Last year, Oyster Bay, N.Y.-born Ronnie Hohmann captured one of the most prestigious junior tournaments in the world, winning the Boys 16s Division title at the Eddie Herr International at the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Hohmann defeated three of the draw’s top five seeds on his way to winning one of the biggest titles a junior player can win.
“Winning the Eddie Herr tournament meant so much to me,” said Hohmann. “I know it’s one of the most prestigious tournaments a junior player can play, and really shows how much I have developed recently. The main thing I was doing well was keeping my head focused on the game plan. I knew if I did this I would be able to win those matches. Winning a tournament like this gives me a lot of confidence. I feel like I can beat anybody.”
That confidence has led to some outstanding results for the 16-year-old Hohmann in recent months. He followed up his triumph at Eddie Herr by winning USTA National tournaments in Key Biscane and Orlando.
Just recently, Hohmann won six matches en route to the title at the NTRP Championships at the Broward Tennis Festival, his fourth top-level title in five months. In the finals of the Broward Tennis Festival, he defeated Juan Benitez, who was ranked 699th on the ATP Tour at the time.
Hohmann’s success really shouldn’t come as any surprise with the amount of time, work and energy he has put into honing his craft over the last three years under the tutelage of former professional player, Todd Widom.
The two first came in contact through Robert Kendrick, a friend of Widom’s from the ATP Tour, who was training with a 12-year-old Hohmann in New York. During this time, Hohmann was also heading down to Florida during some spring and summer months, as well as Christmas breaks, to train. A couple of years later, Hohmann’s parents decided the best thing to do was have him train full-time with Widom down in Florida.
“The plans were for Ronnie to live with my wife and son to see how far Ronnie could take his tennis,” said Widom. “During this time, he has become a part of our family. Our four-year-old son looks up to Ronnie and considers him a big brother. Ronnie’s father had wanted his son to be receiving an education into what it would take for him to become a successful ATP player.”
Widom was just the man for the job. He spent eight years as a professional tennis player, and his training system was exactly what Hohmann needed.
From an early age, Hohmann showed the signs of his tennis potential: Hand-eye coordination, foot speed and racket head acceleration. But his transition from training primarily indoors in New York to the outdoor courts of Florida would not be an easy one.
“Coming from a very quick indoor environment to play in Florida are two very different things,” Widom explained. “Everything from the way he played, his mentality and his discipline of training and constructing a point needed to be adjusted.”
Hohmann had achieved great results in the Eastern Section, but needed to adjust his game to the outdoors and the elements of the Sunshine State if he were to compete with the best of the best in the nation. His ball needed to be heavier off both his forehand and backhand, as opposed to hitting the ball flat, and he needed to learn how to come to the net and not hug the baseline. In other words, what worked for him in tournaments in New York was not going to work for him in Florida.
“My foundation was good, but not great, when I first came to Todd,” said Hohmann. “I grew up playing indoors, so the balls I hit were hard and flat, which is not good for the outside. I wasn’t going to be consistent and not stay in points. He spent a lot of time with me hitting a heavier and higher ball, and staying more consistent … it takes a while. I had never learned how to construct a point. Now, when I play matches, I am able to construct points.”
It wasn’t just the tactical aspect of tennis that Widom needed to instill in Hohmann, but he also needed to toughen him up from both a physical and mental perspective.
Widom recalls a story when Hohmann first began training full-time with him, and he had him compete against another boy in his program.
“Ronnie was a little shorter and the other kid was 6’2”, and he was beating Ronnie consistently,” said Widom. “He came down from New York with a high ranking, and really needed a big-time attitude adjustment. We had to humble him and show him that he really did need to fix all the things we were telling him. Ronnie had a tough time dealing with that emotionally. We pushed him to get rid of some of those attitude issues and being a hot-head on the court.”
If Hohmann acted up on court during a match, Widom would put him through a stressful exercise as a form of punishment. This had a two-prong effect: Hohmann would not only have to change his attitude, but he would also be getting stronger and better-conditioned as well.
“Every time he acted up, he went through some form of pain physically that usually resulted in some running or a very painful leg workout, which was good because this was helping him get physically stronger,” said Widom. “Ronnie’s parents and I were in accordance that this is what it was going to take to change his mindset around so he could achieve the results that he was working so hard to attain.”
And Hohmann was willing to do anything that Widom and his team pushed him to do, and his progress in the last couple of years is evidence of that.
“His coaching style is very different compared to other coaches,” said Hohmann. “He expects you to bring a high level of intensity and focus, day in and day out. He is used to a high level since he played professionally, and has been surrounded by a high level of tennis throughout his whole life.”
Hohmann has now been in Florida full-time for two-and-a-half years, and is now one of the top players in the country. His victory at the Eddie Herr International was a real confirmation of the dedication he has shown and the improvement he has made. He has recently hit with many top pros who train in Florida, including Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson and Fernando Verdasco.
“As Ronnie’s results are showing that it can be a reality to have a career on the ATP Tour, I want him to feel and see what these great players are doing on a daily basis to achieve those levels of tennis,” said Widom. “It’s one thing for me to tell him what to do, but it is a different ballgame to see and feel it on the court with these players.”
Hohmann has found a new home in Florida, and training full-time in the Sunshine State has allowed his game to flourish. But he makes sure to come back up to Long Island once every couple of months:
“I miss my family the most,” Hohmann said. “But I also miss having that great New York pizza.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org