Skupski (junior) prepping for the pros
Former Tigers in the professional ranks aren’t hard to find. From football to women’s basketball and everything in between, the LSU pro factory consistently churns out star athlete after star athlete.
Mark another one down in the books.
Senior tennis star Neal Skupski is preparing for a professional career of his own.
The Liverpool, England, native will begin on the Association of Tennis Professionals Futures Tour in January 2013 after he earns his sport administration degree in December.
“I was 18 finishing [high school] and I could have gone pro then, but I wasn’t prepared for it,” Skupski said. “I wanted to come [to LSU] and get a degree. A lot of people tend to go to tennis too soon and don’t get the education they need, but I think I’m ready.”
The Tigers’ team captain will follow in the footsteps of his own brother, Ken Skupski, who attended LSU from 2003 to 2007 before turning professional.
Ken, a two-time ITA Singles All-American and four-time First-Team All-Southeastern Conference honoree, is the most decorated men’s tennis athlete in LSU history. Ken is currently the No. 82-ranked doubles player on the ATP tour.
Neal said he knows he has a long, hard road ahead, but he hopes to one day play doubles with his brother.
“My brother is doing really well right now,” Neal Skupski said. “I have to start at the bottom, but hopefully by 2015 or 2016 I can team up with my brother and play some doubles.”
Skupski will begin in the ATP Futures Tour, and if his ranking increases enough he will advance into the ATP Challenger Tour and potentially the ATP World Tour, where his brother currently competes.
As a two-time ITA Doubles All-American, Skupski said he knows he can have a successful pro career playing doubles.
But Skupski said he doesn’t want to be just a doubles player.
“The doubles game is improving, but hopefully the singles will work out, too,” Skupski said. “It’s a lot more publicized. There’s more sponsorship, and there’s a lot more prize money.”
LSU men’s tennis coach Jeff Brown said Skupski has all the tools to become a great all-around player.
“I know he’s going to be successful in doubles. There’s no doubt he’s going to be in the top in the world,” Brown said. “But I think he has a real chance to keep developing his singles.”
Brown said one of the main reasons Skupski will be successful, and the reason he’s such an effective team captain, is his level head.
“He generally makes rational decisions,” Brown said. “In a world where there’s so much chaos, he seems to make sense of it all.”
Skupski and his doubles partner, sophomore James Turbervill, are undefeated this season, helping the No. 27 Tigers (3-2) secure their highest ranking since 2008.
Turbervill said Skupski has made it easy to build a partnership together because of his professionalism and his experience.
“The best thing about Neal is he wants the best for everyone else,” Turbervill said. “I think the sky is the limit really with Neal. When he’s on his game, he can play really good tennis.”
Despite all the attention, Skupski is reluctant to look toward the future. Instead he prefers to focus on the Tigers’ current success.
“The goal right now is just to help the team as much as possible,” Skupski said. “I think the team we have right now should be pushing to be top 16 and host one of the NCAA regionals.”