Michael Stich loves tennis, yet he admits he's already bored with it, too. Just last month the 22-year-old German stunned everyone but himself by winning Wimbledon; this month he wishes he was in the soft sand on a beach somewhere instead of preparing for the hardcourt, hard-line atmosphere of the U.S. Open next week.
"I'm tired of tennis right now," he said, "but I'm also more professional about it than I was a year ago. Back then I would have considered getting to the quarterfinals of the Open as a great success. This time I expect myself to get there."
Nobody on the men's tennis tour has won more matches this year than Stich, who is 55-17 and rose from 38th in the world to a career-best No. 3. After reaching the semifinals of the French Open, he scored successive victories on the grass at Wimbledon and the clay in Stuttgart.
Nobody on the men's tour seems so skeptical about his chosen profession so soon after experiencing his first brush with success.
"Tennis is just a chapter in my life for a couple of years," Stich said yesterday from his motel room in Schenectady, N.Y., where he is the top-seeded player at the OTB Open.
"Once you've won enough tournaments," he said, "it just gets boring and you don't know what goals to reach. I'm sure that's how Boris Becker is feeling today. For myself, I have a few more goals ahead in tennis, but after that, I think I can find some other way to be successful in life. I hope I can."
He's an anomaly who delights in his anonymity, a power player who supports a ban on wide-body rackets, and a loner who likes bucking trends. That's why he waited until he was 21 to turn professional, and that's why even his own agent's mother had never heard of him until he somehow wound up, like an uninvited dinner guest, at a party thrown by perennial Wimbledon host, Boris Becker, in the final of that Grand Slam this July.
Stich, the quintessential underdog, trounced his more famous countryman in straight sets.
No protege of the German Tennis Federation, which he accuses of having a "strange strategy" when it comes to developing its tennis talent, Stich believes he "didn't miss anything" by electing to complete his schooling instead of joining contemporaries like Becker on the pro tour.
"I have the feeling that I've already finished something in life, and it was not fun, but I did it," he said