Love and tennis have always been a part of Pablo Arraya’s life.
Now, the sport and the emotion have come together like never before, as the recent Davis Cup Peruvian team captain, former top 30 player in the world and iconic Key Biscayne pro is coaching his future son-in-law through the rigors of the earlier stages of what he hopes will one day be life on the game’s top tour.
Less than two years ago, Junior Ore, a one-time top amateur player and two-time college All-American at Texas A&M University, was stringing tennis racquets at a California club and had all but given up pursuing his professional dreams when he got a call that brought him to South Florida. “After I finished college at Texas A&M, I was in southern California and I get a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Pablo, and at time he was Davis Cup captain, and he said to come on down. As soon as I got there he said, ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’” Ore said, laughing at Arraya’s colorful personality and choice of words.
The jungle turned out to be the oasis of Key Biscayne, where Arraya runs his academy at the Key Biscayne Tennis Association, where Ore said he isn’t totally surprised he ended up.
“I always said when I was younger I was going to wind up at University of Miami, and I ended up in Key Biscayne,” he said, talking about his new environment. “I’m training in paradise, so I can’t really complain.”
Ore was in awe of Arraya from the beginning.
Although he was raised primarily in College Park, Maryland, where he played tennis with and against rising ATP stars like Denis Kudla and Francis Tiafo, his family origins are from Peru, where he grew up hearing about the legend of his current coach and future father-in-law.
“Growing up I heard Pablo’s name mentioned, because in Peru he was one of the biggest names out there, and my grandfather always talked about him,” Ore said. “I was star-struck when I first met him, and it was really neat to move on down and be with him now.”
The 25-year-old not only started training with Arraya, he began dating his coach’s daughter, Chloe, and the connection between them all quickly became permanent. Arraya gave the relationship his blessing, and the next thing he knew he was a first-time grandfather, welcoming now 1-year-old Naomi into the world.
The family dynamic has only fueled an already positive relationship between player and coach, both of whom talked about the process of playing Futures tournaments in hopes of earning a spot into more lucrative tournaments.
In Futures tournaments, according to Arraya, players can earn between $15,000- $25,000, but the competition is tough.
The ITF Men’s Circuit provides the entry level of professional tournaments, enabling players to eventually reach the higher-level tournaments on the ATP World Tour. The ITF Men’s Circuit offers more 600 tournaments across more than 70 countries and incorporates two prize money levels of tournaments known as Futures.
“I’ve really been going at it full time since June or July, and I’ve been doing pretty well. I’ve got a shot,” Ore said of his progression after recent wins at a tournament in Weston. “At the beginning stages of professional tour, you get wins and play bigger tournaments, but there are so many guys in the U.S. and there are ex pro players and top college athletes competing just to get one point to qualify for the main event. Once you get going it gets easier.
“In these tournaments, you have to win four matches in a row to get into the main event, and you’re playing a guy who is completely fresh, but you have to keep pushing.”
Ore said he’s getting close to playing in Challenger tournaments, where players can earn as much as $150,000. The ATP Challenger Tour ranks second only to the ATP Tour on the pro circuit.
Ore, who is a lefty, said Arraya’s unique approach to coaching has really helped his game. “He has a unique personality,” Ore said, following another recent match. “He is very creative with how to play the game, and he wanted to know my personality. He reads the way I am, what my strengths and weakness are and works with it. I never worked with anybody like that. I’ve had great coaches, but I feel more comfortable – he’s opened my mind. It’s kind of like painting; it’s not black and white anymore. I have color in my game and it’s really enjoyable.”
As Ore and Arraya practice and prepare for tournaments this month all the way from Mexico to the cold climates of Canada, the two remain commented to taking the game and life one step at a time. “I can give him good guidance because I had to do this many years,” Arraya said, admitting his career was based more on effort than natural ability. “I had to win in order to survive.”
The coach said the secret to getting better at controlling the moment is concentrating on winning.
“There is control when you try to do the best you can, be in the moment, you can control being better every day,” he said.
Ore has bought into the idea of focusing on the moment and the positives, and doesn’t think of his age as a handicap given the young nature of the sport: “The ball doesn’t know how old I am,” he said.
Now the goal is to continue climbing in the rankings and improving his game, day after day.
Arraya believes the talent is there and just needs to be nurtured; indeed, in addition to a successful singles career in college, Ore was the top-ranked doubles player in the country: “He’s the one of the best doubles players I’ve ever seen,” Arraya said. “And I beat No.1 when I was playing.”
With his new coach, fiancée and baby firmly in his camp, Ore said his goal is to keep pushing toward his goal and enjoy the process along the way. “I just need to keep racking up points and keep pushing until I play ATPs, and hopefully eventually Grand Slams,” he said.