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Where Are They Now?
Talking With Florida's Ryan Sherry
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In college tennis, all six singles matches have the same value. A team that wins on courts 4-6 earns the same number of points as a team that wins on courts 1-3.

Former Florida standout Ryan Sherry
courtesy, Florida Athletics
Just ask Ryan Sherry, who played for the Florida Gators from 2002 through 2006. As a junior, Sherry posted a 23-2 record at No. 6 singles. He had the distinction of clinching every match for the Gators at the 2005 SEC Tournament in Athens, Ga., and he was named the MVP of the event. John Isner once called Sherry "the best #6 player of all time."

Harry Cicma of NBC Sports recently sat down to talk with Sherry. Sherry comments on what it takes to be a successful junior and college tennis player.

 

Questions and Answers

Harry Cicma (HC): So, how is life after college tennis?

Ryan Sherry (RS): Life after college is going really well. It definitely was hard to imagine my life not playing tennis anymore.

I got involved with a promotion company for nightlife and ended up opening a night club back in November of 2007. About a year ago I sold it - thinking I would be out of the industry. But I got an unbelievable opportunity to open another club, and I decided to act on it. It has been open since March 2010, and it is going really well.

 

HC: What was it like - playing for a top SEC program in your home state?

RS: Playing for a top SEC program is really hard to describe in words. My whole life - all I ever wanted to be was a Gator. Both my parents went there, and I slept in an orange and blue crib as a baby - literally. (Laughs)

 

HC: What was your path to Florida?

RS: Nationally I had a good second-year 16s ranking, so a lot of coaches had me on their radar. However, one radar that I was never really on was Florida's. When I was being recruited, [current Vanderbilt coach] Ian Duvenhage was the coach at Florida, and he knew how much I wanted to be a Gator. But he was very limited on scholarships.

Coach Duvenhage was gracious enough to offer me a spot on the team, and I am so thankful for everything he did for me. He ended up leaving Florida to go coach on the ATP level, so Andy Jackson was my college coach.

 

HC: You were on some strong teams at Florida under Coach Jackson. What was that like?

Coach Jackson is an amazing leader - and a amazing person. Playing in the SEC is so tough. Every match on any given day anybody can beat anybody. In my 5 years at Florida, [Sherry redshirted his sophomore year] I was on two SEC championship teams, two Top-5 teams, and two Top-10 teams. My senior year, we were the number one team in the country - although it was only for four weeks. (Laughs)

My redshirt Junior year we won the SEC regular season - and we also won the SEC title, where I was named the SEC Most Valuable Player. For a guy who plays No. 6 singles, it was really surprising. We also made it to the Final Four that year.

 

HC: What was your most memorable match as a collegian.

Probably in 2004 when we played Stanford in the round of 16 of NCAA in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Legendary Stanford coach Dick Gould was coaching the Cardinal, and he had announced that he was going to retire at the end of that season. People always talk about basketball coach John Wooden, but to me Dick Gould is the greatest college coach ever.

The match was tied 3-3, and I was in a third-set tiebreaker. All I could think about was, "Wow. I have an opportunity to beat Stanford and be part of history with Coach Gould retiring."

I ended up losing the match 12-10 in the breaker, but that disappointment is what drove me to work harder. I came back the following year and helped take our team to the Final Four.

 

HC: You were a late bloomer in the juniors, how were you able to rise to a top national level towards the end of your junior career?

RS: Yes in juniors I was kind of a late bloomer. In the 14s, I think I was ranked 50 or so nationally. It was my second year in the 16s where I really broke out. I worked so hard that summer. I won 10 straight matches at the Florida Open... I upset Rajeev Ram at the Claycourts, who at the time had a good shot of winning it all... I had a pretty good outing in Kalamazoo that year, and I played well at Intersectionals representing Team Florida.

My second year in the 18s, my parents believed in me and sent me to South America to play the COSAT ITF tour. I went to so many different countries, and not only was the tennis fun but it really gave me an appreciation for everything we have here in the states.

 

HC: What advice would you give young juniors looking to play top level college tennis?

RS: The number one thing I would tell someone is to be realistic - don't pick a program that is too much of a stretch. Go to a school where you can play - and you don't have to sit the bench for three years.

Its really hard to get better if you are not playing. You can always transfer - and unlike football and basketball you don't have to sit out a year. Honestly if I wasn't such a die-hard Gator, I probably would have gone somewhere else.

My first year I didn't play at all, and my second year I redshirted. Frankly, if one of our All-Americans hadn't gotten injured, I might never have played. So I got really lucky to get the opportunity - but I really took advantage of it and kept on moving forward.

Also keep in mind that coaches these days are doing so much more research - checking out players' backgrounds. Facebook is a great thing, but remember coaches are all over Facebook and do not want to invest money and time in kids who they feel might be a problem based on pictures and other information they can find on Facebook.

Also tennis is an unbelievable networking sport and I have met some of my lifelong friends through tennis. Some of them are people who as players I hated - but off the court we were friends. It is one of the few sports where you have the chance to compete with people from so many different types of backgrounds and countries. That definitely helped me be able to relate with people for my new life here after college.

 

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About Harry Cicma

When it comes to college tennis, Harry Cicma is your man. Cicma covers tennis and other athletic stories for NBC Sports, writing articles and producing video segments.

He is co-founder and host of World Tennis a weekly tennis show on NESN, and host of of Tennis Live Radio's College Corner.

Cicma competed as a junior in USTA/New England and went on to play college tennis at Rutgers University. As a professional, Cicma competed at the ATP Newport tournament and the San Jose Siebel Open. He reached a career-high #75 in the ATP doubles team rankings and #1262 in the ATP Entry System.

In media, Cicma has run the gamut. He has worked for NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX Sports Net, the Tennis Channel, and World Team Tennis. Cicma has announced NCAA sports as well as the US Open Tennis Championships on both TV and radio.

 
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