Studying at US College under tennis scholarships is becoming an ever more popular way of staying in the game after school, thanks hugely to the Tennis Smart organisation, which exists solely to place young Brits in American colleges after their A-Levels. Below we take a look at some of the players heading across the pond in 2016 imminently for the spring season.
Please note: this article makes use of the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) system. For more information, click here.
NCAA Division I
Matthew Story – Memphis
Born in ’98, Matthew Story will be heading over to the States aged just 17 and jumping right in at the deep end, joining an already established line-up that already includes three Brits: ITA #58 and ATP #1606 Andrew Watson (UTR 13.74), Ryan Peniston (13.86) and Shakeel Manji (12.27) – all of them Sophomores, meaning Story will be in good company for at least two more years. Joe Salisbury has also recently graduated from Memphis. While Story’s ITF Junior career hasn’t been a revelation (he peaked at #427), he currently sits 54th nationally in the LTA rankings and holds a 2.1 LTA rating, having been successful at junior level and more than held his own against seasoned professionals. He’s even just won Welsh Junior Sports Personality of the Year.
And what made him choose Memphis? “For me it was an easy decision. I spoke to Chris Doerr, the Memphis Assistant Coach, and what he told me about the university and what they have to offer was exactly what I was looking for.” Story even had the good fortune to be able to visit the campus before making his decision, and he was impressed by what he saw. “The facilities were amazing and everything they showed me was a level up from what I have been using here in Cardiff.”
With a current UTR of 12.54, Story looks to have a very bright 3.5 years over in America ahead of him, and one which he hopes might lead to a pro career in the future: “I think American college will help develop my game, because I will always be surrounded by team mates who want to get better so the training environments will be motivating. Hopefully in the next 4 years I will have improved enough to get onto the Pro Tour and start playing tennis professionally.” We wish Matthew the best of luck.
Madeleine Brooks – Middle Tennessee State
3rd best player in her county, an LTA rating of 3.1 and four Doubles titles in 2015, Madeleine Brooks is heading off to Tennessee to continue her studies and tennis side-by-side. “I think college tennis will help me to mature as a tennis player. Training everyday and playing matches against quality opposition will allow me to improve and reach my potential.”
Her other accolades include taking home the U14 doubles championship at Wimbledon, and being a runner up two times at the British National Championships. She has been ranked as high as eighth in the U18 British National rankings and was part of the Norfolk Ladies team that gained promotion to Division 1 in the National County Cup earlier this year.
Like Matthew, she named the coach and the facilities at MTSU as one of the deciding factors in her decision to move to America: “I chose MTSU because I really liked the coach; he has great ambition and is really passionate about the university. The facilities look amazing and it looks like a great place to study.” When asked about the Pro Tour, she felt equally confident, seeing college tennis as “the best opportunity for [her] to achieve [her] dream of playing on the pro tour.” Good luck Maddie!
Charlie Croxford – Nevada, Las Vegas
A hugely busy year for Charlie has really paid off with his acceptance into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). His UTR is at 11.76, and he holds a 2.1 LTA rating and is ranked 175th nationally by the LTA after gracing a couple of Tier 1 British Tour events over the course of the year. And Charlie has ambition: “Having been in full time education, finding the time to allocate to training, going to the gym and competing is a struggle, however being in college ensures that the full package is taken care of. With this in mind I plan on achieving an ITA ranking as well as competing in the NCAAs.”
Charlie made the Main Draw of Tier 1 events in Worthing (lost to Keelan Oakley 4-6 4-6) and Sutton (lost to Jamie Whiteford in a bit of a whitewash) but believes with a more intense training schedule, he can reach his goals. “As college puts everything into place, over the course of 4 years playing competitive tennis alongside a tough fitness schedule, I will mature both mentally and physically and hopefully reach a level similar to that of the tour to provide a smooth transition [onto the Pro Tour]”
He’s keen to get away from the British weather too: “UNLV [has a] strong tennis programme and a vastly experienced coach, which are both supplemented by a great location and hot weather!” We wish Charlie the best of luck in America.
Caleb Dyer – Incarnate Word
With a tentative UTR of 11.5, Caleb Dyer will be heading to the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, in order to successfully balance athletics and academics: “[Going to college in America is] my best chance to have both doors open to me.”
