Exclusive Interview: Taiwanese-speaking American tennis pro hopes to win bigger for Taiwan after switching allegiance

Jason Jung (莊吉生), the first Taiwan’s male Universiade tennis singles champion in 14 years, sat down with Taiwan News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday to talk about his career plan, personal plans and hobbies

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An exclusive interview with Universiade champion Jason Jung (莊吉生) (photo: CNA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--Jason Jung (莊吉生), the first Taiwan’s male Universiade tennis singles champion in 14 years after Lu Yen-hsun (盧彥勳), sat down with Taiwan News on Wednesday (Nov. 29) to talk about his career plan, his take on Taiwan’s tennis status and future, his challenges in his professional future, as well as his hobbies, favorite Taiwanese foods and personal plans.

Jung, nicknamed  "JJ",  was born and raised in California, United States to Taiwanese parents, and he has an older brother. Jung’s father is an engineer and mother is a nurse practitioner. As a young child Jason liked to follow his tennis playing father to the court and took up the sport at the age of four.  

When asked why he speaks Taiwanese instead of Mandarin in Taiwan all the time, he said he speaks the language because that's the language his parents taught him and wanted him to speak at home, adding that if he spoke English at home, his parents would not respond. He said he likes to speak the language also because he feels from the bottom of his heart that he is a Taiwanese.   

After a brilliant junior tennis career, Jung got a full scholarship from University of Michigan, where he studied political science from 2008 to 2011 and was a 2-time All-Big Ten performer.

However, a university degree didn’t lead him to good job prospects. Even though he got an office job soon after graduation, he got laid off at about the same rate when the company was acquired by another company.    

In retrospect, Jung regarded losing the job as a crucial turning point in his life that thrust him towards another direction—professional tennis.  

Jung turned pro in 2011 at the age of 22 and had moderate success in the men’s professional tennis circuit before changing his nationality registration in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) from the USA to Chinese Taipei in 2015 in order to play David Cup for Taiwan and represent the country as a professional tennis player. The switch may well be another turning point in his life.   

His career high was 143rd in the world rankings achieved in October in 2016, and currently he stands at 239th.

Jung said he planned to play the Asian Games next year and hopefully get a medal. “In order to be qualified for the Asian Games, you have to be one of the best two players in your country (Taiwan), and that’s my current standing, so I have to maintain that position. I also planned to play the 2020 Olympics, but I need to get into the top 100 in the world rankings in order to qualify. So that’s what I’m aiming for. I hope I can get into the top 100 as soon as next year,” he said.  

When asked if turning pro at the age of 22 was a little too late, Jung admitted that it could be true as many top tennis players turned pro when they were in their teens. But he said he did not regret spending four years getting education and good physical training from the university.

Top tennis players, like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang, used to retire soon after they reached the age of 30; but nowadays, players like to play professionally as long as their physical conditions allow them to do so, Jung said. He added that Roger Federer, who is 36 and currently the world’s number two player, serves as a great inspiration not only to him but also all the other professional tennis players on the tour.

Speaking of Taiwan’s tennis status and future, he said Taiwan has many outstanding and high ranked junior players, but after they turned pro, they couldn’t get ahead. Jung attributed a large part of the problem to the lack of a national tennis training system that should include national tennis training centers and national coaches to help young players improve. Jung said that he has always wanted to help Taiwanese young players get better, and one thing he could think of is to help them get better training in the U.S. through his American connections.

When asked what would be his biggest challenges in the coming years, he said there are two--staying fit and free from injuries as well as getting more financial support to allow him to form a team that would support him in his quest of a more brilliant professional career.

Jung suffered an injury in September last year after getting brilliant results in four tournaments in the two previous months, but the injury forced him to have a surgery and take a six-month break. The injury took its toll on his rankings, which were seen dropping almost 100 positions. 

As for the support team, Jung said, the team should at least include a regular coach and an athletic trainer, adding that it’s really hard to be able to succeed on the tour without a team.

After switching to Taiwan’s nationality on the professional tennis tour, he has stayed in Taiwan more often and has got more used to the environment, which he said is very different from that of the U.S. He said his favorite Taiwanese foods are steamed spring roll, rice dumpling, rice noodles and dumpling, and his favorite pastimes are watching TV and going to the movies.    

Jung has a Taiwanese girl friend, as his parents had always wished for, and thinks seriously about settling down in Taiwan as his parents also plan to come back to their native country after they retire from their American jobs. 

For updated information about Jason Jung, please visit his Facebook fan club.    

Jung poses for a photo after the Taiwan News interview on Wednesday (Nov. 29) .

(Photo from CNA)

(Photo from CNA)

Jason Jung at the Double Ten celebrations, 2017. (Photo from Jason Jung's (莊吉生) Facebook page.)