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It seems the only way is up for young Australian player Tristan Schoolkate. 

The 23-year-old from Perth has risen month by month, year by year, since joining the tour in 2019. 

This week he hit a new career high of 183 after an impressive showing at the ATP Tournament in 's-Hertogenbosch.

At the grasscourt event, he won through qualifying, including an impressive straight-sets victory over Belgian Zizou Bergs, before falling to 26th-ranked Sebastian Korda in two tight sets, 6-4 7-6. 

His run on grass is no surprise, thanks to how learned the game under the tutelage of his father Peter. 

“I grew up on the grass as a junior and in comparison to a lot of players, I’ve spent much more time on the surface. I’d say just having experience playing on the surface gives me a little bit of confidence in my back pocket when I compete at tournaments on the grass nowadays,” he told us. 

His success at the Dutch tournament also could have been helped by some kind of “home” ground advantage. 

“My grandparents are both from the Netherlands and my father grew up there too. It was nice to play there and have a few people ask me about my surname, that made me smile,” he revealed. 

Challenger breakthrough

Tristan’s success has certainly not been limited to grass though. 

After battling on the ITF circuit and having mixed results on the Challenger circuit, something clicked mid-way through last year. 

He consistently made the semi-finals and quarter-finals at North American hardcourt tournaments including wins over rising French star Arthur Cazaux and fellow Aussies Adam Walton, Omar Jasika and Philip Sekulic. 

Tristan said trust in his development and his skills is what helped him reap the rewards. 

“I believed in my game and my level, I tried to bring my best efforts week in, week out, and I think that has led to a shift from the ITF to ATP Challenger events.”

His form continued in 2024 with consistently strong results before a real breakthrough in May. 

At the Guangzhou tournament in China, he battled through to the final with impressive wins over Italian Mattia Bellucci and former world no.31 Maxime Cressy before meeting Adam Walton in the final. 

It was the fifth time they’d met in eight months, with Walton leading the head-to-head 3-1 at the time. 

Tristan prevailed in three tough sets and claimed his maiden ATP Challenger title. 

It was something I’ve been working towards and to do it in the way I did that week was a testament to the hard work that I’ve put in. It’s given me confidence that my game is trending in the right direction and that I can have success at this level and continue to climb the rankings,” he said of the win. 

The title and other strong results have seen him rise almost 80 places. He is currently the second-highest Aussie under 23-years-old or younger behind Rinky Hijikata. 

He is also the highest-ranked Aussie yet to make the Top 100. 

A growing rivalry

The man he beat in China, Adam Walton, rose to the Top 100 himself earlier this month and his success is something Tristan is using for inspiration. 

“Seeing Adam push into the Top 100 was awesome, we put in a great preseason and have done a lot of hard work together so I’m glad to see it paying off. Seeing other Australians do well is fantastic, it gives me belief that I have success too.”

The pair share a coach in Andrew Roberts and play many of the same tournaments so their burgeoning but friendly rivalry will no doubt continue into the future. 

The pair also play doubles together, winning two Challenger titles so far, while he’s also claimed another two with fellow Aussie Blake Ellis. 

“I enjoy playing doubles and definitely think it can benefit your singles career, you can work on some things which you might then implement in singles. It can also be nice to get some extra matches when you’re struggling a bit on the singles court.”

His game and ambitions

No doubt it’s also helped develop his biggest weapons which he names as his serve, forehand, and strong net play. 

It’s a game that developed on those Perth grass courts but was also inspired by his idol Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. 

His skills at the net were on full display in the Netherlands last week and will be something he’ll be taking into Wimbledon qualifying next week. 

With a 71% career record on grass, he has every chance of joining the many Aussies already in the main draw. 

But his goals are far beyond success on the surface and tournament. 

“Short term I want to keep working on my game and keep improving, stay healthy and play a lot of matches this year. Long term I am going to work hard to break into the world’s Top 100 and play on the ATP Tour,” he said. 

The circuit suits him

Tristan appears to have a good head on his shoulders and enjoys what the circuit has to offer.

“I like travelling and trying local cuisines when I’m in new places, I spend my days off on the road trying to hunt down some good coffee,” he told us. 

“I really like Japan, that’s probably my favourite country that I’ve been to. I enjoy playing in the USA, I played in Tiburon last year which was the nicest event I’ve played at Challenger level.”

It seems if his strong rise in the rankings continues, his goal of the Top 100 is well in sight.

He may just need to find a favourite ATP tournament then as well. 


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