Jordan Cox: Wimbledon Junior runner-up

For Jordan Cox, the question wasn’t much of one at all.

Retain amateur status and experience everything that college has to offer – the education, the friends, the parties, the team camaraderie, the lasting memories. Or end all of the recruiting hoopla once and for all by announcing his professional intentions.

When his parents’ blessing came, so did the decision.

“From the day I started, I always wanted to become a professional tennis player,” the 17-year-old Cox said. “I’ve never had aspirations of playing in college. It’s not that one is right and one is wrong. For me, turning pro was the best decision.”

Long known as one of the country’s top juniors, Cox has experienced a dream year, from reaching the finals of Wimbledon Juniors to signing a professional contract with IMG not long after his success in England.

Of course, more than a few of his opponents in this year’s junior Grand Slams are the same guys he trains with and against on daily basis at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla. In the semifinals of Wimbledon, Cox defeated fellow Academy student Devin Britton (who also won the 2009 NCAA men’s singles title as a freshman at Ole Miss) before losing a three-setter to Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

In the first round of the U.S. Open Juniors Cox lost to another IMG Bollettieri Academy student in Yuki Bhambri – also known as the current No. 1 ranked junior in the world. He routinely goes against some of the world’s other top teenagers like Filip Krajinovich and Ryan Harris.

“We all want to win, but we’re all pretty good friends off the court,” Cox said. “We’re not so much worried about the other guy, but trying to improve ourselves.”

Like many kids, Jordan picked up the game as a youngster in Georgia after watching his older brother, Brad, take some lessons. It didn’t take long for Jordan to catch the bug.

“The taste of winning, even at a young age, I just loved,” he said.

His older brother eventually attended the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy before taking his game to the University of Kentucky, and Jordan did the same. Since then, he’s not only worked on his on-court game, but has also spent hours upon hours doing physical conditioning in the IMG Performance Institute and worked with some of the Academy’s top mental conditioning specialists.

The latter, Jordan feels, is quite possibly what kept him from winning a Wimbledon Juniors title.

“I was up a set and held the first couple service games of the second, and I was already thinking, ‘Hey, I could win this,’” Jordan said. “Maybe that was the wrong thought process, because when I starting thinking like that, my game started going downwards.

“Still, I felt like I not only showed myself, but showed the tennis world who I am and what I can do. And that feeling of walking onto the court in front of 4,000 or 5,000 fans? It was the most unbelievable thing for my career so far.”

For years, Jordan had received recruiting letters from around the country. After Wimbledon, though, professional agents also started making themselves known to the Cox family. After years on the junior circuit, they took mental notes on what to look for, what to ask and other details vital for the right representation.

“I think it was important that we included Jordan in all of the meetings,” said Julie Cox, Jordan’s mom. “He often came away with questions of his own. It was harder for me, I think, to make the decision than it was for him.”

Julie made her son promise that he’d finish high school. She hopes that he’ll find time for a college degree in the future. Already, she’s heard from questioners asking if the tennis life has caused Jordan to miss a piece of his childhood.

Julie thinks that the naysayers have a skewed perception of the situation.

“(Brad and Jordan) have traveled the world,” she said. “They’ve made friends everywhere. Their social network is international.

“Maybe the biggest thing is that we never forced this on them. We’re not coaching parents. We’ve always said to them that even after all of the money we’ve invested, if you don’t want to do this, that’s absolutely fine. Go out there because you want to, and you enjoy it and it’s where you want to be. It’s not for every kid out there, but the rewards can be great. My sons are healthy. They’re out of trouble. They’re motivated. Having to make decisions a lot of time on their own, has been huge for their maturity.”

For Jordan, the work continues to become a better tennis player. He plans on playing some Futures and Challenger tour events for the rest of the year to raise his ranking. He has no qualms about stating his goal to win a men’s Wimbledon or U.S. Open “at least once, if not more than once.”

And he’s definitely not looking back on his decision to go pro. His advice would work for any junior looking to achieve any accomplishment.

“Just go for it,” he says. “You only live once. If you have a goal, work hard and go get it.”