Many of our Aussie juniors go down the collegiate pathway to develop their game with the aspiration of becoming the best tennis player they can be while earning their degree.
The collegiate setting has helped many of our players transition to the tour from the likes of John Peers, Peter Luczak and recently Rinky Hijikata, Astra Sharma and Adam Walton.
For the first time, The First Serve will be following our collegiate athletes through the 2023 tennis season which is set to start this month and will keep you up to date with weekly results through our social media platforms.
There are many Australian athletes competing across five different divisions; our small number of featured student-athletes are those who are representing colleges that belong to NCAA Division 1 conferences and plan to transition to the professional tour upon graduation.
We will see a number of our Aussies in action this month as the US collegiate tennis season kicks off. Sydney’s Kody Pearson (#58) will lead the University of Tulsa (#44) in singles play when they face Texas Christian University (#3) on Jan 22nd.
We recently caught up with Kody where he gave us an insight into the season ahead. “We’re not a really big school, but for a small school, we pack a big punch. We’re looking forward to stepping up and playing some of these big schools and testing ourselves and seeing what we can bring”.
Pearson is entering his senior year where he will be competing alongside his fellow countrymen Callum Gale and Connor Di Marco from Adelaide and Melbourne respectively.
The trio have trained and competed alongside each other over the past couple of years. “If you’re away for a long period of time, those players that were from your own country living the same experience that you’re living, you can kind of form a home away from home”.
Kody recently played in the World University Games in France alongside recent Tennessee graduate Adam Walton and Oregon senior Josh Charlton back in December.
Charlton (#114) reins from Traralgon, Victoria where he leads the University of Oregon (#52) in singles play and hopes to improve his team's 14-13 record from the previous season as they will battle Utah State at home on Jan 20. “It’s a very important match for the season; they’re a very respectful program, everyone’s been working hard”.
The Duck’s finished 52nd nationally at the end of last season, but Charlton is optimistic for his final season playing as a Duck. “This season the boys are pretty hungry to do well and ultimately make the (NCCA) tournament and push for a sweet 16.
We’ve come close a couple times but just fallen short. That’s our goal, that’s where we want to be and anything less than that we’ll be pretty disappointed”.
The Duck’s are in the Pac-12 Conference, arguably one of the toughest conferences in the country where they play against the likes of USC, Stanford and UCLA.
On the women’s side, The University of Tennessee (#6) features Geelong’s Olivia Symons who will play alongside fellow Aussie Catherine Aulia. Symons and Aulia add to the rich history of Australians that have played for Tennessee such as John Patrick Smith as well as recent graduate, Tenika McGiffin.
We caught up with Aulia while she was spending time with family over the Christmas break before she jets off to Tennessee. “I think it’s a really cool thing that there’s such a big culture around Aussies there. I think it’s such a good place and everyone feels at home straight away so it’s really obvious why lots of Aussies go there”.
Aulia was also part of the Australian team at the World University Games where she played alongside recent Tennessee graduate Tenika McGiffin and Geelong’s Amy Stevens who plays at Vanderbilt. Aulia begins her collegiate journey with the Volunteers against Furman and Wake Forest (#9) on Jan 17 and 27 respectively. “We’ve had a big fall season, played a lot of matches and then this pre-season is going to be tough so I think all the girls are really excited and hopefully we can do what we train for”.
As well as tracking our Aussies each month, The First Serve's Play USA Podcast will return in 2023, starting up again in February. If you missed our 2022 chats with our aussie contingent you can listen back here.