Maxime Cressy is famous for his unique serve-and-volley tactics, an old-school style that stands out in the modern game. The Paris-born American also has a distinctive approach to the mental side of the sport, utilising a mindset that meshes with his aggressive play.
«My mentality is definitely unique,» Cressy told the ATP Tour in a recent on-camera interview, crediting his volleyball-playing mother and his two older brothers for helping develop his competitive spirit. «I put a lot of emphasis on what I can control, on my serve, on being the most efficient serve-and-volley player.
«This is what scares my opponents the most, to be focussed on myself and not on them.»
With full confidence in his approach, the 25-year-old has never shied away from setting lofty targets. After transforming himself from a «bench player» at UCLA to one of college tennis’ best, he sees no reason not to aim for the stars on the ATP Tour.
«My main goal is to be No. 1 and dominate the Tour,» said Cressy, who reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 31 last August. «I don’t put any limits on myself and I haven’t until now. That’s why I got to this level, and I believe that this mindset is going to carry me to a lot more success.»
He later added: «I can just visualise who I want to be and when. I have huge faith in that goal-setting. I’ve been doing it every single year for the past four, five years, and most of my goals have been coming true.»
To reach his increasingly ambitious targets, Cressy is doubling down on what some would call a high-risk strategy of all-out attack. But for him, there is no other way.
«The big factor mentally, I would say, is to become so used to playing a risky game that it doesn’t become risky in your perception,» he shared. «The key to reach the next level is to stick to my serve-and-volley game, what is working. I’ve played the serve and volley and the big serve so many times that now it’s just natural and a part of me. I don’t consider my game a risky game today because I’m so used to it.»
Cressy won 88.8 per cent of his service games in the 2022 ATP Tour season, good for fifth on the leaderboard. But he broke serve in just 13.2 per cent of return games, placing him 76th on the Tour and providing a key opportunity for growth.
«I believe the next step is to really get my return game stronger,» he said. «I think on the return I need to have a different mindset, a mindset to make the opponent play more and I need to, like the top players, make a lot of balls in play. I believe I can do it.»
Maxime Cressy lifts his first ATP Tour title in Newport. Photo credit: Andrew Eichenholz/ATP Tour
It all came together for the American last July in Newport, where he won his first ATP Tour title behind a trio of three-set wins against Steve Johnson, John Isner and Alexander Bublik. He defeated Bublik in a third-set tie-break to make his trophy breakthrough in his third tour-level final; just one month earlier, he lost a final-set tie-break to Taylor Fritz in the Eastbourne championship match.
«It was definitely a very nerve-wracking experience,» he said of the Newport final, «especially in the third set where I kept thinking all along about the trophy and about the two missed finals.»
The title was a testament to Cressy’s improving game and mentality, and also served as the latest example of the power of visualisation for the American.
«Newport was the first title I had in mind, from a long time ago, from two, three years ago,» he revealed. «I kept thinking to myself it would be so nice and special if Newport was my first title because it was the first ATP [event] I ever played… I’m glad I was able to get that title.»
Pressure is a constant part of life on the Tour, and it was ever-present for Cressy in his challenging run at the ATP 250. He copes with that stress by referring to phrases he writes in his journal, with one in particular standing out: «Instill doubt,» a directive that keeps him focussed on the present and reminds him to take the match to his opponent.
«I put my faith in that phrase, and it has never let me down,» he explained. «I just keep repeating to myself this sentence so that I don’t get my mind distracted by other things. I know in a tennis match there’s a lot of variables that can distract you. Those two words are a key for me.»
There is no doubting Cressy’s belief that he belongs at the very top of the game. After first breaking into the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in January 2022, the American is aiming far higher in 2023.