When looking at college tennis, a lot of the schools at the top of the rankings are in the mix almost every year. The same schools have pretty much dominated men’s tennis at the college level, relying on resources and excellent weather for the most part.
At the Division I level, where just about all the most talented teams play, three schools, in particular, have 16 or more team championships.
What are the 15 best men’s college tennis teams in the country? This is a closer look at what schools deserve the most amount of recognition. Teams were considered based on not only recent success, but historical success as well.
The number that jumps out to many people is the fact they have 21 National Championships to their name. When looking at things a little closer, they have had sustained success throughout history that makes their run even more remarkable. They won their first National Championship in 1946, and they have won five titles since 2009. Almost every single year, USC is in the hunt for the National Championship.
Not only do they have depth, but they have individual talent as well. They have not had an individual champion since Steve Johnson won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, but they have had quite a few players become professionals over their history. It’s hard to find a better program historically than USC.
USC might have the most titles, but it was neck-and-neck until the last two decades with Stanford. From 1973 to 2000, Stanford won roughly half of their National Championships during that time. They had several outstanding individuals come through the program, including the likes of the Bryan Brothers and John McEnroe.
They haven’t been able to re-create the magic in the last two decades, but they are always bringing in new talent to be in the mix. It is hard to compete every single year in the same conference as UCLA and USC, but they do have top-notch academics that put them just slightly ahead of the athletes looking for certain success in the classroom.
With guys like Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors as former standouts on the team, it should come as no surprise that the UCLA program considers themselves one of the very best. They have 16 titles to their name, and they were particularly dominant from the 1950s to the early 1980s. They only have one national championship since 1984, but they are usually right there in the hunt for team and individual success.
Most recently, McKenzie McDonald and Marcos Giron have shown that the Bruins have all the individual talent they need. If they can get a bit more depth, they will find a way to add to their championship count.
The SEC title runs through Athens, Georgia, as the Bulldogs are the most dominant team in the Southeast historically. They have six national championships to their name, including their most recent titles in 2007 and 2008. Their most famous alum is John Isner, but the program has stayed strong well past his years there as well.
The Dan McGill Tennis Complex is one of the nicest in the country, and that is a huge recruiting tool for the program. It also helps that they have a coaching staff dedicated to growing the game for men and women at the college level. For a lot of athletes, Georgia is the premier program on the East Coast.
Ask people who the most dominant program has been in the last decade, and many will answer with Virginia. They went from having no National Championships and just some mild success up until 2010, and then routinely found themselves competing for a title.
From 2011 until 2017, Virginia made the team championship final six out of the seven years. They captured four titles during that span, including three in a row from 2015 until 2017. With all that said, many thank Somdev Devvarman as the player who allowed Virginia to take it to another level. He was a two-time singles champion in 2007 and 2008, helping the program recruit the players needed for team success a few years later.
6. Wake Forest
Enrollment-wise, Wake Forest is one of the small schools in Division I. They have always been solid at tennis, but their program has stepped up to another level in the last few years. They took full advantage of hosting the National Championships in 2018, winning the team title, and ultimately having the singles champion in Petros Chrysochos.
Often overshadowed by the other major Division 1 schools in North Carolina, Wake Forest jumped to the top by winning the first title in the state. They almost repeated as champions, falling in the final in 2019 to Texas. Do not be surprised if they add to their title total in the next few years with a strong recruiting class.
Texas has turned into a very consistent program in the last few years, and they are the reigning team champions at the college level. They were able to beat Wake Forest in 2019, and they seem to be building quite a bit of depth that will show it was anything but a fluke.
Texas has all the facilities a tennis team could ask for, and they are recruiting both local and international talent. It is too early to put them ahead of Oklahoma as the class of the Big 12, but they might be on their way at this point.
Tucked away in beautiful Malibu, California, Pepperdine has the ideal location for a small school wanting to have a dominant tennis program. They have had success historically, spitting out future professional players as well as outstanding college athletes as well. They finally won a national title in 2006, becoming the first score from a non-power conference to win since 1972.
Pepperdine might not have the budget or the overall athletic facilities of other California schools, but they are always right there in the mix. As long as they continue to pour money into the tennis program, they should be contenders.
The Bears tennis program has been extremely solid over the years, but they were most dominant in the middle of the 2000s when they have the likes of Benjamin Becker and Benedikt Dorsch on campus. They were able to win the National Championship in 2004 and then made it back to the final in 2005 before losing to UCLA. Those two players both have a singles National Championship to their name and turned the program into the team to be in Texas during that time. The Texas Longhorns might have that title currently, but Baylor is a strong team in the Big 12.
Whether a person is looking at team or individual success, Illinois is the best Big Ten school in the conference’s history. They have had pros like Amir Delic, Rajeev Ram, and Kevin Anderson go on to be top pros, and they have the most recent national title in Big Ten history in 2003. They have not had as much success in the last decade or so, but the program is still powerful.
Part of the reason is they have one of the best tennis facilities not only in the Midwest but the country. The Atkins Tennis Center helps bring in recruits to the middle of the United States pretty easily, which is a lot more challenging than some people realize. Champaign is not exactly in the middle of a tennis hotbed area, and the weather can be a bit chilly.
Being a dominant tennis program in the north is easier said than done. The Michigan Wolverines are the team dealing with the coldest weather to make this list, but they have been pretty consistent throughout the years on a national scale.
Their only title came way back in 1957, but they have made some decent runs to stay in contention since then. They might not be on the same level as Illinois or Ohio State at this point in the Big Ten, but they are always in the mix. Combine that with one of the best public school reputations in the country, and they can bring in some great recruits.
12. Ohio State
Ohio State is still looking for that elusive National Championship, but they might be the best program not to take the trophy home. They have finished as runner-ups twice in their history, and they have one national singles champion, and one doubles national championship team in their program’s history.
Competing with the likes of Illinois and Michigan, it is usually a three-team race to see who takes home the Big Ten title. Even though they might not get the same respect as some of the southern schools, they more than hold their own during indoor and outdoor seasons.
Many thought that the Oklahoma Sooners would finally win a National Championship in 2014 through 2016. Instead, they finished as runner-up all three years, losing to USC the first time, and Virginia the next two.
They have not been able to get back quite to that level just yet, but they are showing just how consistent they are. As far as the Big 12 is concerned, it is coming down to Texas and Oklahoma almost every single year at this point.
Considered a sleeping giant for quite a while, Florida is still looking for a National Championship. They have had some talented individuals, including individual champions Mark Merklein and Jeff Morrison. They may not be the premier team in the SEC with Georgia holding that crown, but they are starting to develop a pretty nice rivalry that exists in so many other sports as well.
15. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have not found a way to win a National Championship yet, but they did finish second in 2017. They also put out some very talented individuals all the time that are pushing for titles. They have all the makings for a national title contender for the next few years, so it will be interesting to see if they ever do breakthrough. Wake Forest and even Duke at times might get more recognition, but North Carolina is the big public school that can bring talent in with the best of them.