Koontz Energized by ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Trip

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Koontz Energized by ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Trip

After a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience in Europe this spring, Hunter Koontz might have a hard time coming back to reality in time for the Mercedes Benz Greater Richmond Tennis Championships July 27-31 at Raintree Swim and Racquet Club.

Actually, Koontz has had a few weeks to recover from his trip, where he made stops in Madrid, Spain, Rome and Paris as a hitting partner for the U.S. Federation Cup team and Team USA as they prepared for the French Open and Wimbledon.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Koontz, two-time defending champion in the men’s draw of the city tournament.

After getting permission to leave his new position as assistant teaching pro at the Country Club of Virginia, Koontz left Richmond for five weeks. It was the first trip outside of the country for the former Virginia Tech standout and 2016 graduate.

Before going overseas, Koontz was sent to Orlando, Fla., site of the new U.S. Tennis Association National Training Center.

“That place is unbelieveable,” said Koontz. “Got to meet a lot of coaches down there. Saw some familiar faces.”

Then it was off to Madrid, where the Madrid Open was in progress on the red clay courts of Europe.

“I was in Madrid for 10 days, hanging out at the tournament all day,” said Koontz. “Meeting a lot of great players. Probably within touching distance of [Rafael] Nadal a couple times. So that was pretty cool.”

Nadal, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, won the Madrid Open for the fifth time.

“I got a coaches’ badge when I was in Madrid and a coaches’ badge while I was in Rome so I could go basically anywhere in the tournament,” said Koontz. “I was sitting in a bunch of players’ coaching boxes and I got to see a lot of great tennis.”

Koontz also spent time hitting with such U.S. players as Shelby Rogers, Alison Riske, Cici Bellis, Jennifer Brady and Varvava Lepchenko.

“We did drills,” he said. “Some people wanted to play points. It just depended on their personal preferences. On the trip, I hit with 24 different people. I only had one day where I didn’t hit at all, and that was in Rome, so I went and did all the touristy stuff.”

The last stop for Koontz was in Paris, where he hit on seven different courts at Roland Garros, where qualifying matches for the French Open might be taking place at the same time he was practicing with one of the American women.

Overall, Koontz said he would rate the trip as a “10 out of 10 experience.”

Could there be something in the future with the USTA and its National training program?

“If they asked me again, I definitely would consider it,” said Koontz, a former Deep Run High School standout. “They told me before the trip, if it went well, they are trying to make a full-time position, where you would be in Orlando for half the time and on the road for half the time, hitting with the girls.

“But I told them right from the beginning, that I would stick to these five weeks. I really do want to put in some time at CCV, just because they went through this whole process of trying to find someone to hire. I didn’t want to put them in a tough situation.

“From a networking standpoint, all the people I met within the USTA and some of the girls in general, I think there could be something there in the future. We will see. Right now, I’m teaching tennis at CCV. It’s a great place to be for the time being.”

Upon returning to Richmond, Koontz played in the McDonald’s Mid-Atlantic Clay Court Championships at Salisbury Country Club, where he lost in the quarterfinals of singles and the semis in doubles, picking up a small check for doubles.

The city tournament offers $2,700 in prize money, with $500 going to the men’s and women’ singles champions and $400 to the doubles winners. Play begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and runs through Sunday evening.