When JJ Wolf arrived at the Miami Open presented by Itau, he had a good laugh.
“I FaceTimed a bunch of my friends who either played [football] at Ohio State or are playing professionally now and was like, ‘Shouldn’t you guys be here, not me?’” Wolf recalled. “It was kind of funny and they all got good kicks out of it.”
Hard Rock Stadium is the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. However, Wolf, a Cincinnati Bengals fan, will be the center of attention at the same venue on Saturday when he plays third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in primetime.
If this match was played last year, the first thing fans would have noticed was Wolf’s mullet, which became arguably the most talked about hairstyle on the ATP Tour. But now, the flowing hair is gone and the focus can go on one thing: his tennis.
“I think having the haircut, I expected the questions,” Wolf said. “But I feel a lot better on court without it now, just kind of focusing on my tennis. I’m happy it’s going how it is.
“I don’t think it bothered my tennis, but maybe distracted from it a little bit. It was definitely a talking point. It was talked about a lot, but it’s just hair.”
JJ Wolf qualifies for the Western & Southern Open main draw for the first time.” />
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Wolf played college tennis at Ohio State University from 2017-19 and was named an All-American in 2019. The following year, after turning professional, he reached the third round of the US Open.
But it has not always been easy for the former Buckeye. Most recently, in early 2021, Wolf underwent two hernia surgeries, which sidelined him for seven months.
“[There was] a little bit of frustration, but I feel kind of lucky that I had to go through it to realize how professional I have to be and how much more I could be doing,” Wolf said.
Upon his return over the American summer, he won a set against each of Brandon Nakashima, John Isner and Frances Tiafoe, but was unable to finish any of those matches off. However, Wolf finished the season strong by claiming his fifth ATP Challenger Tour title in Las Vegas and advancing to two more semi-finals. And in 2022, so far, so good.
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Wolf is currently No. 167 in the ATP Rankings, but has been competing at a higher level than that. The 23-year-old earned three impressive wins in Acapulco, defeating Andreas Seppi and Kevin Anderson in qualifying before upsetting Lorenzo Sonego in the main draw. In both Indian Wells and Miami, Wolf qualified without losing a set and then won his first round in the main draw in straight sets. In the California desert, he failed in the second round.
“I’ve been having a great time, really trying to take care of my body. I’ve been very lucky to feel pretty healthy recently,” Wolf said. “So I’ll lay my body on the line for all these matches and give it everything I’ve got.”
Wolf just played Tsitsipas in Acapulco, where the Greek triumphed 6-1, 6-0. However, the home favorite said he is not going to worry about that on Saturday.
“I don’t really think about who I’m playing too much,” Wolf said. “I just try to focus on my game. But obviously playing in the second round of a Masters  tournament is super fun, so I’m really excited to see how it goes.”