(September 1, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Former ATP Council President and doubles specialist Eric Butorac is calling it a career after the US Open. The 35-year-old Butorac won 18 doubles titles on the ATP World Tour reaching a career high ranking of 17 in 2011.
The man born in Rochester, Minnesota, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will go to work for the USTA beginning in October. He will become the Director of Professional Tennis Operations and Player Relations.
Tennis Panorama News asked Butorac a few questions about retirement and his future endeavors.
TPN: What are your feelings about your career? Retirement?
EB: Hard to sum it up in very few words. I never expected to have a career like this. Moved to France to play money tournaments and stumbled into Challengers and eventually got into Grand Slams. It was a surprise to be even out there doing it. To look back and say I did it for 13 years it’s… strange feeling but also reward I guess is the word. I don’t know how to sum it all up.
I’m proud about what I accomplished, worked really hard and got to live a great life, see the world, make great friends. It was an awesome experience.
TPN: What are some of the highlights of your career?
EB: On the court, making the finals of the (2014) Australian Open one year, it was not so much making the finals, just more having one of those runs where we beat the Bryans. We beat Hewitt and Rafter. We beat Murray/Peers. We beat Nestor and Zimonjic. We beat like all of these great teams playing on Center Court. Having to feel that you did one of those all the way down to the final day when everyone else is gone and you’re the only one in the lunch room with two other tables and you’re one of the last ones standing. It’s a really, really weird feeling. I didn’t have that often so. So that was great.
Off the court, being a part of the Player Council was something really special for me. It was something I stumbled into and someone nominated me for it. I took it very seriously, spending eight years on the council and doing two as president. That was something I’m very proud of. As much as anything I achieved on the court, for the good of the sport I was able to do a lot more off it.
That was something that was really great.
To end here and finish my playing career here at a place where I’ll now come and have an office. It’s kind of fitting in that way too.
TPN: Can you talk about your transition from player to working for the USTA? How did it come about?
EB: Gordon Smith approached me a couple of years ago and said when I was looking to wind things down to let him know. They were interested in finding a place for me and about a year ago, when my wife got pregnant with our second child, we knew that it was time we were going to be looking to get out of the game to be home more regularly.
One kid you can travel a little bit, but with two, way more logistically challenging.
I went back to him and said I’m very interested and we talked about what we’d like to do. He was able over quite a few months to create a job description that I felt was fitting to my current skill set as well as what I aspire to do. What better to do than to join an organization that has so much scope they cover from coaching and training players to running one of the biggest sporting events in the world. I’m really into American tennis, how we can grow the sport in our country and what better way than to be our biggest showcase
TPN: What are some of the challenges that you anticipate in your new position?
EB: The US Open, I want to make the best tournament in the world, especially in the players’ eyes. I think that people here really want it to be that way. They want what’s best for players. Unfortunately, over the years for whatever many number of reasons, players are not seeing this as their favorite event to attend, so I really want to change that. In some it can be a mindset, in some financial additions here or there changing how players are treated or how they view this event but I think it can be done. I look forward to that challenge.
TPN: Doubles – what have been some of the changes that have taken place during your career? What would you do to improve the state of doubles.
The sport could be very powerful. When I first started there were a lot of smaller guys on the tour who were very “handsy”, very crafty, old school if you will, doubles players. Names you may know like Jeff Coetzee, guys who were really crafty and quick around the net. Todd Perry who is a friend of mine and nowadays it’s that bang, bang tennis. You’re seeing a lot of Horia Tecau, Bopanna who just bang serves, crush returns which is just an evolution of the game. There is still a Marc Lopez out there, there are still people. It’s become pretty physical, they’re big and strong and they bang the ball, which maybe isn’t great necessarily for the fans as much, but that’s okay, The game will always be changing and you never know what’s next.
What could be better? Guys need to know where doubles is at and they need to do a good job of making sure it’s a fan-friendly product. The Bryans do an unbelievable job. They do pro-ams, they do clinics, they high-five every fan. They do autographs. They rest of the guys need to make sure that they copy that same style, especially as the Bryans move on the next few years. They’re not going to play forever. But we have a few guys who don’t go the extra mile I think to be fan friendly and as a doubles player we need to make sure that we have that, because if we don’t our sport could be quickly wiped off the map.
TPN: You have two young sons who may someday ask you, Daddy why did you play tennis?
EB: I don’t even remember how I started. My father was a tennis coach. He never really pushed me to play, but I sort of enjoyed it.
Why did I play tennis? I think as I have gotten older, I realized that some of the things that tennis has the components of it, it’s an incredibly self-reliant sport and in doubles you have a partner but for the most part, you have to hold yourself accountable for how you perform. I’m a pretty self-motivated guy. I don’t need a huge team, or a coach to rah-rah me to work hard.
I’m pretty motivated, but at the end of the day I think I really enjoyed that I’m accountable for my own actions. I don’t rely on a team of 10 guys, or four guys or what they are doing. I pretty much have to rely on myself and I think that tennis really allows you to do that.
People sometimes focus on the negative side of an individual sport. You don’t have a team, that is missing. There’s times when that’s really fun. There’s something really great about the complete self-reliance that tennis allows you. So when you win, the satisfaction can be really high, when you lose it can be really low because there are not a lot of places to turn, except on yourself. But that’s what makes it so powerful and for me it was really special.