Monday, July 21, 2014
Buddy Koehler – New Yorker Won Three Championships with Plenty of Speed and A Quirky Backhand
Our featured player this week is Buddy Koehler, whose reputation precedes him among Tennis New Yorkers. Buddy won the league championship in three seasons: Spring 2011, Spring 2012, and Summer 2012. Not only that, he was named Player of the Year in 2011. Buddy recently surpassed the impressive milestone of having played 200 matches—as of July 17, 2014 his record is 148-57—so naturally we celebrated by interviewing him. Enjoy!
How did you get started playing tennis?
I started playing tennis in high school back in New Jersey when my friends and I would play recreationally at the local courts. We all decided to join the high school tennis team as a goof, but I'm the only one who actually followed through! I was really bad then, I didn't even know what it meant when my opponent would put up his finger to signal the ball was out.
And how is your tennis now?
Fourteen years later, I now consider myself a 4.5, at least according to NYC standards—I hear the criteria for warmer cities are tougher. I’m trying to get to the next level by the end of the season. It's tough to do this without lessons though. And I’ve actually never had lessons, which led to a very awkward-looking but effective one-handed backhand that I get asked about constantly. I was even told once it was illegal!
What is the appeal of tennis for you?
Well, I grew up playing soccer, but I decided to stop in high school because I hated the long distance running during practice. Physically, I love the short sprinting in tennis, especially since speed is a big weapon of mine. I also like that it's not a team sport. I randomly joined a baseball league a couple years ago, and after playing tennis, it seemed so boring since 90% of the three-hour game is just waiting. I won't even play doubles since I hate not having full ownership over a match and feeling like I need to apologize to my partner when I make an error.
Where do you usually play?
I'm a five-minute walk away from the thirty Central Park courts so I play there very often.
Which division are you in, and how did you first learned about the league?
I'm in the advanced division and have been in the league for five years already, which I only recently realized by looking up my first match in the records. I'm sure I first found out about it from doing a Google search of "NYC tennis league." There was another one that came up but I remember there was a mandatory trip to Florida so it seemed like more of an expensive social club than a tennis league, so New York City Tennis League was the obvious choice. I also tried a USTA flex league once and was disappointed to find that no one really played. The playoff system and prizes are the other things that separate Tennis New York from other flex leagues. I remember the USTA league just ending anticlimactically when the following season started.
I'm playing more than ever now, probably twice or three times a week. I even bought my own stringing machine since I was going through strings so quickly. I always recommend for any semi-serious player to do the same. It saves so much time and money, plus it teaches you a lot about the importance of strings and tension. It was a little intimidating at first since I had no idea what I was doing, but I quickly learned from watching Youtube videos.
Any favorite rivalries?
A couple of my favorite rivalries have been Frank Poerio and Orlando Jones. Frank and I played really close matches when I first started and then he took a few seasons off. I've improved quite a bit since I've been playing consistently, so it's interesting to play him now because it gives me an idea of the progress I've made. Orlando and I have had some great matches. Every time we play each other, we know we're in for a marathon. I can also tell I've got a budding rivalry with Marc Gibber, who nonchalant winners drive me crazy. I outlasted him in a three-setter yesterday though and have a finals rematch against Mathieu Brossard this Sunday so hopefully I'll get my 4th title! (Update: Sadly, Buddy ended up losing to Mathieu in the finals. But he didn't go down easily—the final score was 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. There’s always next season’s championship, Buddy!)
Who are your favorite pro players?
My favorite pros to watch are Nadal, Federer, and randomly, Dustin Brown. I love the relentless nature of Nadal, which I try to bring to the court myself. My opponents frequently tell me that my speed pressures them into going for more, which lead to more errors. So, I could only imagine how Nadal's opponents feel. Federer has always seemed like a tennis magician to me. The shots he comes up with sometimes are ridiculously angled or really clever, not to mention how gracefully he moves. And of course his accomplishments are extraordinary. I just discovered Dustin Brown recently at the French Open, and I think he's the most exciting player to watch. He's got the same devil-may-care attitude as Gael Monfils, and nearly the same speed too, but the difference is that Dustin Brown is a serve-and-volley player with incredibly soft hands, which makes each point really fun to watch.