Name: David McNamara
Home State: Victoria
Playing Period: 1998 – 2002
BTT: So, what are you doing now, and where are you based?
DM: I live in Delray Beach, FL, for nine months of the year and then in the summer months, I head to Martha’s Vineyard. I am the Head Tennis Professional at the Gulf Stream Bath and Tennis Club in Delray Beach, and I am the Director of Tennis at the West Chop Club in Vineyard Haven (Martha’s Vineyard) in the summer.
BTT: Looking back at your playing career, what are some of the moments of achievements you are most proud of and the funniest or most memorable moments?
DM: My playing career 20 years ago was a different approach back then. I went to Middle Tennessee State University to play college tennis. I realized I was not good enough in the juniors to turn pro and so college tennis was my only option if I wanted to potentially try playing professional tennis.
For me, College Tennis was perfect as it helped me to develop my game, get stronger, become more mature and also become independent and organized and structured with time management since going to college and being a college athlete is a full-time job.
With that being said what I am most proud of when talking about achievements: I would say winning All-American National Doubles Title in college and being ranked as high as #15 in the country in singles and #2 in Doubles was my greatest college achievements.
After college what I am most proud of would be playing Qualifying at the Australian Open in my hometown so all my family and friends and doubters could come, winning my only professional singles futures Title in Bath, England and reaching a career-high of 431 in Singles and 291 in Doubles.
Something that really stands out initially is spending three weeks in Morocco, and here I am flying into Marrakech on Moroccan Airways to met Kane Dewhurst who had convinced me to come to Morocco and play three weeks of doubles together. The first week was in Marrakech, and the second week was on the coast in Agadir. Kane and I made the final in the first week we had convinced the Tournament Director to allow us to play the final early on a Saturday or Sunday morning so we could catch this one and only bus to Agadir. Kane and I were racing to finish this match which we somehow won and its literally 110 degrees and 100% humidity which is entirely another story. We race back to the hotel to grab our bags and then race to the Bus Stop, and we just make it, and there is no pre-booking, but there are two seats left in the very back corner. Kane and I are absolutely soaking wet because of how hot it is. There is no air conditioning on the bus. The windows are open, the door is open, and we have a 6-hour bus ride through the desert, and we also have no water. We both finally take our shirts off as our shirts are drenched. We come to some concrete market if that is what you want to call it. A couple of concrete huts about 3 hours in and the bus stops and we are able to get off the bus and buy some water which we made sure the caps were sealed! There are these metal skewers hanging with meat that were basically animals. People are buying them, and they are wrapping them up in paper and then bringing them back onto the bus. Flies are everywhere, but Kane and I have WATER! Once we get back on the bus, Kane decides to pull out his Discman, and he had two small speakers that fit perfectly in the seat gaps in front of us, and he was playing Bryan Adams, and here we are… in a bus going through the desert in Morocco with our shirts off, its 110 degrees, no AC and we have just come off winning a doubles title that morning, and we are thinking life is awesome! The best part of this trip was by the end of the Bus ride we had the entire bus requesting and singing along to Bryan Adams Summer of 69!
BTT: Reflecting on your Pro Tennis career, what are the takeaways from it and how did it prepare you for life and beyond?
DM: My pro tennis career had many highs and many more low’s as we all do. I spent the majority of my career, which was four years playing mainly futures events and playing some challengers and a handful of ATP Tour Events. Playing tennis, you need to learn how to lose. Losing is a massive part of tennis and going through struggles while you are out there travelling around the world, making zero money you find yourself holding onto one thing and one thing only. That is this dream that one day I am going to be playing on Rod Laver Arena or Arthur Ashe Stadium which never happened, but that is what made me get up every day and train. You never stop living the dream. Every time you get told you are not good enough, every time you lose a tennis match, every time you are struggling to pay your hotel bill, every time you turn the Tourna Grip inside out and upside down because you cannot afford to pay for another Tourna Grip. This is what life is all about. I will say that I am so thankful and so blessed to have gone through all my losses and all my failures and all my disappointments because when you do win it is special. 100% of all my adversities while playing tennis have made me who I am today and I would not change that for anything.
BTT: How long before you officially retired were you thinking about the end of your career, and what was the process of quitting like for you?
