Eliot Spizzirri awarded wild card spot for U.S. Open Qualifying after dominant pro tennis summer

Ross Fisher

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the August 23 flipbook.

Like many other 19-year-old University of Texas students, tennis sophomore Eliot Spizzirri was busy building his professional resume this summer. Except he was not working a part-time gig or taking on a summer internship — Spizzirri was grinding out wins against professional tennis players in the Illinois summer heat. 

Now he’s preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Spizzirri won his first professional singles title earlier this month at the ITF Futures in Decatur, Illinois, just a week after winning his second-ever pro doubles title at the ITF Futures in Champaign, Illinois. 

Just as it seemed life could not get any sweeter for the Longhorn sensation, Spizzirri got a call on Wednesday informing him that he was one of nine players awarded a wild card for the U.S. Open men’s singles qualifying tournament from Aug. 24-27 at Billie Jean King Center in Queens, New York.

After winning his first professional singles title in Decatur on Aug. 8 — a massive milestone in his young career — Spizzirri shifted his focus to the upcoming fall season with Texas, planning to return to Austin on Aug. 20. Little did he know at the time, his return to Austin would have to be put on a brief hold. 

As the Greenwich, Connecticut, product was wrapping up another grueling training session Wednesday morning, he got the surprise call from Kent Kinnear, head of men’s tennis at United States Tennis Association Player Development. 

“I was stoked,” Spizzirri said. “I was a little shocked, and it definitely gave me the chills a little bit, just because I’ve grown up going to the qualifying of the U.S. Open.”

The news was the realization of a boyhood dream for Spizzirri, who has been going to the free-to-attend U.S. Open qualifying tournament every year since he was 8 years old. 

Spizzirri recalls being awestruck, watching the tournament as a teenager and daring to dream that he too would make it to the big stage one day. 

“It’s a little bit of a dream,” he said. “I can’t say I definitely knew it was gonna happen but I was striving for it every day because — I mean, I saw the level and it looks daunting when you’re maybe 14 years old, but you keep working and eventually get better and better, and opportunities arise. I definitely was visualizing it and hoping that one day I would get that opportunity.”

The qualifying tournament will be a homecoming of sorts for the Texas ace, who practically grew up at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, training with the United States Tennis Association there every year since he was 12. Spizzirri hopes that his familiarity with the grounds will lend him a sliver of an advantage.

The Texas standout is the second youngest competitor to receive a wild card for qualifying this year, a role he has grown accustomed to in his first full season playing collegiate tennis and on the ITF circuit. Being among the youngest, Spizzirri feels that he has nothing to lose.

“My goal is to take (qualifying) literally one point at a time … I’m going to go out there and try to impose my game as much as I can and do some damage,” he said. “I’m not there just to act like I belong, I’m there to win.”