At first glance, Ricardas Berankis looks like a normal 20-year old. There is nothing exceptional about his stature as he is only 5"8 and hespeaks with a modest tone. However, if you put him on a tennis court, you will start to notice what all the hype is about. Berankis, a former world #1 ranked junior by the ITF, has exploded onto the professional tennis scene in 2010 improving his ranking by almost 200 spots. Sitting outside the top 100 at #132, the soft-spoken Lithuanian is a star in the making.
This summer has been special for Berankis as he finally broke through and qualified for the Wimbledon Championships after falling in the final round of qualifying in his two previous grand slam attempts. His run did not stop there as he earned a second round appearance with Feliciano Lopez after defeating Carsten Ball. Although Lopez ended his magical run in four sets, Berankis had fond memories of his first taste of a grand slam main draw. "It was a great feeling. When you are a little kid, you dream to play in all the grand slams. And to finally qualify after a couple tough losses in previous tries, it really made it special. "
Although Berankis has surged near the top 100 this year, life on the pro tour has not always been easy for the youngster. He spoke of the tough transition between being a top junior and starting out on the pro tour. "It is definitely tough. The speed, fitness, and concentration are all on different levels from junior tour. Service games are tighter and you really have to take any little opportunities you get because that can be the difference in the match." Ricardas has gotten used to the level quickly, but his game plan and outlook on the future have not changed.
Berankis has had the same coach, Remigijus Balzekasfor about ten years now and has no plans of breaking that partnership. "He has been likea father to me. He is my coach now, has been for ten years, and will always be. There is no question about that." Berankis's sentiments are refreshing since players switch coaches as often as they switch their grips. Although Balzekas remains his coach, Berankis uses IMG Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida to train. The competition provided at IMG is second to none and the young super star realizes that. "The level here is what I will see on the tour. The academy provides courts, training, and everyone is always ready to help you. I cannot ask for anything more."
Since IMG Academy is located in Bradenton, FL, Berankis has had to move across the world from what he is accustomed to back in Lithuania. "You know I miss family and all friends. All the things that you can really miss about the place you call home." I was surprised he did not mention the food, so I asked him about a Lithuanian specialty translated into English as Beer Soup. His response was not what I was expecting. "That is funny. I have definitely heard of it and a lot of people I know like it. I have never tried it. Maybe next time I go home." With the U.S. Open Summer Series ahead of us, Berankis will not be able to head home anytime soon.As he islooking to make major strides on the ATP Tour, I asked him about his future goals.
Most players hovering around the top 100 mark normally have a goal of breaking into the higher rankings. "My goal has never been about rankings. You cannot go into a match thinking about the outcome and ranking points. I just go in and try to play my game and take the chances my opponents give me. If I do that and keep working hard, good things will come." With such a mature mindset and humble personality, good things are sure to come for Berankis. After all, this year has been about breakthroughs for him. "I don't know exactly what I have done differently. I just got used to the level and the speed. I stopped making some mistakes at critical points in the match. I guess I'm just more confident now." With Berankis confident, the rest of the ATP Tour should watch their back as the summer hard court season begins!