Northern Ireland’s leading player Peter Bothwell talks life on the tour circuit and future targets

Peter Bothwell. Pic by Freddie Parkinson.Peter Bothwell. Pic by Freddie Parkinson.
Peter Bothwell. Pic by Freddie Parkinson. | Freddie Parkinson 07850466606 [email protected] www.freddieparkinson.photography
One of the biggest stories in the world of sport last week was the cancellation of Wimbledon due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It marked the first time that the All-England club has taken such action since World War II and, in the process, took away vital opportunities for the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams to further etch their name into the history books.

It’s not just the superstar household names that have been affected by cancellations though, with the ATP and ITF – two governing bodies of the sport – announcing that all tennis competitions until at least July 13 will be postponed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Peter Bothwell is currently Northern Ireland’s top-ranked player, sitting at 803 in the world standings and plays most of his tennis on the third-tier Futures level of the tour.

The 24-year-old, who bases himself at the SotoTennis Academy in Spain during the season whilst travelling the world to play, was in the middle of a five-tournament stretch in Portugal when he was told that the tour would be stopping with immediate effect.

With the first thought in his mind being to catch the next available flight, Bothwell is now back at home with more time on his hands than he would have been expecting but the Hillsborough native is looking to use that to his benefit.

“It (tour) got delayed back another month or two and I think it’ll probably be longer because travel is going to be so tough,” he said. “You can’t really do an international circuit straight after.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The academy where I’m based out in Spain has set up an online classroom so we have daily tasks to do.

“I’m working a lot on the tactical and mental side of the game, going through patterns of play, things I feel I could add into my game and looking at different plays at different times in a match.

“There has been a lot of that and also understanding my sport better.

“I’ve been looking at a lot of stats which I think is really important to see what other guys are doing and to learn from them and implement it into your own game. “Tennis really is such a mental sport towards the top of the game.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Guys that are at the top can mentally tolerate losing points better than anyone else.

“In tennis, guys like Novak Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal only win about 55 per cent of their career points, so they have to tolerate losing as well and they do a great job with that.

“I’ve been doing a few things on the mental side like working on routines.”

The prize money at the top end of the tennis hierarchy is astonishing, with Djokovic earning just over £2 million for Australian Open success earlier this year while if the US Open goes ahead in August, the champion will pick up a cheque worth an eye-watering £3.1 million.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There aren’t quite riches like that to be earned on the Futures Tour, with singles tournament winners earning between £1,700 and £3,000.

Bothwell faces a sustained period without any income from his profession and loses out on the time of the year where he usually performs best.

“Playing in Futures, I don’t make money anyway but now I’m literally not getting any cash in at all so that’s really difficult,” he added. “It’s tough because this is the time of year where basically all tournaments are outside on slow hard courts which suits my game the best, so we could be possibly missing that part of the season depending on when we go back.

“I’m trying not to think ahead too much and am just taking it day by day.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After a tough end to last year in the United States, a lack of confidence in his game rolled into the current campaign, but in recent weeks Bothwell has been showing real improvements, especially in doubles where he picked up a title in Portugal.

With tennis being a very lonely sport at times where everything is on one person, Bothwell had to trust the process in order to regain some momentum.

“It is tough,” he said. “The main thing was because I went on a bit of a losing streak, I got obsessed with wanting to win.

“All I was focused on was the outcome when I got on court, and once you do that, because you’re winning and losing points all the time, your thoughts are clouded and you can’t handle that pressure.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I hadn’t been playing well so my plan was to be completely process-focused, put in a good performance and accept that results will take care of themselves.

“It was a relatively quick turnaround then when I let go of that feeling of wanting to win.”

Bothwell, who represents Ireland in Davis Cup, has played against his fair share of supreme talent, taking on the likes of current top-10 stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev while last year put up a good fight against Casper Ruud, who is sitting at 36.

It’s performances like that which will spare Bothwell on to surpass his best-ever ranking of 602, even if goals are hard to set in the current climate.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s really tough to set anything up right now,” he added. “My ranking has slipped a little bit so I would love to get up around 500 as soon as possible in singles and then take it from there.

“The doubles has been so good that I want to just flow with it, but trying to get into the top 400 or 350 would be the goal.”