Last Tuesday, The NCAA team championship wrapped up with USC winning the men’s title for the 4th straighttime beating Virginia in a match that ended at nearly 1 am.
The match could have gone either way. In fact, the clinching match was decided by a tiebreaker in the 3rd set. But in the end, the Trojans got their 4 peat with Steve Johnson leading the way at the #1 position.
Trivia Question: Who was the last player to win 4 team titles in a row? My best guess without going back and looking in the record books is that my teammate and friend, Paul Goldstein, was the last to do it.
I was lucky enough to be a part of 2 national championship teams (thanks to Goldy being a teammate of mine) for those two years.
This time of year always brings back memories of arguably the BEST tournament in the world, especially when it’s played in front of the great fans in Athens, GA.
Here are my reasons why the NCAA team championship is the best.
PLAYING FOR A TEAM
The NCAA’s is one of the few events in our individual sport where you can play for a team. Besides Davis Cup and FedCup, this is your chance as a player to be a part of something for the collective good. You fight battles all year for your teammates and coaches with the hopes that you can raise that national championship trophy.
There aren’t many greater feelings than holding that team trophy with your team on a Tuesday night at the end of May in Georgia. Here is our Stanford team in 1996 after the title.
BTW…who is that guy with the shaved head?
ALWAYS A CHANCE TO COME BACK
At the NCAA’s you can lose the doubles point, and still win the overall match. Just look at USC the other night. They lost the doubles point, but were able to regroup and win 4 out of next 5 singles match to clinch the title.
It is so unique to play doubles first in team competition and then come back and play singles to decide the overall contest. The doubles point is always huge but it’s not a deal breaker. There is always that chance to come back after getting down early in the team competition.
ON COURT COACHING (FROM A GREAT COACH)
Back when I played for Stanford at the #1 singles position, having the legendary Dick Gould on court watching the matches helped us find a way in our matches. There was something about Coach Gould’s presence on court that helped us find a way.
He had a way of giving us the right tip at the right time or just knowing when to leave us alone and to motivate even if he was helping another player a few courts down. Having a coach like that can make all the difference in the outcome of a match and the NCAA’s
is one of the few places where you can tap into that advantage.
YOU CAN BE A SUPER FAN FOR YOU HOME TEAM
Pulling for your favorite team is awesome. I love the Denver Broncos but in tennis, when can you really get behind a team. Davis Cup is a team event but, it still feels different than The NCAA team championship.
Last year I got to be a super fan when Stanford hosted the NCAA’s and I was able to attend. Even though I was 15 years removed from my last NCAA match as a player, it was awesome sharing the experience with old teammates and feeling the energy of pulling for the home team.
See if you can find me in this photo going nuts with or Stanford fans as the Cardinal tried to advance in the NCAA’s. I get chills thinking about that day just being a tennis fan.
UNREAL CROWD SUPPORT
There is nothing like have thousands of tennis fans rooting for you or against you. I felt that in BIG TIME Athens when we battled against the Georgia Bulldogs in front of some crazy dawg fans…
Getting the win against the hostile crowd with your team is one of the best feeling ever.
One year we beat Georgia in a thriller. Saving match points at #6 singles, we went on to win the national title the next day…definitely one of my fondest memories as a player.
So there you go.
The best tennis tournament in the world.
What do you think? Is the NCAA Championship better than Wimbledon or the US Open.
Committed to your tennis success,