When, in the autumn of 1910, a few admirers of the game of tennis got together and organized the University of Utah Tennis Club, little did they know how many lives they would impact and how successful their team would become. Players would come from all over the world; from Australia to Russia, from Norway to South Africa to reach great successes as a Ute and their (playing) careers long after.
Over the course of the last century the Utes would, amongst many other things, win one NCAA singles championship, 24 team conference championships and would set records at the US Open and Wimbledon.
Utah has claimed 24 conference championships in its rich tennis history and 4 under current head coach FD Robbins. Winning its first conference championship in 1928, it wouldn’t be until post WWII that the Utes really started dominating conference play, with 23 titles coming in a 64 year time span. Its last conference championship came in 2008 with a 4-3 victory over arch rival BYU. Conference titles by year:
NCAA SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP
In 1983, Greg Holmes became Utah’s first and, so far, only NCAA champion. As the No. 1 seed, he captured the Singles Championship in Athens, GA, dropping only 1 set.
Shortly after winning the NCAA title, Holmes beat Guillermo Vilas to make it to the round of 16 at the US Open. He went on to a very successful professional career, reaching as high as 22 in the world, with wins over Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi.
In 1989 Holmes set the record for the longest match played at Wimbledon at 5 hours and 28 minutes. A record that would hold until the epic Isner – Mahut match in 2010.
Holmes was the last player to ever win an NCAA title using a wooden racquet.
Utah men’s tennis has had eight different players earn 12 ITA All-American awards. Jim Osborne became Utah’s first All-American in 1965 and repeated in 1966. After his college career, Jim Osborne had a lot of success on the pro tour as a doubles player winning 5 ATP titles and was a member of the US Davis Cup team.
Current head coach, FD Robbins, became Utah’s second All-American in 1969. Later that year he would set the record for the longest match in US Open history, defeating Dick Dell in a match that counted 100 games (22-20, 9-7, 6-8, 8-10, 6-4). Because the tie-break was introduced shortly afterward, the record still stands today and can’t be broken anymore. Robbins played in the US Open three times, reaching the 3rd round once. He would earn a 2nd All-America honor in his sophomore year (1970).
Six more Utes would earn All-America honors. Both Dan Bleckinger (1969, 1970) and Kent Crawford (1976, 1977) were two time honorees. While Jeff Robbins (1981), Greg Holmes (1983) and Christian Schultes (1986) each earned the elite status once. Christian Svensson was the last Ute All-American in 1997.
ITA HALL OF FAME
Utah has had 3 members of its tennis program inducted into the Hall of Fame. Legendary Ute coach Harry James was enshrined with the class of 1987. James was the U’s head coach from 1961 – 1987 and won an astonishing 10 conference championships. Under his tutelage, the U produced 11 All-America honors and 1 singles NCAA title.
Jim Osborne became Utah’s 2nd member of the Hall of Fame in 2005. Osborne, a 2-time All-American under coach Harry James, was recognized for his achievements as a player at Utah and a coach at BYU.
Utah’s 3rd inductee, Greg Holmes, was enshrined with the class of 2009 and was honored for his achievements during his 1983 championship season.