Tennis On Campus National Championship returns to USTA National Campus in 2022
The Tennis On Campus National Championship returns this spring for the first time since 2019. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the biggest tournament in collegiate club tennis gets back in action at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, April 7-9, 2022.
Among the teams to compete will be 2021 TOC Regional Fall Invitational champions Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and USC.
Georgia Tech, which boasts over 65 active club members, brought five teams to the regional in Mobile, Ala. A total of 20 teams competed at the October event, spanning the USTA’s Southern and Mid-Atlantic sections.
After dominating round-robin play, the Yellow Jackets teams claimed each of the Top 5 seeds in the gold bracket of the knockout tournament.
“That was really crazy,” said GT club captain Mark Barrow, a senior industrial engineering major. “It was like, ‘How in the world did this happen.’ It was nuts.”
In the final, the school’s ‘A’ team defeated its ‘B’ squad to earn a bid to the 2022 Championship. Tech had previously qualified for the 2020 nationals, before that event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Despite the major success on the court in Mobile, some of Barrow’s best memories from the event came outside the heat of competition.
“One of my biggest takeaways from that tournament was just how awesome the USTA Tennis On Campus community is with all the schools,” he said, crediting TOC director Jeff Smith for a well-run event. “I met some really cool people, some really cool dudes that I never talked to before.”
For Barrow and the rest of the club members, competitive club tennis is a happy medium between recreational play and the rigor of varsity athletics. Mirroring the state of tennis in the U.S., Tech’s club participation numbers have swelled in recent years, with increases in both retention and active members.
“It’s a really good social club, as well as competitive,” explained Barrow, who played USTA junior tournaments through the 18s level. “We all were good players, but we didn’t take it too, too seriously. We still have a good time and hang out outside of the courts.”
Wisconsin secured its national bid by winning the October regional in Cary, N.C., where 47 teams from 11 USTA sections participated. The Badgers, whose roster includes four high school state champions, defeated Cornell in the final.
“Everyone on the team, we definitely played competitively in high school and just wanted to keep that going,” said junior club captain Kevin Fan, who’s double-majoring in neurobiology and English. “We get to play a lot of tennis, which was a big part of growing up for us.”
“It’s more of a relaxed environment,” added sophomore team member and econ student Logan Homberg, “with a lot of intensity if you want it.”
Things got intense early at regionals, where a slow start saw Wisconsin drop their opening round-robin match to a strong Harvard team.
“We were so nervous that we weren’t even going to make the top knockout bracket,” Fan recalled.
In the end, they earned the 15th seed (out of 16) in the gold bracket, with Harvard advancing as group-winners. On the way to the title, they survived knockout matchups against Ohio State and Florida.
Like Georgia Tech, the Badgers have unfinished business at TOC Nationals, having previously qualified for the cancelled 2020 event.
“We’re hoping to have a good chance to win,” Homberg said, looking forward to the 2022 competition. “If we play really well, we could definitely do very well in the tournament. We're definitely hoping to give it our all and maybe take a good spot in it.”
For USC, their national bid was secured via a gold-medal finish at the West Coast Classic in Phoenix.
The November event had 21 schools participating and 32 teams in the draw. In the gold knockout bracket, USC reached the final with a convincing win over local rivals Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Facing UC San Diego in the final, the Trojans scored another decisive win to book their spot at nationals.
A Tennis On Campus match consists of five individual matches: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Sets are played to six games, with a first-to-five tiebreak at 5-all. All tiebreaks are sudden death, with a winner-take-all point at 4-all.
The winner of the overall match is based on total games won. The concluding mixed doubles match takes on added significance because of that rule: if the trailing team in the overall match wins the mixed doubles set and still trails, mixed play continues until the leading team wins a game or the trailing team levels the overall score. If the latter happens, a traditional seven-point tiebreak decides the winner.