At the beginning of December, the city of Grenoble (France) hosted the 13th Master'U BNP Paribas championships; the official team world championships amongst student tennis players. After four days of fierce competition, it was the United States that won its 8th title and left the stage with a gold medal in their bags. They defeated reigning champions Great Britain with 4-1 in the finals.
The team was coached by the legendary Greg Patton and Cal Berkeley's women's head coach Amanda Augustus. The following six players competed for the US.
Oliver Crawford (Florida Gators)
Brandon Holt (USC Trojans)
Emil Reinberg (Georgia Bulldogs)
Maria Mateas (Duke Blue Devils)
Ashley Lahey (Pepperdine Waves)
Jada Hart (UCLA Bruins)
In the following interview, Brandon Holt and Jada Hart talk about their experience and what it is like to win a gold medal for your country. Enjoy!
Describe your thoughts when your head coach called you and asked you to represent your country at the MasterU championships.
I was invited by the assistant coach Amanda Augustus. When she called me, I was very surprised that I was chosen but excited for this opportunity. I was not having the best fall quarter in terms of tennis results but she had a lot faith in me to pull it together during this tournament. My teammate Ena had been on the trip the last two years and she has enjoyed herself with the team and the coaches.
I felt honored and humbled to be able to represent my country. There is no better sense of pride than playing for Red, White and Blue as patriotism runs deep in our family.
What were your expectations going into the event?
I was not expecting a lot out of myself because I knew I would mainly play doubles which I had more confidence in this fall. We had some great singles players but if I had to play singles I would have been ready to jump in. I was familiar with the format since I've had friends and teammates play this tournament. Brandon Holt (who played last year as well) explained to us the scoring as well as the amount of teams competing. It felt a little bit similar to an American college dual match because it is the first team to four but without the mixed doubles.
I expected to see and play some great tennis, as well as build bonds with my teammates that will last a lifetime. Both of which proved correct. The energy from the opposing teams, as well as ours made for fantastically exhilarating match atmospheres. The passion and joy paired with great sportsmanship created an unforgettable battle of wills.
What was your most memorable moment during the event and why? Can you describe your feelings?
My most memorable moment was when Maria and I clinched the Masters U title for team USA in doubles. In the first rounds, none of my doubles counted towards the team result because the team had already clinched after winning four singles points. I was hoping to have played a match that counted before the head to head match up was clinched but at the same time I wanted the team to sweep the singles for the third day in a row. After Maria lost, I knew that this match would count so I wanted to make the most of my chance contributing for the team. After losing the first 6-0, I was not impressed at all with mine and Maria's performance because we knew we were much better players than a 6-0 set. At that point I was just hoping to make the match a little bit more competitive. The second set was intense leading to a tiebreaker where we saved four match points and ended up winning the second set 9-7 in the tiebreaker. From there Maria and I had the momentum going into the third set tiebreaker and we took charge from the beginning. We had some trouble closing out match points but finally at 9-8 when Maria hit a backhand volley winner, I was so happy. Not only was I able to finally contribute a point to the team but I was able to clinch the USA's 8th Masters title which is an unbelievable accomplishment. I've had a lot a of great memories in France but this one is for sure the most memorable for me.
My most memorable moment came in the clinching match where Jada and Maria won their doubles match. Oliver and I were preparing to play our match as they seemed to be getting beaten pretty handily. Through a turn of events, they clawed their way back to a victory. As I had played, and lost to Great Britain last year, the sweet taste of revenge surged through my body after longing for that for so long.
What kind of impact do you anticipate the event to have on your upcoming college season?
This experience will definitely have a positive impact on me going into the next season. Our coaching staff emphasized positive energy and team chemistry and that is going to be a key factor for myself and my team as well. So, I hope that as a veteran and an upperclassman this year, I can set a good example that always has positive vibes on and off the court. Everyone on my team this year was very selfless. As a result, we always thought what would be the best for the team and I believe that really helped us win this year.
I think like any other pressure situations, win or lose, you leave more mature and comfortable in your own skin, as well as walking away with a new found understanding of how your body reacts to pressure. Live and learn from those moments as there will be plenty of them during the season.
You won a gold medal with your team. What does this mean to you?
It is an honor to represent my country to begin with. But its another level to bring home a gold medal not only back to the US but also to UCLA as well. I felt I represented my country and my school very well in the time I was in France and I hope to continue to make them proud especially as this upcoming season comes around. I was already proud of this team of the way we represented ourselves throughout this week but to the win the gold medal is the cherry on top of the cake.
It means so much, not just for me, but for my team. To see the joy on everyone’s faces is the most important part. These moments we will all cherish for the rest of our lives.
What is the number #1 learning lesson you take away from the event?
The number #1 lesson that I've learned during my time in France is to never take life too seriously. Smiling every once in a while on the court can never hurt. I've always had that reputation of not smiling too much on the court because I'm so caught up in the moment and want to do well. A smile can impact many people around and I've definitely smiled more on the court in this event than I have in a long time. It's finding that common ground of not taking things too seriously and just enjoying the people and the opportunities around me. During this trip, I've noticed that the more I smiled, the more relaxed I was on the court. And I'm pretty sure my teammates felt the same way. I was surrounded by positive teammates and coaches every day which made it quite easy to have a good time on and off the court.
Master U was not won by an individual. It took an incredible team effort. The fact that our team became so close so fast allowed us to play for more than ourselves which proved to be a formidable force
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Also, thank you to the Master U staff for allowing us to use their photos.