A little creativity and stubbornness and lots of love for the sport can take you a long way in tennis. We talked with pro player Simon Freund about going to a university in the US, the new Supreme tennis racket, and how his pancake serve became a media sensation.
Simon, tell us about yourself.
“To be honest, my family has never been seriously into sports, but I’ve always loved sports in general, and I like exercise. My parents always supported me in whatever I wanted to do and were happy to drive me to practice and training sessions. Until I was 13, I competed on the national level in gymnastics, figure skating, and tennis, but I also played table tennis and badminton regularly. Now that I think about it, I’ve tried almost every sport there is!”
Why did you choose tennis?
“I grew up in Rotebro, a suburb on the outskirts of Stockholm. Right beside my daycare centre was Rotebro TK tennis club – a small club that was great for starting off in tennis. My parents often worked late, so I hung around there with the pensioners and played tennis. The sport became a natural part of my life. The club had a genuine and friendly atmosphere, and I think that probably played a part in my choice of tennis.”
You also played at the university level in the US, from 2014 to 2018. What was that like?
“During my teens, I discovered that it could be beneficial to play college-level tennis in the States. In 2014 I was accepted to Louisiana State University (one of the US’s largest sports universities). It was like a dream come true. But at the beginning, it was a challenge, and my tennis didn’t develop like I wanted it to. I stayed in Louisiana for two years of school and then transferred to UC Santa Barbara to focus more on my academic studies. After four years and lots of different courses, I graduated with a degree in Global Studies. It was a difficult period in some ways, but I learned so much. I made lifelong friends and received a world-class education.”
And after that?
“I came back to Sweden after four years in the US and was more than ready to put everything into a career in tennis. I started playing full time and was able to get all the way to the ATP tour. At my peak in 2019, I was ranked 677th in singles and 361st in doubles.
“Then Covid-19 turned up. The pandemic put a stop to pretty much everything, and in addition, I suffered quite a few injuries during that period. It was tough. But after all the rehab for injuries, I feel stronger than ever! I’m incredibly motivated and keen to compete again.”
You have more than 30,000 followers on Instagram and 26,000 subscribers to your YouTube channel. How important is social media for your job as a professional tennis player?
“I started devoting a fair bit of time to social media during the pandemic, when I wasn’t able to do a lot of other career-related things. I found it to be fun and it’s a creative way for me to reach out while also continuing to focus on tennis. Now, it’s a natural part of my tennis day, and I’ve seen that the people following me there like my posts and videos. It would really make me happy to be able to inspire more young guys and girls to begin playing sports.”
The ‘pancake serve’ has become your signature technique and has received a lot of attention in social media. How did this develop?
“I’ve always been creative and unafraid to try new things. I was probably inspired by table tennis and badminton as well, which I’ve also played. The pancake serve is a typical thing that I just had to try. The first time I used the serve was during a match on the carpet courts at Järfälla when I was 12 years old. Even back then, I could see its effectiveness. Years passed before I started experimenting with the serve again, and now I use it regularly during matches. I’ve found it really works.
“Ask my serve coach, Valle, why I use the pancake. He’ll say it’s because I’m not good enough at kick serves!”
How does the pancake serve differ from traditional serves?
“The pancake serve involves hitting the ball with a reversed spin. Because I’m right-handed, I should really serve towards the right, but I serve left instead. What makes my pancake serve unique is that I switch to the pan grip (meaning that I grip the racket as if I were holding a frying pan and flipping a pancake) during the serve. This makes it difficult for my opponent to see what kind of serve I’m going to play. For me, the pancake serve has become a weapon that I can use to disturb my opponent’s rhythm.
“There were lots of comments and press about the serve when I posted it on social media, and lots of people can do it – but not everyone can succeed with it (for example, see when Taylor Fritz tries it out on the ATP tour).”
You’ve tested STIGA’s Supreme during the season. What are your impressions of this racket?
“I’ve played previously with high-control rackets but have been on the lookout for something that provides more speed. With the STIGA Supreme, I can have the best of both worlds. It’s a perfect balance of speed and good control. The Supreme also offers a larger sweet spot, and that makes the racket more forgiving during play. It allows me to make a clean impact on the ball and put the ball where I want it.”
What are your tennis goals?
“I have two major goals. First, I want to get on the Davis Cup team and represent Sweden. The second and biggest goal is to get to the Olympics.”
Simon’s 3 top tips for a winning pancake serve
1 Feel free to put plenty of spin on the ball. Swing fully through the ball.
2. Aim with good margins. Let the spin do the work and live its own life.
3. Have fun and be creative! Don’t be afraid to find your own, individual solutions.
Check out Simon’s YouTube channel or follow him on Instagram!
About Simon Freund
Year of birth: 1996 in Stockholm
Starting club: Rotebro TK
Current club: Lidingö TK
Highest ATP ranking: 677 (singles), 361 (doubles)
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