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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tour experience preps UA coach

    UA tennis assistant coach Tom Lloyd watches his squad March 31 in a match it lost to Berkeley at Robson Tennis Center. Lloyd, also a former UA player, spent time as ATP Tour pro Taylor Dents coach.
    UA tennis assistant coach Tom Lloyd watches his squad March 31 in a match it lost to Berkeley at Robson Tennis Center. Lloyd, also a former UA player, spent time as ATP Tour pro Taylor Dent’s coach.

    Three years ago, UA assistant tennis coach Tom Lloyd would not have told you he was going to be a coach, much less a coach on the ATP tour.

    At the time, Lloyd had recently finished his fifth year at Arizona and was in the midst of his brutal summer routine. Throughout college, Lloyd spent his summers on the court trying to earn invitations to tournaments that could possibly jump-start a tennis career.

    “”My main goal was to be an ATP tour pro,”” Lloyd said. “”Over the summers I didn’t work. I could have gotten a job, but instead I traveled and played tournaments. That’s what I wanted to do.””

    Unfortunately for Lloyd, injuries began to accumulate, and he was forced to end his playing career shortly after his final college season.

    “”Injuries just began to build up, and it just wasn’t making tennis very fun anymore,”” Lloyd said.

    Within a week of his final tournament, Lloyd was stringing a racquet in his dad’s tennis shop in Southern California when he got an unexpected call. The call was from Phil Dent, a former tour professional and father of Taylor Dent, a current ATP player and Lloyd’s childhood friend.

    Phil asked Lloyd if he would be interested in helping Taylor on the tour. The call was followed by one from Taylor’s agent and then finally one from Taylor himself.

    “”Taylor called me and said, ‘Hey dude, you coming out here or what’s the deal?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,'”” Lloyd said of the conversation between him and Dent. “”Then he said, ‘All right, well, the ticket is booked, it’s out of L.A. tomorrow, midnight. See you in a day.’ “”

    Lloyd then traveled to Madrid, Spain, and met up with Dent at a Super Nine tournament. For the next three months, until the end of the ATP season, Lloyd traveled with Dent, working primarily as a hitting partner and assisting with workouts.

    At the start of the 2005 season, Dent ended his relationship with then-coach Francisco Montana. This allowed for Lloyd to take the position.

    What made the opportunity intriguing for Lloyd was his relationship with Dent. The two were close growing up and spent much of their time at each other’s houses. When the two were not playing tennis, they were building remote control cars.

    Tom’s dad, Hank Lloyd, said building these cars “”was always a hobby. They would race them down the street after a tournament they were playing in. They did all they could to outdo each other with making bigger engines.””

    The relationship the duo had played a large role in why Dent wanted Lloyd to come with him on the tour.

    “”The No. 1 reason (to bring Lloyd along) was I wanted a friend on the road,”” Dent said. “”The road can be lonely, and Tom is a great guy and a loyal friend. Another big reason was he could play.””

    On the tour, Lloyd wasn’t the typical coach. Rather than having a teacher-student relationship, the two bounced ideas off each other and worked together to perfect Dent’s game.

    “”We’re such good friends, we would say exactly what we were thinking,”” Lloyd said. “”Just like any good friend, you’re not going to sugarcoat it, you’re pretty much just going to tell him he’s an idiot; and that’s what we did.””

    While touring, Lloyd became Dent’s primary hitting partner. In fact, Dent preferred Lloyd over other tour professionals.

    “”He only wanted to hit with me to work on specific things,”” Lloyd said of Dent’s routine. “”He would actually get bummed out at tournaments when we had to share a court and he’d have to hit with another pro.””

    In addition to hitting with Dent, Lloyd was also responsible for retrieving match statistics, reserving court times and making sure all of the details such as proper attire and equipment were in order before Dent took the court. In Lloyd’s time with him, Dent ranked as high as No. 21 nationally and recorded a 151 mph serve, second fastest in the world behind Andy Roddick.

    While spending time in lounges with players like Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Robby Ginepri was interesting for Lloyd, his main highlight was experiencing Wimbledon.

    “”That was the one place I was in awe,”” Lloyd said. “”There’s none of the commercialized crap that you see. Everything’s as it has been for 100 years. That was really cool.””

    After a year of touring with Dent an injury brought an end to Lloyd’s time as coach. In February of 2006, Dent re-aggravated a back injury that immediately ended his season, leaving Lloyd sitting idle in Florida not knowing what to do next.

    After a couple months of sitting around, Lloyd received a call from UA head coach Tad Berkowitz. Berkowitz told Lloyd the assistant job was opening up, and it was his if he wanted it.

    “”It sounded great,”” Lloyd said. “”The only reason it was a difficult decision was because I had to leave Taylor. If it was anyone else it would have been ‘See ya later.’ “”

    Said Dent: “”I knew Tom was bummed for me, but understandably he still had to make money. He always wanted to go back and coach college tennis, so he had the opportunity and jumped on it.””

    In May, Lloyd came down to Tucson and signed on as Arizona’s new assistant coach.

    “”He was really my first choice and the only guy I looked at,”” Berkowitz said. “”He bleeds Arizona and really has a passion.””

    Only three years removed from playing for the Wildcats, Lloyd said he sometimes has to remind himself of this new relationship.

    “”I’ve had to be careful because I find myself relating to the guys a lot,”” Lloyd said. “”I always have to remind myself that these guys aren’t my teammates, they’re my players.””

    Despite the minute difference in age, former teammate Jason Labrosse has not had difficulty with the relationship change and said Lloyd “”doesn’t act like a young coach.””

    “”He knows how professional tennis players should act on and off the court,”” Labrosse said. “”You can tell he’s been there before. When he speaks, you listen because you know every word he says is valuable. He’s obviously got a lot more experience than his age shows.””

    Experience was also something Lloyd was looking forward to bringing back to his alma mater.

    “”To go (coach on the tour) and bring it back to my alma mater is priceless,”” he said. “”Not too many people can say they’ve been there, seen it and kind of seen what it takes to get there, and then bring it back to this level.

    “”That was definitely the biggest perk.””

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