A collaborative Letour Tale with Jacob Grills (AUS)

Totally pissed off after a shocking three-week swing in Canada, Jacob had the option to go play the Lexington Challenger 50 in USA or sign into the Los Cabos ATP 250 in Mexico. It was the end of a 4-month trip, and he had already battled through the sticks in China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The experience itself was uniquely amazing to him. The ATP tour literally took him 5 hours from Afghanistan while playing a sneaky Challenger 80 in Samarkand UZB.

Matt Grills, Jacob’s slightly older brother had just flown in on his holidays. He delivered a simple ultimatum.

“If you go to Los Cabos, I will go with you, if you go to Lexington, I’m out, I’ll catch ya later”

Arriving into Los Cabos, it was crucial Jacob got into the draw. If he didn’t get in, the official hotel resort was approximately $500 per night for the non-competing players. If he made it in, the resort was all an inclusive stay, free of charge. He rocked up at sign in and began the hustlers juggling act of not checking into the resort but also having a hostel booked on the side until they released the draw.

At the exact same time, fellow digger 
Luke Saville (AUS) and Max Purcell (AUS) were playing a doubles quarterfinal at the Binghamton Challenger 50 USA. If they won, they wouldn’t be able make it in time for the singles qualifying on Saturday and Grills would wriggle his cheeky backhand into the draw.

Watching on live stream, Saville got broken to lose the first set 5-7 after letting go a routine high volley that ended up landing a good foot inside the baseline.

“Shit, maybe they both want to come here to play qualies?”

And before diving into any tennis integrity conspiracies. Yes, players cannot discuss this between each other, but it is a fact that on occasions players are forced to make a call whether they want to win a doubles match or not. The dilemma obviously being if a player goes deep enough in doubles, they will miss the first round of singles qualifying for the next event. Maybe another conundrum for the ATP to resolve?!

Saville and Purcell won the second set 6-4 and then Purcell dug out an ace to seal a 10-8 victory in the super tiebreaker. Grills celebrating in the hotel lobby proceeded to check himself into a swanky room at the 5-star ocean front luxury resort called ‘Solaz’. Game on.

Off the back of an infinity pool session and a baller night’s sleep, Grills comes out in the first round of qualifying and dices up former top 50 player 
Lukas Lacko SVK (then 227 ATP) 6-3 6-2. 

Backhand against Lucas Lacko SVK, Los Cabos, Mexico, 29/07/2019

Why did he suddenly play so well again? His last mini break through match was now over 7 weeks ago in the Parma Challenger 80 in Italy where he defeated Taro Daniel JPN (then 110 ATP) 4-6 6-3 6-4. Was it the result of all the hard work over the trip coming together? Was it the lower expectations he placed upon himself? Was it having family support on the road? Who knows, we aren’t psychologists, and Grills like most players at the age of 24 is still trying to figure out a sustainable solution to be able perform consistently at that level.

Feeling stoked with a good win under his belt, he then had to swallow a tough loss in the last round of qualies to 
Dominik Koepfer GER (then 122 ATP) 3-6 6-7. After only one break in the first set and almost pinching the second set, he felt good about the match. Coincidently, Koepfer, three weeks later went on to make the final 16 at the US Open, losing to Daniil Medvedev in four sets.

With a handy $3715 USD and 6 ATP points in his pocket, it was more than he had picked up the last month. And the good vibes kept flowing. The tournament director and the resort administration agreed to give all players on the lucky loser list three more nights’ accommodation free of charge. Normally this is reserved for only the number one priority loser. Grills was the lowest ranked on the list and had close to zero chance of getting in but was nevertheless loving those extra nights of free accom.

The next day while watching 
Grigor Dimitrov BUL (then 53 ATP) play Steve Johnson USA (then 94 ATP) in the main draw, two stunners in the crowd got up to leave the stadium before asking Grills if the match was over. He informed them it was only the end of the first set, and the conversation began from there.

One of the girls mentioned she was an actress and had just finished writing a movie to which Grills without having a clue in the world who she was replied;

Oh nice, maybe one day we might get to see you on TV”

Later, during a private boat trip with the girls, he eventually figured out that one of them was Canadian actress and singer-songwriter Jessica Lowndes from 90210. Grills had never seen an episode but had heard of the show. It ended up being a belter of a time.

Private boat in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Sydne Summer, Jessica Lowndes, Jacob Grills, Matt Grills.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Sydne Summer, Jessica Lowndes, Jacob Grills, Matt Grills.

Being the first week that his brother Matt had ever been on the tennis tour, he enviously thought that this was a standard week in the life of his journeyman brother. Lol.

The honest reality is that these tasteful fruits are carefully positioned at the top of the ATP tree. It’s only these events and players that the rest of the world cares about and pays attention too. It’s not the fans fault, nor the players fault either, it comes down to two things; money and marketing. 

Upon the reflection of Grills’s trip in 2019, it was the ticker, the grind, and the enjoyment of wildly contrasting experiences that made this part of the story worth telling. It wouldn’t make any sense otherwise.


Always Digging,




Written by Letour Digger

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