Caleb has an LTA rating of 2.2 and despite not playing a huge amount to count towards a national ranking, he did make the QFs of a British Tour Tier 2 event in Swansea in 2015, defeating top youngster Brandon Murphy before eventually falling to Kyle Fellows 6-1 6-4. Caleb believes he has potential to fulfil though, and when studying in America, he has high ambitions. “With rigorous training and plenty of match play, I want to head the team, help UIW to win their Conference and achieve a top ranking.”
With confidence, ability, and bags of potential, we’re sure Caleb will succeed in America. Good luck!
Tanna Nita – Coppin State
Amazingly, Tanna Nita got herself into a Division 1 college despite only having an LTA rating of 10.1, proving it is possible for players of all levels to succeed in studying on sports scholarships in America, providing the right pathways and procedures are taken.
A girl of few words, she stated that she chose Coppin State “because the coach has a great reputation and the university offers the degree I really wanted to do.” Despite not having a national ranking at this stage, she is “very excited to get there in January and use the next four years to improve [her] game. It will be a new and challenging experience for [her] which [she] look[s] forward to.” Good luck Tanna!”
NCAA Division II
Lucy Horbatowski – Maryville, St Louis
While initially looking for a place at university in the autumn of 2016, Lucy Horbatowski was offered an earlier start at Maryville, St Louis, and according to Tennis Smart founder Sarah Borwell, Lucy ‘didn’t think twice’ about going early, and was impressed with her ‘guts’ to do so. Lucy herself feels she will “fit in perfectly with their strong balance of athletics and academics.”
Indeed, Lucy was the first of our interviewees to cite academia as a clinching factor, seeing it as “an opportunity to excel off the court and get a degree in something outside of tennis.” That being said, her tennis career may blossom while she’s there. Sitting at a 4.2 LTA rating and 8th in her county, her time on court has been minimised by her focus on studies, and given the step up in tennis time, she could unleash a lot of potential in America. “I think that American college tennis will help develop my game because of the consistent intensive practice and training in ways I haven’t done so before […] [I want to] reach my highest fitness level [but] still love tennis as much as I always have.”
Her local paper got excited way back in 2014, before her dream became a reality, and along with everyone at home, we wish Lucy the best of luck at Maryville.
Kurt Burton – McPherson
Another player keen to raise his fitness levels to their optimum peak is Kurt Burton, who’ll be heading to NAIA McPherson College later this month. Despite not being a Division I college, Kurt is optimistic about his tennis game and the potential to really push himself while in America.
“My main goals are to perform well and get to my optimum level whilst I’m am out there. I will be putting in a lot of work on and off the court, especially in the gym, which should hopefully pay off in terms of results on the court and long term fitness.” It was the coach’s involvement both on and off the court which attracted Kurt to McPherson: “I chose McPherson because they have quite a strong tennis program, and also because the coach is very involved in the progress and development of the team on and off the court.”
Again, Kurt cites his ability to combine his love of the game with academia as another reason for heading across the pond. “I think college tennis is a good way of competing in the sport you love while also gaining a good education.” Good luck Kurt!
…and one Irishman
Technically not British but, according to Borwell, “worth a mention as he’s going to be pretty bloody good,” Bjorn Thomson is an Irish lad heading over to Texas Tech, one of the strongest teams in the country. Incidentally, Brit Alex Sendegeya is currently studying there as well. Bjorn has trained a lot in the UK and has real potential and ambition, stating that “at the current time [he’s] not ready for the pro tour, however in four years [he] will have developed [his] game, whilst also gaining an academic degree.”
Bjorn also stated the coach’s genuine interest in him as a person and a player as one of the deciding factors for choosing Texas Tech, and is also keen to start playing matches as part of a team: “I’m most looking forward to playing college tennis as part of a team, because for the last four years I have studied and travelled independently.”
Bjorn intends to turn pro following his graduation, saying that his “main goals over the next 4 years are to develop physically and mentally; to get ready for the tour; and to win the NCAA title, all the while maintaining a high level of studying.” Great ambition, and though we won’t be following the Irishman too closely, we wish Bjorn the best of luck in the future.