How does college tennis work?
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If you’ve watched Break Point, you know the basics — but there are a few ways college competitions differ from those of the pros, mostly because NCAA tennis players compete on teams, while Tour pros duke it out as individuals. Classic college — serving up that group project life.
- At each competition, teams first face off in three simultaneous doubles matches. The school that takes two bouts wins the “doubles” point. Then, they play six singles matches for one point per dub. The squad earning the majority of the seven available points scores the W.
- That means most of a school’s 10(ish)-athlete roster plays doubles and singles at every competition. That’s a ton of tennis, so, many of college’s unique scoring rules help players conserve energy by ensuring quick matches.
College tennis is technically a spring sport, but it actually runs year-round due to extra-NCAA competition, which is governed by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). The ITA hosts separate fall and winter (aka indoor) seasons, but the springtime is for the NCAA nattys.
- The NCAA season begins in late February, right after the ITA Indoor Championships, and culminates in May’s multi-week national tournament. Each spring, six trophies are up for grabs: three for the women and three for the men.
- Programs compete for the team championship before top players chase hardware in the individual singles and doubles brackets…at least until 2024, when the NCAA will try moving the individual ’ships to the fall. Ch-ch-ch-changes.
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There’s a ton of talent in the gals’ game, but not a lot of parity. Only 10 schools have won the national title since 1982’s first-ever women’s ’ship, and Stanford’s snagged nearly half of ’em (20). But the Cardinal’s not the current top dog — that’s the UNC Tar Heels, who won this year’s indoor and outdoor nattys and dominated the doubles final, too. Channeling Serena.
- Florida, Georgia, and, more recently, Texas have also had title-winning success, and NC State is knocking on the door of their first thanks to rising sophomore Diana Shnaider, who’s seeking her second Wimbledon qualifying win this morning.
On the men’s side, California schools historically dominated. From the first tourney in 1946 through 2014, USC, Stanford, and UCLA combined for 54 (!!!) titles. However, current champ Virginia is the team to beat, winning six of the last 10 ’ships.