Big 12 Campus Correspondent
John Peers is proving the adage, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks,' wrong one day at a time as the senior's game has blossomed in the nine months since his transfer to the Baylor tennis program.
After spending three years at Middle Tennessee State, the Melbourne, Australia-product decided he needed a fresh start.
"I really felt that if I wanted to have a crack at being a professional, I needed to get in an environment that would make me more pro-ready," Peers said. "I enjoyed my time at Middle Tennessee State and it was a good program, but I just needed a change."
The decision has paid off. For Baylor this season, Peers has consistently been ranked in the top-30, while producing a 17-3 mark in singles action. In doubles, Peers has a 15-2 record with partner Roberto Maytin to be listed as the fifth-best tandem in the country. The success made Peers the first ever Baylor player to win back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Week awards.
"John has done a great job of being open to making some changes in his game," head coach Matt Knoll said. "That can't be understated. For a guy with his experience level and who has played tennis for as long as he has, to be coachable is really unique. I can't say enough good things about him as a team player. He has a willingness to look outside of himself and recognize how he can help other guys get better."
Tennis is a family tradition in the Peers household. Besides Peers' success at Baylor, his mother is a former Women's Tennis Association player who competed at several Grand Slam events, while his sister, Sally, is also making a name for herself at the professional level. Just last year, she made a run at the US Open with her brother in attendance.
"My mom and sister have some good advice, because they have been through what I am going through," Peers said. "It is good to know that I have someone to lean on who knows what she is talking about."
At the age of 17, Peers made the decision to give up cricket and pursue a tennis career. He then opted to attend college in the United States as a way to gain more experience. As a relatively unknown prospect, Peers was passed over by some of the top programs in the country and ended up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, playing for the Blue Raiders.
While at Middle Tennessee State, Peers put up impressive numbers, going 72-25 in singles action and 56-31 in doubles, but Knoll wasn't sure how Peers' game would translate to top-tier college tennis.
"I knew he was going to be a huge help in doubles," Knoll said. "But I really didn't think he would be able to play at the consistent level that he has in singles. He hadn't ever been in an environment with a lot of good guys to hit with and consistent training where he could develop the way that he is capable of."
Besides continuing to improve his game on the court, Peers has had to adjust to a whole new set of teammates and classroom expectations.
"The transition wasn't too bad really," he said. "There is a great group of guys here, and they made it really easy to transfer in. Baylor is like another family now."
When Peers is not on the tennis court serving up aces, he can likely be found on the golf course sinking birdie putts.
"Golf is just a different avenue to be able to focus on," Peers said. "You put a lot of hard work into whatever you do day in and day out, especially on the court. It is good to be able to focus on something else and take your mind off tennis and completely separate yourself from it."
As the season comes to a close, Peers will "try to live for the moment and enjoy the last bit of college."
Knoll believes that Peers can follow in the footsteps of his mother and sister and make it at the professional level.
"The sky is the limit for John," Knoll said. "He has got weapons. He does have a world-class serve. He can get forward. He is a great mover. Those are the kinds of ingredients that you need to do well. I think that if he can continue to stay healthy and bring his good energy to the court every day, then I would certainly expect to see him playing at the Grand Slam tournaments."