With the interest in playing college tennis at an all-time high amongst junior players, the pathway from college tennis to the professional tour has never been clearer as Ben Shelton (Florida), Peyton Stearns (Texas), Emma Navarro (Virginia), Learner Tien (USC), and Diana Shnaider (NC State) continue to showcase the benefits playing college tennis offers top juniors.
Former Stanford standout and Grand Slam Champion John McEnroe had this to say late last month when he joined Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnet on the SmartLess podcast, “Tennis players are peaking later than they ever did,” said McEnroe. “I think college is an experience that not only do you get to play as a team potentially if you’re in a sport, but you get to grow up a little bit and also have some fun before you work your way into a profession, and you’ll be more prepared to handle it. So I completely disagree with what academies do most often. For every person you hear that succeeds, there’s a million that don’t” (Smartless Podcast, Oct. 30, 2023).
As signing day came and went this past week, the trend of top players taking the collegiate pathway continued to be seen as 21 of the 28 boy’s blue chip recruits, according to TennisRecruiting.net, and 24 of the 27 of the girl’s blue chip recruits for the 2024 recruiting class have either signed or are committed to a college program. These numbers will likely continue to rise, as the remaining uncommitted blue chips decide their route in the coming months.
In the 2024 recruiting class, several players who signed their National Letters of Intent to attend college this spring, or next fall, show the national exposure and popularity that college tennis is gaining across the world as siblings of many of the sports top players have elected to attend college rather than follow in their siblings footprints to turn pro.
Beginning with the nation’s top boy’s recruit, Trevor Svajda, he recently made a splash by signing his NLI with SMU and plans to join the Mustangs for the Spring of 2024. As the brother of Zachary Svajda, Trevor has flown up the rankings this past year, reaching a career-high ITF Juniors Ranking of No. 280 in September while also reaching the finals of the USTA U18 Boy’s National Championships in August.
Former US Open Finalist, Leylah Annie Fernandez will have a sister in the collegiate ranks as Bianca Jolie Fernandez Exevea has signed with UCLA and will join the Bruins in January. The Canada native has a career high ITF Juniors Ranking of No. 6 and has a career-high WTA Singles Ranking of No. 606 which she achieved back in September. This WTA Ranking will make Fernandez Exevea one of the highest-ranked players actively in college tennis this spring.
Finally, Charlotte Ruud, sister of Casper Ruud, has signed her letter of intent to play for the University of South Florida. As the sister of the No. 11 ranked player in the world, Charlotte will look to create her own journey within the sport of tennis when she joins the Bulls in Tampa this upcoming Spring.
These players continue on a trend which has been seen throughout recent years as players such as Bryce Nakashima (Ohio State, brother of Brandon Nakashima), Preston Stearns (Ohio State, brother of Peyton Stearns), and Maelie Monfils (FSU, sister of Gael Monfils) all began their college tennis careers this past fall.
Outside of these players, the 21 boy’s blue chip recruits in the 2024 recruiting class who are committed or signed to play college tennis, are going to 18 different programs with Auburn, North Carolina, and Penn being the only schools with multiple blue chips. In the women’s 2024 recruiting class, 18 programs have locked in a commitment from a blue chip recruit for the upcoming season. Currently, Auburn, North Carolina, Pepperdine, Texas, and UCLA all have multiple blue chips committed or signed to their program.
This trend of top juniors choosing the college pathway was only made stronger this past year with the announcements of the ITA/ATP Accelerator Programme as well as the ITF/WTA Accelerator Programme. Now, if players finish the year as one of the top players in the country they will be awarded wild cards into pro tournaments to help them with their transition to the pro tour.
For a complete list of the 2024 boy’s and girl’s recruiting classes, please visit TennisRecruiting.Net for rankings and commitment status.