College tennis is one of the oldest college sports as the first intercollegiate championship predated the founding of The NCAA Tennis Tournament by 63 years. Joseph Clark of Harvard tennis claimed the initial men's tennis singles competition in 1883. Meanwhile, the NCAA Tennis Tournament on the women's side was first held in 1982, shortly after that organization started overseeing women's athletics in a variety of sports. More recently, the teams that topped the college tennis rankings in 2019 were Texas (men's) and Stanford (women's).
Some top tennis players go on to experience professional success. One example in men's tennis is John Isner, who famously defeated Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68, in 2010 in the longest Wimbledon match in history, eight years prior to advancing to the semifinals at that event. Prior to experiencing success at the professional level, Isner played with the University of Georgia from 2004-07.
Many tennis rosters are international in scope. For example, the 2019-20 Georgia Bulldogs men's roster has six players from Georgia and one apiece from Florida, South Carolina, Brazil, France, South Africa and Sweden. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bulls women's roster for that same season is even more international. It's comprised of one player from New York and nine from outside the United States.
The college tennis season is extensive. In D1 tennis, it generally starts in September with a couple of months of play at tournaments with singles and doubles results being the focus. There is no team scoring at those events. After a two-month break from live action, play resumes in January with the commencement of team matches. This continues through April and is followed by conference tournaments and the NCAA Tennis Tournament, the latter of which is held in May and consists of team, singles and doubles national championships. D2 tennis seasons and D3 tennis campaigns are not quite as extensive but do still consist of plenty of play.
One of the interesting differences between professional tennis and college tennis is that the latter adopted no-ad scoring in 2016, meaning that deuce, when reached, will always be the penultimate point of that game. This has quickened the matches and changed the strategy some as big hitters tend to perform better in this format than those who run and defend and focus on endurance. However, this is just a slight trend as the majority of rallies would take place with or without no-ad scoring.
College tennis teams
The number of playing opportunities is numerous as hundreds of teams are spread throughout the country.
- NCAA D1 tennis – 250+ men's teams, 310+ women's teams
- NCAA D2 tennis – 160+ men's teams, 225+ women's teams
- NCAA D3 tennis – 325+ men's teams, 370+ women's teams
- NAIA tennis – 80+ men's teams, 85+ women's teams
When taking into account the quality of the tennis programs, the reputations of their academic offerings and the personal favorites of perspective students, the top three NCAA tennis schools in both men's and women's are Harvard tennis, Princeton tennis and Stanford tennis.
On the courts, all six of those NCAA tennis sides had solid 2018-19 campaigns with Stanford's women's tennis team being the best of the bunch. That Stanford tennis squad went 28-1 and responded to a mid-season 4-3 defeat to Georgia by dominating the Bulldogs in the national championship match, 4-0. Amongst the other two schools, Harvard tennis saw its men qualify for postseason play, and so did the women's side of Princeton tennis. In fact, that Princeton tennis team earned a 4-1 win over Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Stanford tennis saw its men's program advance to the Sweet 16.
NCAA tennis – Postseason play
Postseason play in NCAA tennis is similar to basketball's March Madness in that 64 NCAA men's tennis teams and 64 NCAA women's tennis squads are selected, and they play six rounds until one remains. Once the team competition is complete, the nation's top singles and doubles players, regardless of the quality of their teams, compete for national titles in those disciplines. At the finals site, the final eight squads, 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams compete over a period of about a week and a half. The first three rounds of the team competitions will have already been played on campus sites the previous couple weekends
The formats are identical but smaller in scope for the NCAA men's tennis and the NCAA women's tennis brackets in D2 and D3 as fewer teams take part in those events, and no singles or doubles competitions are held for NCAA D2 or NAIA players.
College tennis rankings and standings
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association oversees much of college tennis, including college tennis rankings. Unlike most other sports, which either focus on a top 25 or simply rank every D1 school, ITA's college tennis rankings lists the top 75 teams. These schools were at the top of the final NCAA tennis rankings of the 2019 season:
- Wake Forest
- Ohio State
And these were the teams at the top of the corresponding women's NCAA tennis rankings:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
These NCAA tennis rankings are released on a weekly basis through the spring season with the exception of the week preceding the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, which takes place in February. Singles and doubles rankings are also released regularly throughout the season, including on a weekly basis through the final weeks of the regular season.
