The exact origins of tennis are unknown, but by the 16th century players were using a variety of rackets to hit a ball at one another. Originally a game that appealed to members of the upper-class, it was logical that it would be included at Ivy League universities throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
College tennis has continued to flourish over the decades, and the sport is now played and enjoyed by people of all social and economic classes. In the United States, there are currently over 1,100 women’s programs and 950 men’s programs on the following levels: NCAA Divisions I through III, NAIA, and NJCAA.
While the basic rules of the game are the same, there are still some noticeable differences between tennis at the professional and collegiate levels. The most obvious is the fact that professionals get paid, while NCAA rules prevent amateur players from making a profit off their talent (at least while they’re in college).
Another major difference is the court, as the majority of college games are played on an asphalt surface. This is different for the pros, as they may have to compete on a hardcourt, clay, or grass surface depending on the event.
The speed of the pro game is also greater, especially when it comes to the player’s shots. Professional serves can range from 100 to 150 miles per hour, and ground strokes are also hit at a higher velocity.
In recent years, college tennis has experimented with a number of rule changes in order to speed up the game and attract more fans. This includes changing singles matches from a best-of-three-sets format to a third-set tiebreaker, as well as getting rid of pre-match practices and changing doubles from eight sets to six.
During this annual event, matches take place for a men’s team championship, a men’s single title, and a men’s doubles title. The first event of this type was held in 1883, prior to the creation of the NCAA. It occurs each May and marks the most important time of the year of male collegiate tennis players.
In the team championship category, the most successful squad has been the USC Trojans with a total of 21 titles. From 2000 to 2015 alone, the school captured seven such titles. They are followed by the Stanford Cardinals with 17 titles and the UCLA Bruins with 16 wins.
In the men’s doubles category, USC has been the dominant university with 21 championships, while Harvard is the next closest with 17 (although most of these came in the early years of tournament play). Stanford sits in third place with 14 wins.
Harvard, USC, and Stanford have the most singles championships, with 16, 15, and 14, respectively. Many of the players who’ve captured these titles have gone on to play professionally, with notable names including Arthur Ashe (UCLA), Jimmy Connors (UCLA), and John McEnroe (Stanford).
Created in 1982, this annual tournament crowns the best women’s players in singles, doubles, and team play. Sixty-four schools compete each year in a bracket format, with the event traditionally taking place in May (sometimes alongside the men’s tournament).
During the 34 years that the tournament has been in place, Stanford has been the dominant force in team play. They’ve won 17 women’s national titles during that period, including six consecutive wins from 1986 until 1991.
Stanford leads the pack with eight women’s doubles titles, and they’re trailed by UCLA, Florida, and California (each with 5 victories). Several duos have back-to-back wins over the years, including Maya Jansen/Erin Routliffe, Dawn Buth/Stephanie Nickitas, and Amanda Augustus/Amy Jensen.
In the singles category, the Stanford tennis program has once again proven the best with a total of 14 titles. Florida, meanwhile, is a distant second with four wins. Previous winners include professional players such as Patty Fendick, Lisa Raymond, and Laura Granville.
Unlike some college sports, it’s difficult to get a scholarship for playing tennis. Division I programs are limited to four scholarships for men and eight for women, and the competition is fierce. In fact, college tennis has more international athletes than any other sport, which means only the most promising players can expect to see any tuition money for their efforts on the court.