Utah's men's tennis team full of youth and diversity

By Jason Nowa

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 10:25 a.m. MDT

The University of Utah men’s tennis team is halfway through its season as the team continues to adjust to life in its second full season in one of the best college tennis conferences in the nation. And with a Hall of Fame coach, the players believe their heights can be unmatched.

The team shows youth and diversity.

With 10 players on the roster, only two of them are from the United States and only one is from Utah. There are only four upperclassmen — just one senior — with six underclassmen.

Hall of Fame coach F.D. Robbins may have his hands full in his 27th season.

Robbins is a former Ute two-time All-American tennis player from the 1970s and graduated from the University of Utah in 1972. He played the number one singles position his entire college career. Robbins won the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship in his run and reached the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in 1970.

Robbins went on to the pro circuit in his playing days. He was ranked as high as the 20th singles player and as high as 10th in doubles matches in his pro career. Robbins played in the U.S. Open three times and holds the record for the longest U.S. Open match in its history — needing 100 games to defeat Dick Dell in 1970.

Robbins is a member of the Utah Tennis Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame with the class of 2002. He will be inducted into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame on April 22 at the Hilton Salt Lake Center at 6 p.m., along with former Ute basketball standout Michael Doleac and coach Rick Majerus.

When asked what it means to be honored with this induction, Robbins said, “It means I’m a Ute guy. I’m excited about that and appreciate them considering me for that.”

Robbins' father used to take him as a youngster to the old Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse to watch the Utes play basketball and to the old football stadium as well.

He said from those experiences, “I’ve always been a Ute at heart.”

Robbins continued his success as he returned to coach his alma mater in tennis and has done so for 27 straight seasons. He has achieved four conference championships — three in the WAC and one in the MWC. The latter was his most recent in 2008.

Robbins has led his teams to the NCAA tournament nine times and has received the school's Don Reddish Award twice. The award goes out annually to the top non-football and non-basketball coaches.

To see how much the program has developed under Robbins, his top player this year, Ukraine senior Dmytro Mamedov, didn’t even see the court his entire freshman season.

Mamedov’s play has led to a 14-7 singles record this year.

With the move to the Pac-12 conference, Robbins says the quality of competition has vastly improved and that he invites it.

“The conference changed, everything’s kind of changed, but I’m pretty excited about being in the Pac-12 conference. I think all the spring sports have a tough situation, but it’s an excited situation,” Robbins said. “But we do have to recruit better players here now, and we need the guys to play the guy across the net, not USC across the net, not their history, just the guy on that day.”

With the addition into the Pac-12, the Utes' tennis team is already seeing dividends with the announcement last May that the athletics department plans to build a new outdoor tennis stadium adjacent to the George S. Eccles Indoor Tennis Center. The groundbreaking for the $2 million project is expected to take place this summer and take about five months to complete.

While there are only eight Pac-12 schools that are involved with men’s tennis, it is still one of the strongest conferences in the nation.

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