The best place to view conference standings is that conference's official website. Most leagues will also play host to postseason tournaments. Information on those can be found on that same conference website. However, a few leagues will not host these events, the Ivy League being one of the most significant examples of a conference that simply crowns regular-season champions in college tennis. For information on the six NCAA Men's Tennis Tournaments and NCAA Women's Tennis Tournaments, head to NCAA.com.
The ITA also provides an all-in-one-place web page for college tennis stats and college tennis scores. Here, statistics for every college tennis team can be viewed, not just those that are ranked. Meanwhile, if you've narrowed your focused to a handful of NCAA tennis teams, head to their official websites for information on how their seasons is going, their team statistics, their college tennis scores and so on.
Best tennis colleges in history
Although who the best teams are tends to fluctuate some from year to year, some tennis colleges have reached the top of the mountaintop more often than others. Here's a list of the NCAA tennis teams with the most national championships at the D1, D2 and D3 levels and the best teams historically in NAIA tennis.
NCAA D1 men – USC (21)
NCAA D1 women – Stanford (20)
NCAA D2 men – Lander (8)
NCAA D2 women – Armstrong State (10)
NCAA D3 men – Kalamazoo and UC Santa Cruz (7)
NCAA D3 women – Williams (10)
NAIA men – Redlands (11)
NAIA women – Auburn Montgomery (14)
College tennis news
College tennis camps
Attending a tennis camp can be one of the best things that you can do as an aspiring college tennis player who is looking to secure a college tennis scholarship. This is because college tennis camps provide opportunities to better your skills and impress coaches who you may end up playing for. Several factors should come into play when deciding which tennis camp or tennis camps to attend. The most important ones are the quality of the coaching and the exposure that you'd receive. You should also consider the proximity and the price of the tennis camp.
Some to consider are the College Tennis Exposure Camps and Clinics. Also consider the offerings at the USTA National Campus, which includes a combine. That type of event allows you to participate in matches and fitness tests and have those results recorded and passed on to those involved with college tennis recruiting.
It should also be noted that the vast majority of tennis colleges play host to tennis camps.
Tennis commits, recruits and prospects
As you go through the recruiting process, it's important to know what three terms that could be used to describe you mean.
If you're a tennis commit, that means that you've committed to play for a school, and that coaching staff has agreed to take you on. This can be done in verbal or written form, but the signing of a National Letter of Intent is the only one that's binding and is the only one that involves a college tennis scholarship.
A college tennis recruit is someone who is being pursued by a tennis recruiter. Contacting coaches and showing interest doesn't make you a college tennis recruit.
Lastly, a college tennis prospect is a player who is eligible to join a college tennis roster. How likely that is to occur and how likely a tennis recruiter will get involved is irrelevant. In other words, nearly every high school tennis player is a college tennis prospect.
College tennis recruiting
If you're looking to secure a college tennis scholarship, it's important to consider the steps that should be taken on the recruiting timeline. The first of these steps should be initially engaged in during the freshman year of high school.
Several factors should play into your final decision. One is the location of the tennis college. Do you want it to be near your home or far away? Should it be in a large metropolis or a rural community? What about the culture of the school, its community and the tennis team? Do you see yourself comfortable there? Or, if you don't, will it be a place where you'll embrace the growth that you'll experience? What about the quality of the coaching staff? Make sure to consider the opinions of those you trust, but the final decision should be yours and your family's.
As you go through the recruiting process, do consider that coaches tend to initially place a high value on statistics even though that may not represent how you play. Your potential is the most important factor not shown in stats.
Education and networking
One of the organizations that helps educate prospective collegiate men's and women's tennis players is Next College Student Athlete. It's been doing so since it was founded in 2000 by Chris Krause, a former football player who had his own recruiting experience. In the 1980s, he struggled through his before finding his fit at Vanderbilt University. As a result of that experience, he founded NCSA to help ensure that those who followed in his footsteps would be more educated about the process than he was.
NCSA also serves as a networking outlet as the 24,000 NCSA athletes who commit to a college to play a variety of sports every year are connected with 35,000 coaches. The educational aspect of NCSA's offerings provides prospects and recruits with the opportunities to learn how to best communicate with coaches who are both in and outside of this network. As a result of what NCSA has to offer, it's garnered tremendous reviews over the years, including averaging 4.9 stars out of 5 on Google Reviews.
If you'd like to take advantage of what NCSA has to offer, fill out your free profile today. Should you have any questions about the form or about how NCSA can help you earn that spot on a college tennis roster, call 866 495-5172.