Jeffrey John Wolf – aka JJ Wolf
Age: 20 – December 21st 1998
Current Ranking: 190 (career high 189 on the 18/11/2019)
Junior Career High Ranking: 18
Professional titles: 1 Futures, 2 Challengers
Titles in 2019: 2 Challengers
JJ peaked as a Junior at 18 in the world with his biggest moment being winning the Grade 1 Coffee Bowl (great tournament name!). He’d reach the third round at the junior US Open but like many young Americans he choose to go to college and stayed in his hometown State and became a Buckeye at Ohio State University in January 2017.
He picked up a Futures title in October 2017 but it would be in the summer of 2018 when he entered qualifying at some Challengers that he would have his first wins at CH level, including a big win over Dan Evans in Lexington.
His hometown tournament at Ohio State would then roll around in January of 2019 and after reaching the R16 he bulldozed his way into the final losing only 7 games in 6 sets, including a double bagel over Peliwo.
The final itself would be against a former Buckeye teammate, Mikael Torpegaard, and was a titanic battle in which Mikael was arguably the better player for a set and a half before JJ took over to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to win his first CH title.
Whilst having these successes at the professional level he had also worked himself into the number one singles ranking in College tennis and after being knocked out of the NCAA tournament the decision to go pro was taken not long after in July of this year.
The second half of the season saw him again making a final indoors at Ohio State, this time losing to Peter Polansky. He would then play a few events on outdoors hard courts and suffer a few early exits so that by the time he entered his final tournament in Champaign-Urbana he was ranked 255 and outside Australian Open qualifying.
However by the time that week was over he’d proven once again how dominant he can be indoors by winning the title and moving to a career high of 189 and guaranteeing himself a spot in Australia for qualifying. For someone who was effectively a part-time player compared to others on tour it was a phenomenal achievement.
To put it into context he played 12 tournaments this year whilst Mats Moraing, who is one place ahead of him, played 26.
JJ isn’t particularly tall in tennis terms at 6ft, but he has an incredibly attacking and exciting game to watch. From a physical standpoint he has tree trunks for legs and it’s presumably partly this that allows him to exceed 130mph for his first serve.
Often when serving on the AD side he will (and when in trouble) hit a serve down the T that slides away from the opponent. It’s a great serve that’s hard to return because he does have the ability to hit big out wide so you have to be aware of both options.
In lots of ways his service return tells you all you need to know about his style. He is extremely aggressive on the return and looks to immediately get on the from foot from it.
His game is then built around his forehand and it’s a massive shot and he will run around his backhand at the earliest opportunity in order to hit it. That said the backhand isn’t bad at all, it’s definitely not anywhere near as dangerous as his forehand, but if he’s feeling the shot then he’s more than capable of hitting winners with it so if both wings are firing he’s difficult to face.
I also like the fact he will try to come to the next to finish points off. It’s something he’s clearly working on and has improved as the season has gone on.
Things to note?
My main concern with his game would be his desire to run around his backhand as often as he does. I think it’s something that on slower outdoor hard courts can get him into trouble as it’s harder to hit through the surface and if you get it slightly wrong you’re more vulnerable due to your court position when playing the shot.
I mentioned his return of serve in an above paragraph and it’s a shot that amazes and frustrates in equal measure. If he brings up a break point with a return winner it’s then hard to criticise him too much for going for it on the next point, but I think on slower surfaces I’d like to see him mix it up with blocked returns on big points also.
It’s also worth noting that his main successes have all come indoors too so there’s plenty of question marks on the other surfaces, but ultimately he’s achieved a great deal with limited professional experience and his game style is such that it’ll be fun to watch how he progresses.