DM: For me, I guess there was always doubt, and this constant question am I good enough? Probably not the best way to be, but the last six months were really tough, which is odd because I stopped playing at my career high. I remember taking my Coach for the first time to a four week segment of tournaments. I was doing everything the right way. I had put the work in and was as professional and as serious as I had ever been leading in, and here I am with my Coach for four weeks and paying for him as well thinking this is what I needed to get to the next level and I proceed to go on and lose 1st Round 4 weeks in a row. We got up every day, and we went back to work, we practiced twice a day, we conditioned, and we did it right. Still, the financial toll and the disappointment I had was probably the first real-time I was very much questioning my self, and I knew deep down that making it another year was maybe going to be struggling.
I basically made it through 6 months, and I had this German Club Tennis commitment, which was a priority every year because that was my only guaranteed source of income. The month of May was always awesome because my club would give me a place to stay, free food and I could train and play matches and get paid and by the 4th year I was making real money. I played for a few more months after and then I spoke to my college coach from Middle Tennessee and told him about my struggles etc. The timing was everything; the then-current Assistant Coach at MTSU had left, and he needed to find another Assistant. The university said I could come back and be the Assistant Coach and also would be able to finish my undergraduate degree and also complete my Master’s Degree.
My story is certainly different than most, but I am so grateful to Dale Short and Middle Tennessee State University for allowing me to come off the tour and go back to school and work. It was an amazing opportunity, and it also gave me three years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life!
BTT: In the first few years after retiring, what did things look like, was it a difficult transition for you?
DM: The great thing for me was I had structure. I was the Assistant Coach of the Men’s Tennis Team at Middle Tennessee State University. I was on the team schedule. 6 am Conditioning, Classes 8-1, team practice 2-5 pm, dinner and study and do it again. When I got my Masters Degree, I had 3-4 nights a week of night classes from 6-10 pm, which was a little shock to the system, but again I had structure, which was perfect for me.
BTT: How did you overcome some of those difficulties?
DM: I think every athlete at every level has difficulties. My entire life was based around living the dream of becoming a professional tennis player, and it all started when I watched Pat Cash win Wimbledon in 1987 as an 11-year-old kid and from that point on that is what I wanted to do.
Again, I was so fortunate and so lucky to have something to do and finish like my degrees. Even when I went back to college, I did struggle with the decision of quitting and was this the right thing to do. After all, I was probably playing the best tennis of my life and continued to get better for a good five years after I stopped because I was still playing every day as a college coach but also was probably becoming smarter because I was now coaching.
BTT: What advice would you have for a current player in terms of preparing for life after the tour?
DM: 100% having a supportive family helps. My Mum and Dad and my brothers and sister all played a huge role. They won and lost many of my matches with me. Mum and Dad have always supported me through everything in my life. They were 100% supportive of me playing, and they were 100% supportive when I stopped. They were probably relieved when I stopped because they were apart of every loss and every struggle and at times they had no idea what country or what city I was in.
My advice is to have a support group and to stay busy. Create a structure early and stay busy. It is very easy to fall out of that routine because that is all we know, and now we finally are done, and it is very easy to go down the wrong path.
BTT: What involvement do you still have in the tennis industry? And in the tennis world more generally?
DM: I am still very involved in the tennis industry. Tennis has created an amazing life and amazing opportunities. I live in Delray Beach, FL, for nine months of the year and then in the summer months, I head to Martha’s Vineyard. I am the Head Tennis Professional at the Gulf Stream Bath and Tennis Club in Delray Beach, and I am the Director of Tennis at the West Chop Club in Vineyard Haven (Martha’s Vineyard) in the summer.
I do follow the ATP Tour and enjoy following all the Aussies. Here in Delray Beach, we have an ATP Tour event, and I love going each year to watch the Aussies. My 14-year-old daughter Rylea loves going to the event as well. She loves Nick Kyrgios and John Millman.
BTT: Since retiring, do you ever find time to catch up with old tennis mates?
DM: Thankfully, we have a great core group of guys that we are all still friends. There are some guys I see regularly and others not, but when we all do get together, it is always a blast. Golf has been a great way for us all to get together.
BTT: Would you like to reconnect or have more opportunities to connect with the former player community? How important is this for you?
I have had the opportunity to play in some IC events in the past and also some senior ITF events, so I personally have been able to reconnect with so many players that I have not seen in so long which has been fantastic.
BTT: Most athletes have a very clear purpose aspiring to be the best they can.. with that chapter closed, what would you say your purpose now is?
My purpose now is to be the best father I can be to my beautiful 14-year-old daughter. I want her to have all the opportunities I have had and experience success and failures and learn from that. Life is not easy, but my takeaways so far are:
1. Work Hard
2. Stay Positive
3. Be good to people
4. Good things will happen
Dave thanks so much for your thoughtful answers, great to see you having so much success in the United States!