When former college tennis player-turned Silicon Valley tech guru Mark Hurd first came up with the idea to award two up-and-coming pros who played college tennis with the financial help they would need to succeed on the professional tour, he never could have imaged how quickly the results would pay off.
The first four winners of the Oracle US Tennis Awards have all seen their ATP and WTA World Tour rankings improve greatly, with inaugural women’s winner Danielle Collins jumping into the Top 25 after a semifinal showing at the Australian Open to start the year. The men’s 2017 winner Mackie McDonald saw his ranking improve from No. 257 in 2017 to his current career-high of No. 60.
It’s that kind of upward movement in the rankings that recently named 2019 Oracle US Tennis Award winners JC Aragone and Jamie Loeb hope to achieve as they put the $100,000 grants they were each presented with at the BNP Paribas Open to use for travel costs, personal coaching, and others expenses that quickly pile up on the pro tour.
“Danielle and Mackie have both done really well, and we couldn’t be prouder of them,” Hurd recently told Tennis.com, adding that a player can spend upwards of $250,000 to start their careers before they start winning big prize money.
Shining a bright spotlight on the college game and assisting American tennis has always been the No. 1 goal for the former Oracle President Hurd who was named CEO of the company in 2014.
Collins, won two NCAA Women’s Singles titles for the University of Virginia in 2014 and 2016, immediately put the grant money to use. “Things add up really fast when you’re playing, like, 30 tournaments a year or more,” Collins told Tennis.com. “I think I actually started performing a lot better once I had that kind of financial security.”
Former Georgia Tech All-American Chris Eubanks won the $100,000 grant in 2018 along with former Ohio State star Francesca Di Lorenzo. Eubanks started the year by qualifying for the Australian Open and has seen his ranking go from No. 284 to No. 154 in the last year. Di Lorenzo is up from No. 259 to No. 167.
And now the attention turns to Aragone and Loeb to see if they can make the same strides as the previous winners of the exclusive club.
Aragone and Loeb were recognized as two players who have demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship and an aptitude for success on the pro tour. They were selected by a six-member advisory council comprised of former tennis professionals and executives. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association, the governing body of college tennis, will administer the grants.
“Making the transition from college to the professional ranks is a real challenge,” Hurd said. “We hope these awards will provide young players with support to develop their game and improve their mental and physical fitness. Our goal is to grow the program and we invite input and support from other companies who are committed to US athletics.”
ITA CEO Dr. Timothy Russell serves on the six-person council, along with former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, who commented: “Jamie and JC are exciting players and the advisory council is confident these grants will help them reach their potential. We’re all grateful to Oracle for these awards and everything else it is doing to support American tennis.’’
Loeb, 24, turned professional in 2015 after playing two years at the University of North Carolina, where she won the 2015 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships. She amassed an 84-9 singles record while at UNC. Loeb, a native of New York, has won seven ITF singles events and six doubles events since 2012. As a junior player, Loeb won the singles and doubles 18s championships at the 2012 USTA National Winter Championship. She currently is ranked No. 219 on the WTA tour.
“This means so much to me; I was in absolute shock when I heard,’’ Loeb said. “The success of past recipients proves how big of an impact an award like this can have. It’s great that Oracle recognizes the challenges we face. I’m am beyond excited to get to work!’’
JC Aragone, 23, turned pro in 2017 after playing tennis at the University of Virginia. A California native, Aragone was a member of three teams that won the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships. His collegiate record was 109-22, and he was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team twice in singles and doubles. Aragone has won two ITF singles titles and one doubles title. He is currently ranked No. 243 in the ATP rankings.
“This is such an honor,’’ Aragone said. “Having the right support and coaching makes a huge impact on a tennis player’s career. Oracle’s generosity will allow me to use that help to make it to the next level.’’
This article was written by Steve Pratt.