Dominik Koepfer has taken an unusual route to life as a professional tennis player. The lefty only earned one Division I scholarship offer in the United States and he took it, attending Tulane University. Now, Koepfer is on the verge of cracking the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time.
The World No. 54 will play countryman Jan-Lennard Struff, the seventh seed, on Thursday for a spot in the quarter-finals of the BMW Open. ATPTour.com caught up with Koepfer, who turns 27 on Thursday, to learn about what life is like for him travelling on the ATP Tour…
What are two essential non-tennis items you always pack for trips?
I always have my laptop with me. [My] laptop is definitely number one, especially now during Covid times when we can’t do anything and are stuck in a hotel all day. Number two is probably a book, even though I hate reading a book, but my coach makes me. I’m reading the biography of [NBA legend] Dirk Nowitzki. I met him in Dallas last year.
What item did you forget to bring one time that caused you distress?
Definitely string, hard-court shoes when I was preparing for clay-court tournaments. All tennis-related stuff.
Do you enjoy travelling the world or consider it just something that needs to be done to be a pro tennis player? If you do enjoy it, what do you enjoy about travelling?
Obviously before Covid it was much more fun going to places I’d never been to, getting around the world, doing things most other people in normal jobs don’t have the chance to do and I have the chance to do for a living.
I love travelling, but it also gets [to be] a lot. If you travel 30 weeks a year but you’re in a hotel for 30 weeks, a hotel room is a hotel room. It doesn’t really change wherever you are… Once Covid calms down a little bit, I’m excited to see places again.
Can you talk about a time you decided to play a specific tournament in part because you wanted to travel to that city?
If you have a choice between two tournaments, I definitely pick the cooler city, or a place I’m more excited to go to. If it comes down to it, I’d definitely pick the city I want to go to rather than the tournament.
What is your favourite tournament city to visit and why?
Melbourne is a fun place, I really like Melbourne, Australia. Other than that, whenever there are tournaments in Germany, it’s home, that’s where I grew up. If it’s a choice between a grass tournament in England or a grass tournament in Germany, I’d definitely choose the one in Germany.
What is your craziest travel story?
It was a Challenger I played in Italy and then had to go to the Czech Republic two years ago. To get from the Czech Republic to home where I live, it was a 13-hour train ride and I had to change trains four times. After I lost, I went at 7 p.m. because I wanted to go home really badly.
I took the train during the night. It was brutal. I was by myself on the train, in the middle of nowhere in the Czech Republic, with all my tennis bags. It was a little sketchy. It was probably the most exhausting trip I’ve taken.
As a tennis player, maintaining your body is of the utmost importance, so how do you take care of it during long trips?
If it’s a really long flight, I try to get upgraded so I can actually get some sleep and not [go without] sleep for like 48 hours straight. As long as you get enough sleep, I don’t think the travel is that bad.
Obviously your body feels pretty badly the days after, but sleep is definitely the biggest thing for me. Getting enough rest and continuing to eat healthy [is important]. I’ve gotten sick a few times from travelling long distances, and the body takes a beating every time you change timezones. You’ve got to readjust and it’s hard on the body, definitely.
Are there any routines or activities you do to create a sense of ‘home on the road’ to feel more comfortable?
I try to watch a lot of German Bundesliga, the soccer league, on the weekends. That’s for sure one thing I always look forward to when I’m on the road, because it gives me something to do and I’ve always been interested in watching and folowing along. [I also like] just following sports in general.
Now that I live in Tampa, I follow the Tampa Bay Lightning. Whenever the timezone makes it work, I try to watch the games. There’s only so much you can do. I try to FaceTime with friends and family, but being away in a different timezone definitely makes it harder to stay connected with home.
How do you try to overcome jetlag and acclimate to the local timezone?
You just try to get some naps in if you’re too tired. After a few days or a week, it’s over. The first days I don’t think there’s really a secret. Just do your best to get enough sleep and it will eventually go back to normal.
Are you someone who gets to the airport with lots of time to spare or do you cut it fine?
I’m usually pretty early. I don’t think I’ve missed the first flight yet. I’ve obviously missed connections, but I’ve been pretty good with being ready early enough to get to the airport on time.