Junior tennis player and journalist Devon Jerome takes on the pro tennis world
USTA New England Magazine
Jan/Feb 2008 issue
When you walk into the Media Center at the Pilot Pen, you expect to see journalists, photographers and media staff bustling in and out of press conferences and racing to meet deadlines. What you don’t expect to see is a 16 year old juggling a laptop, tape recorder and camera in the midst of the madness. But then again, Devon Jerome is not a typical teenager. This ambitious high school junior from Stamford, CT doesn’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come his way. He chases after them.
Jerome began playing tennis at age 11, and since then has steadfastly pursued the dream of becoming a pro player. The turning point came when Lleyton Hewitt burst onto the tennis scene. “I really admired his drive, and was inspired by his passion for the game,” says Jerome. “He was winning Wimbledon and the US Open, and I wanted to be like him and pursue my own dream of playing at the pro level.” In his early years as a junior player, Jerome recalled, “I had a partner that I would always practice with and we would switch off and pretend to be our favorite player. I would be Hewitt, and he would be Sampras. We got a chance to taste a bit of professional tennis in our own little way, so it was fun for us.”
During Jerome’s weeklong stint as the youngest person to ever cover the Pilot Pen as a member of the press, he saw a different side of pro tennis--a backstage pass of sorts, getting as close to the tennis nerve center as you can get. His journalistic endeavors put him in the front row of every press conference, going toe to toe with other journalists, getting the inside scoop from the players. Jerome says, “Being a journalist at a major tennis tournament is a lot of work and a lot of long days. I was tired mentally and physically, but I really loved being there with all of the other journalists and watching lots of tennis.”
Jerome didn’t let a little thing like exhaustion deter him from meeting world-class players. He interviewed 18-year old rookie Donald Young following his first round win and his first ever ATP tour win. He also chatted with John Isner, and was quite impressed by him. “He was probably the most articulate person I interviewed at the tournament.” Isner, who spent four years in college as a speech and communications major, stressed that you can take the college path and still make it on the pro tour--a highly debated issue facing junior tennis players.
Jerome’s entrepreneurial bent is evident. His business card reads: President, CEO and Founder, Zenithe, Co. His online magazine, zenithejrtennis.com is a site dedicated to junior tennis, and the issues that set junior tennis apart from the college and pro game. Jerome’s online company was in the planning stage for about two years and went live in May of 2007. Already, the site has a loyal following. His articles range from profiles of top ten junior players, to the pros and cons of home schooling. The site also contains a blog called “Broken Racquets” and an online t-shirt store selling fun, tennis-themed shirts that appeal to young players. Jerome invites other junior players to write for the magazine as well.
Jerome’s life isn’t just about tennis. He continues to prove himself off the court by excelling in Advanced Placement high school classes, and playing the cello. “I have been a cellist since the age of four,” says Jerome. He’s also a member of the Stamford Young Artists (orchestra of Stamford, CT) and recently joined the Youth Symphony of the United Nations, based in Greenwich, CT.
Jerome’s tennis star continues to rise. He is currently ranked No. 25 in New England in the 16’s, ranked No. 46 in the 18’s and has competed in a few national tournaments. He practices with a private coach, who helps him focus on developing his strokes and improving his technical game. After high school, Jerome hopes to play college tennis and study business. Whether he’s concentrating on his serve, the cello or studying, Jerome’s future looks bright.