Jonny O’Mara Returns to San Diego
Like many of us, professional athletes are thinking about all the things we have to look forward to when life gets back to normal, and “The Prince of San Diego,” Jonny O’Mara, is no different. Returning this summer for a second season as the Aviators’ doubles specialist, O’Mara will bring back his signature flair to the men’s and mixed doubles as the Aviators set their sights on the 2020 King Trophy.
O’Mara calls his 2019 World TeamTennis debut a highlight of his entire year, which was one marked by continuous steady growth since he first broke into the ATP’s Top 100 in 2018. “I can’t wait for it this year, especially now,” he says. “I feel like I’m going to be another year on experience-wise within my game so I’m going to play a bit better.” With an additional year on the ATP Tour on his racquet, O’Mara is confident he’s raised his level even higher since he closed the last WTT season with the most wins on the team and led the Aviators to the No. 1 spot in the league in men’s doubles. “I didn’t feel like I played amazing last year—I played pretty good—but with the whole experience and another year on tour, I’m really excited to see how the improvement’s been.”
Having that inaugural year behind him will also surely help him battle one element he hadn’t expected from playing WTT: nerves. “Before I went, I thought ‘oh, [it will be] a relaxing three weeks and I’ll enjoy myself, play a bit of tennis.’ But I’ll tell you, before each match, I got proper nervous,” he admits. The high-pressure scoring of WTT that makes it unique can also “put you a little on edge,” says O’Mara. “You can kind of feel yourself into most matches, whereas with this, you’ve got five, ten minutes and you have to reach your max straight away, so I actually love it.”
He’ll partner once again in men’s doubles with teammate Ryan Harrison, with whom he played only a handful of games last season. Harrison, the 2017 Roland Garros men’s doubles champion, is himself a skilled doubles player and also a 2020 WTT All-Star, and together, he and O’Mara will be a formidable team. “I only managed to play last year with Ryan for four matches, and for four matches, we played great. He actually helped me quite a lot on the doubles court so I’m really looking forward to linking back up with him,” says O’Mara. On the mixed doubles court, he will have yet another Grand Slam champion by his side: Aviators newcomer Nicole Melichar, who took the Mixed Doubles title at Wimbledon in 2018.
Certainly no slouch himself, O’Mara has played consistently and increasingly well over the past two years, solidifying his position firmly within the top 100 on the ATP Tour in doubles. He says he’s really found the key to maintaining that high level. “Obviously, the challenger level is, I think, just as difficult as ATP, but I think the main difference is just consistency,” he says. “On the challenger level or let’s say the futures level, people have one good week or two good matches in that week, whereas on the tour you have to put in your seven or eight out of ten every single time you play. So, I think I’ve gotten a lot better at doing that the last two years. If I have a bad day it’s normally a seven out of ten; it never really gets any worse than that, so I think consistency is really the main thing.”
Currently ranked World No. 54 in doubles, he says he’s somewhat surprised at how his goals have shifted along with his success. “Before, the pressure was, ‘OK, how am I going to pay my hotels or pay my flights?’ Then, you move away from that and then the pressure is, ‘How am I going to break into the top 30?’ It’s a strange one,” he muses, adding, “If somebody said to me two years ago ‘You’re going to be sitting at 50 in the world,’ I would have shaken their hand and said, ‘Aw perfect! I’ll stay there for like ten years!’ But once you get there, it’s kind of like, ‘Well, what’s next?’ You just never really stop putting pressure on yourself, which I guess is a good thing.”
For now, the pressure is more about just staying in shape as he waits out the COVID-19 pandemic at home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association is doing its part to support its athletes, and recently sent home gym equipment to a number of players, including O’Mara, to ensure they are able to maintain some semblance of a fitness routine while all the clubs and gyms remain closed. Even so, he’s managing his own expectations on what he can (or should) accomplish at home. “You don’t want to start overloading at the gym because that’s when it’s not beneficial. You have to be a bit patient with it and you kind of have to accept that you’re not going to really make many gains in these days, but it’s kind of more just an hour or an hour-and-a-half of bike work or weights. You can’t go kill it,” he says.
Having only recently moved in with his girlfriend has also helped keep him busy with the typical chores of setting up house since he last picked up a racquet in the finals at the Chile Open on March 1. “I had three weeks off from the tour anyway so I’ve been building stuff, just trying to sort the flat out. So, I’ve actually been quite busy the last few weeks. The next month now will be a little more difficult to get through the days,” he says.
And, also like many of us, he’ll be doing his share of binge-watching television. “We’re watching a few BBC programs like Line of Duty, stuff like that. We haven’t hit Netflix just yet, but give us a week and we’ll be all over that.”