UNC freshman Jamie Loeb earned a spot on the USTA Collegiate National Team for winning the ITA All-American and USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
© David Kenas
By Sally Milano, USTA.com
With the 2013-14 collegiate season winding down, attention will soon turn to the USTA Collegiate National Team, a high-level training program designed to help top American college players make a smooth transition to professional tennis.
So far, three of college tennis' brightest stars have qualified for spots on the team after winning major collegiate singles titles earlier this season – Virginia junior Mitchell Frank (ITA All-American Championships), UCLA senior Clay Thompson (USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships) and North Carolina freshman and recently named ITA Rookie of the Year Jamie Loeb (who won both the All-American and the National Indoor Championships for the women).
The remaining spots on the team are still to be determined and will go to the players who earn ITA Player of the Year and/or Rookie of the Year honors, NCAA singles champions, if they are American, and the highest-ranked American collegians in the ATP and WTA rankings as of Aug. 11. The team will be comprised of six men and six women in all.
The collegiate team program began in 1996 and has since helped shepherd players, including John Isner (Georgia), James Blake (Harvard) and Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford) on to the men's pro tour and Mallory Burdette (Stanford), Irina Falconi (Georgia Tech) and Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) on the women's.
"The goal of the Collegiate National Team is to help our top collegians make the extremely tough transition into a career and life on the professional tour," said USTA National Coach Dustin Taylor, who heads up the USTA Collegiate National Team for USTA Player Development.
At one time, the Collegiate National Team only convened during the summer, but it is now a year-round program that gives American college players opportunities to participate in USTA Pro Circuit events and the annual international Master’U competition in France. The players also have the chance to serve as practice partners for the U.S. Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams, and they receive appropriate funding, coaching, training and other competitive opportunities throughout the year, courtesy of USTA Player Development, which administers the team, along with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
This year, for the first time ever, members of the collegiate team will also have the opportunity to play in a new event on one of the world's biggest stages – the US Open. The inaugural American Collegiate Invitational will take place during the second week of the year’s final Grand Slam, Sept. 4-6, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
Taylor recently named some of the country's top coaches to work with the national collegiate team – three on the men's side and three on the women's.
The men’s team will be led by Bo Hodge, associate head coach at the University of Oklahoma, who is returning for his fourth year; Brett Ross, associate head coach at Wake Forest, who is coming back for his second year; and Derek Schwandt, assistant coach at Georgia Tech, who will be making his debut as a USTA Collegiate National Team coach this year.
Coaches working with the women’s team are Lee Taylor-Walker, head coach at the University of Memphis, who is returning for his second year; West Nott, associate head coach at USC, who is also coming back for his second year; and Felix Alvarado, the assistant general manager and director of tennis at the John McEnroe Academy at Randall’s Island, who has been a top developmental coach in recent years and will be a newcomer to the USTA Collegiate National Team coaching staff.
Currently, three of the top American men in the world are collegiate players: Isner is at No. 11, Steve Johnson (USC) is at No. 67 and Bradley Klahn (Stanford) is at No. 73. In the women's game, nine American women are currently ranked in the Top 10 of the ITA rankings.
These results, said Taylor, "prove the future is extremely bright for collegians in the professional ranks. Those statistics show that college tennis is and will continue to be a large factor in the future of American tennis. That said, it's an absolute privilege to work with these college coaches, and the players, to help pave their way into a career in professional tennis."