Tennis star Ca$h Hanzlik is on his way up
Portland's Ca$h Hanzlik continues to make waves on the U.S. junior tennis circuit, making his way through some major turbulence of the past year.
A year ago, I wrote about the youngster with the unusual name — yes, the dollar sign is on his birth certificate — who was taking the Northwest juniors scene by storm.
Much has happened since then. Last September, Hanzlik — ranked 16th in the nation in boys 16 singles — received an unprecedented year-long suspension from the U.S. Tennis Association for poor behavior with opponents and referees. It was the longest suspension the USTA has ever given a junior.
The suspension was lifted after six months in March, with the proviso that should Hanzlik sustain a code violation over the ensuing six months, he would be placed back on suspension.
With improved decorum during his probation period, Hanzlik, now 17, is back in good stead with the USTA and has re-established himself as a rising star.
In early August, he reached the quarterfinals of the USTA Boys 18 Nationals at Kalamazoo, Michigan. In late August at the U.S. Open Juniors in Flushing Meadow, New York, the unseeded Hanzlik took No. 2 seed Holger Rume of Denmark to the wire before succumbing 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5). Rume had won the boys 18 singles championship at the French Open and is ranked No. 2 among the world's juniors.
Hanzlik won a pair of qualifying matches to gain a wild card into the 64-player boys 18 singles draw, playing at the same complex where Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu claimed their men's and women's singles titles.
Just to get into the main draw was an accomplishment.
"I didn't expect to qualify, but I felt like I should," Hanzlik said. "I knew most of the players. I knew they were good, but I definitely felt like I should, and I did. It was a good feeling, for sure."
Once in, Hanzlik gave Rume all he could handle.
"I played pretty well," Hanzlik said. "I was striking the ball well. I worked my way into the match. The third set was close, and at the very end of the match it was kind of unlucky. He had a shank that went in and then a net-cord winner at match point."
Philippe Oudshoorn, the USTA's national men's coach, was in New York and watched the Hanzlik-Rume match.
"Ca$h played very well," Oudshoorn said. "He had to weather the storm a little in the beginning, but he showed some good fighting spirit and was up a break in the third set. It was quite impressive to see how he settled into his match. Holger was serving well. That was the edge at the end."
Hanzlik wasn't intimidated playing one of the world's top-ranked juniors.
"Rume is very good," he said. "I didn't feel overwhelmed, though. There are no juniors who are absolutely amazing. If they're amazing, they're playing professionally. I knew that coming into the tournament."
Even so, Hanzlik's performance against Rume "is good for my confidence," he said. "I believed I was at that level. I know what the top level is like, and I know I should have won that match."
Such self-confidence works in Hanzlik's favor, said his coach, Jonathan Stark.
"Ca$h has the belief now that he can play with the best kids in the world," said Stark, a former U.S. Davis Cupper who was once ranked No. 1 in the world in men's doubles. "A lot of it is believing in yourself and having the confidence that you can compete with anybody."
Hanzlik takes accountability for his suspension, though he doesn't agree with its initial length.
"I feel like I deserved it, but not for a full year," he said. "A year is harsh. That was not fair in my opinion. Three or six months would have been fair."
Six months is what he got, and he seems to have handled himself well since then.
"He learned from it, and he has done a nice job," Stark said. "That's one of the reasons he has been playing so well. He has been focusing on all the things he should focus."
"He has kept his emotions under control," said Oudshoorn, who worked with Hanzlik at Kalamazoo and a tournament in College Park, Maryland, since his return. "I've seen no problems from him at all. And he has been a heck of a competitor."
A year ago, Hanzlik was 5-11 and 130 pounds. Now he is 6-foot and nearly 165.
"He has worked really hard in the gym," Stark said. "It's fun to see. He still has some growing to do height-wise, but the size makes a big difference. You can hit the ball bigger. You can move faster. You're able to put more on your serve. On the tour these days, you have to be able to do that unless you're lightning fast."
Hanzlik — who attended Chapman for elementary school and West Sylvan Middle School before going the home-schooling route in high school — is a member of the USTA's junior elite program.
"Ca$h spent about four weeks this summer with us (in a training camp) in Orlando," Oudshoorn said. "We support him, and I believe he'll spend a good amount of time with us the rest of the year."
Hanzlik has also played a couple of $25,000 Futures pro events — he earned $750 in prize money, which can go toward his expenses — and plans to play more tournaments before the end of the year.
His world ranking is 154 in boys 18s, but he holds wins over a couple of players ranked in the top 20.
"By the end of the year, I should be somewhere between 50 and 100," he said.
The U.S. Open was his first taste of playing a Junior Grand Slam event, and he wants more.
"I want to play the Australian Open (in January)," he said. "That's a big goal."
Hanzlik has had major interest from major colleges throughout the country. If he plays well enough over the next year, though, he might turn pro.
"I'm considering college tennis," he said. "If you win a (Junior Grand) Slam, it's a sign that you're good. If you win a Futures tournament, or are consistently going deep in them, that's a sign, too. I'll just have to see how my results are."
Oudshoorn wouldn't be working with Hanzlik if he didn't see potential.
"Ca$h needs to focus on putting in a lot more work and playing the right schedule," Ourdshoorn said. "If he does the right things over the next 10 to 15 years, he can be a heck of a pro tennis player."
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