’s reading this article and as a community come together and form “Team Andrew” to help support not only his U.S. Open debut, but beyond to help defray his expenses.”
“Accruing ranking points on the tennis circuit encompasses both national and international competitions is quite expensive.”
“It is a tragic and heart-wrenching experience to break one’s neck, but when you find the inner resilience and strength to become a Victor and not a victim in life, you are well on your way to success.”
Sharon Lou, Andrew’s girlfriend of 4 years had this to say about Andrew, ”I have always believed he would exceed even my wildest imagination. His fierce pursuit is matched with my dedication to provide as much support as I can with my heart and soul towards his endeavors.
Andrew has taught me anything is possible, whatever he dreams he finds a way to achieve.”
“I’ve never known anyone more focused, determined and driven.”
Andrew’s short term and then long term goals are to make it into the top 16, then top 10 which will qualify him for more slams and the long term goal is playing in the Paralympics in Paris the summer of 2024.
Let’s hear it for “Team Andrew!”