The Tank keeps rolling. At the moment, Trevor (Tank) Kronemann is holed up in a Holiday Inn in Charlotte, N.C., where he is spending the monthlong TeamTennis season playing for the Charlotte Heat.
Since graduating from UC Irvine in 1990, this is about as long as you can expect to find Kronemann stationed in one place. These days, he's a tennis gypsy, living out of a suitcase while trying to find his way on the pro tour.
At 22, Kronemann has lost weight--he's down to Range Rover size--and become a disciplined, professional. Being No. 350 in the world doubles rankings isn't great, but it's better than being No. 351. And if he can stick it out, he believes major victories will follow and his ranking will climb.
So far, the frequent flier mileage is mounting faster than victories over top-ranked opponents. And trips home to Bradenton, Fla., have been infrequent but Kronemann is still having fun with his apprenticeship.
"I'm doing all right," Kronemann said from a pay phone in the hotel lobby. "So far, I've only lost to (Jimmy) Connors and Greg Holmes."
He's talking TeamTennis here.
Sometimes tournament players give him guff for playing TeamTennis. They call the league "cheesy," among other things, but Kronemann just smiles.
"Without TeamTennis I'd be behind a desk someplace, working from 9 to 5," Kronemann said. "My family doesn't come from a lot of money. Sometimes I find myself avoiding tournaments because it costs too much to get there. I look at TeamTennis as a stepping block."
Last year, Kronemann, a four-time All-American at Irvine, got a call from the Charlotte Heat, who needed a last-minute replacement for an injured player. Not knowing what direction pro tennis would take him, Kronemann jumped at the chance to earn a consistent paycheck.
He earned $16,534 in prize money, eighth-best in the TeamTennis, and also was named the league's rookie of the year and most valuable player, which earned him another $4,000 in bonuses.
"It helped a lot," he said. "It put me on the road for another two or three months."
Back for his second season in Charlotte, Kronemann said he has found a home away from home. Local tennis fans certainly have taken to the Tank.
Greg Patton, Kronemann's coach at Irvine who also coaches the TeamTennis Newport Beach Dukes, tells this story:
"When we were there last year, they turned off all the lights in the arena. And the crowd's going crazy. Then, the announcer goes, 'You will now see the man they call the Tank.' "
Patton said he was the first to hang the nickname on Kronemann at a Junior Davis Cup camp in 1987. At the time it was an unflattering description of an overweight, but promising player with a bazooka-like forehand.
"He comes walking in looking like a cartoon character," Patton said. "He weighed 255 pounds with all this blond hair. I said, 'That guy's not like a VW Bug. He's like a tank.' Now, even his mom and dad call him Tank."
Patton waged a four-year-long fight to keep Kronemann from eating everything in sight. Often it was a losing battle.
"I used to have to go across the street (from UCI) to this pizza place and haul him out of there at midnight," Patton said.
Kronemann always appreciated Patton's effort, but only now has he taken a serious interest in his diet. He has recently become a vegetarian and now carries about 220 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame.
As Kronemann dropped weight, he has found he hits the ball harder than ever.
"He generates great power with a turn of his torso," Patton said. "And he comes over the ball with a lot of topspin. Normally, if you hit the ball as hard as he does it would go through the fence. He comes over the ball and it helps gravity bring it back down to the court."
At Irvine, those blistering serves and forehands left opponents deflated and defeated. On the tour, those same shots might still go for winners, but Kronemann finds others, such as the 38-year-old Connors, who can rifle shots back.
In Charlotte's match against the L.A. Strings last week, Kronemann broke Connors for a 2-1 lead. Connors then reeled off eight consecutive winners and Kronemann was down, 4-2. "Wow," said Kronemann, who lost to Connors for the second time this season. "Out of nowhere, eight winners in a row."
It was simply part of Kronemann's ongoing education.
"It's like going back to school," he said. "This would be my sophomore year, but it's like a business adventure, too. I'm reading this book called 'The Firm.' The tour is like that. You have to go back to school to learn how the firm works, how to beat them, how to respect them. Every day is a new adventure."
Kronemann has shown he can survive for a year on the tour, but now the question is whether he can make it to the big time.
Patton thinks so, but knows how tough it can be.
"It's like trying to get a ticket to a Madonna concert at a 300-seat venue," he said. "You have to be wily and do your homework. I think he can make it. I believe in him."
Sometimes Kronemann wonders about it himself. "It's a long, slow climb and I want to keep climbing," he said. "If I don't make it, I don't make it. If I do, it's a bonus."