Following the end of his junior career, Ohio State’s Mikael Torpegaard was encouraged to play tennis professionally.
Instead, the Denmark native decided he would return to Columbus for one more season in scarlet and gray.
Now with just two more home matches remaining in the men’s tennis regular season, Torpegaard can see the start of his professional career just in front of him. And he is hoping that by breaking out more ready than ever, he will be able to show that playing at the collegiate level was the best decision for his game.
“When I told the federation that I was going to college, I was one of the first ones to do it. Because of that, the relationship I’ve had with the federation hasn’t been the greatest,” Torpegaard said. “They always thought I should’ve gone pro right away, which in my eyes would’ve been a terrible mistake because I would’ve ran dry in it.”
Torpegaard is currently the fourth-ranked men’s collegiate player in the country and had the opportunity to forgo his senior season and play professional tennis, but felt that he had unfinished business at Ohio State.
He said more than anything, he just wanted to come away with a collegiate title before turning pro.
“I [also] wanted to improve a couple things in my game still that I felt like I lacked a little bit,” Torpegaard said. “So I came back to keep on practicing, and getting better and maturing into my game both on and off the court.”
The decision to play professionally was something he was initially encouraged to do from the onset of his career, but he decided it was in his best interest to play collegiate tennis. And having a chance to watch the success former Ohio State players had playing professionally ultimately influenced Torpegaard’s decision to play at the collegiate level after leaving high school.
Torpegaard believed that Ohio State gave him the best training and helped further develop his skills to give him the greatest opportunity to succeed at the professional level.
“I’m satisfied with this decision of coming to college,” Torpegaard said. “I think my game has taken such a huge jump, that without Ohio State, there’s no chance I would’ve ever made it.”
Ohio State men’s tennis head coach Ty Tucker said that Torpegaard is not only a leader on his team, but has a great influence on the collegiate tennis community.
“His presence is felt and he’s been a very positive leader because he takes pride in working as hard as he can throughout a tough long season,” Tucker said. “Any guy who comes to play college tennis knows the name Mikael Torpegaard.”
That hard work mentality was shown at the 2017 NCAA semifinals when he faced Wake Forest’s Petros Chrysochos for the clinching point, a match that Torpegaard remembers as his favorite college moment.
He can remember the match being tied at three, and as the last match during the event, he knew all eyes were on him.
“I fall down on my wrist, I can’t really hit back-hands for the rest of the match and end up somehow winning the match 7-6 in the third anyways,” Torpegaard said. “The feeling of having everyone rush in and jump on top of me as I lay on the court is an unbelievable memory to have and that’s why I play these matches.”
Though Torpegaard has largely dominated tennis to this point in his career, dominating professional tennis players requires plenty more refining. Tucker said it is not easy to become one of the top tennis players in the world, but Torpegaard has all of the qualities needed to make it to the top.
“I see Mikael being a top 200 player in the world in the next 16 to 18 months,” Tucker said. “It’s not easy to get to the top 100 in the world in professional tennis to where the big money is, but I see him able to be self-sufficient on the pro tour for a long time.”
He will be given a chance to prove he’s ready for tougher challenges when he and the rest of Ohio State face off against Illinois, who the team will face Saturday for the top spot in the Big Ten.
But win or lose in that match, Torpegaard feels it will not come close to defining his career. He has accomplished too much for it to be defined by how his collegiate career ends.
“I feel like I’ve had a good career in college, [and] if I can add a little bit to it obviously I’m going to try my best to do so, but I’m also ready to start the pro thing right now,” Torpegaard said.
Torpegaard is now looking forward to the next chapter of his career playing professionally, something he said he was not prepared for last season.
He hopes that he can show other European junior athletes that playing college tennis is an opportunity that can further develop players in the sport.
“I’d like to be remembered for setting the standard that or changing the mentality that college is not just a place where good players go to die,” Torpegaard said. “I’ve done that to some sort of degree already, but it’s about changing some minds and really making tennis, the college way, available for other upcoming juniors in my country.”