Meet Andy Fitzpatrick, Sloane Stephens hitting partner

Meet Andy Fitzpatrick, Sloane Stephens hitting partner

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Andy Fitzpatrick is not used to such plush surroundings. Fitzpatrick, a British player ranked 620th, acknowledged that he felt a little out of place in the pampered environment of a high-level WTA tournament as he assisted Sloane Stephens with her United States Open preparations at the New Haven Open this week.

“Trust me, I don’t stay in hotels like this on the futures tour,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t get treated the way they get treated. It’s a completely different life.”

The champion in New Haven this week will pocket $117,000, but at Fitzpatrick’s level, prize money is minimal. With hotels, food and flights to pay for, players have little hope of breaking even each week unless they advance far in a tournament.

Fitzpatrick, 24, scrapes by, using his wits and the Couchsurfing Web site to cut costs. He has grown used to sharing his accommodation on tour with rats, cockroaches and whatever wildlife may be in the vicinity.

A promising junior, Fitzpatrick has been forced to put his career on hold on several occasions for financial reasons. After a disastrous trip to Thailand last year in which he was robbed and assaulted in the shower, he was forced to take a desk job for a couple of months to stay afloat.

Fitzpatrick has made money in the past by serving as a hitting partner for players like Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic at the World Tour Finals in London. When Stephens’s coach, David Nainkin, came calling just before Wimbledon to see if Fitzpatrick was interested in hitting with Stephens for duration of the tournament, he was only too pleased to accept.

“It was perfect,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was struggling with glandular fever at the time, so didn’t feel well enough to play a tournament. That’s how it started.”

Fitzpatrick did not expect to hear from Stephens and her team again, but two days before the start of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, he received a phone call asking him if he could get on a flight to Canada. This time his role was a little more expansive. With Nainkin unavailable, Fitzpatrick has been acting as Stephens’s unofficial coach for the past three weeks.

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