The top tennis players in the world have hit the courts in Tokyo the past six days in pursuit of one thing — an Olympic medal. Now, with the men’s doubles medal matches set, three former collegiate tennis players are poised to earn one of their own.
After dropping their respective semifinal matches, Team USA’s Tennys Sandgren (Tennessee) and Austin Krajicek (Texas A&M) will face off against Team New Zealand’s Michael Venus (Texas & LSU) and Marcus Daniell on Friday at 3 pm JST / 2 am EST.
A win for either team would mark the seventh time a team featuring a former collegiate athlete earns an Olympic medal. Since tennis was reinstated in the Olympic Games in 1988, 25% of the men’s doubles medals have been awarded to teams with at least one former collegiate athlete.
The path to the Bronze Medal match ran through college tennis for Sandgren, Krajicek, and Venus. Each of them excelled in college tennis and particularly in doubles in the case of Krajicek.
During Krajicek’s four years at Texas A&M, he made history by winning the 2011 NCAA Doubles Championship. The title was the first national championship in program history. He left College Station as the program leader in doubles wins (he holds the record to date), a four-time ITA Doubles All-American, and two-time Big 12 Player of the Year. Earlier this year, the Aggies inducted Krajicek into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame.
The other half of Team USA, Sandgren, had a successful two years at the University of Tennessee. His short stint began with him entering Rocky Top as the No. 1 recruit in the country. During his 2011 campaign, Sandgren earned ITA All-American honors, was the NCAA singles semifinalist, was an ITA Scholar-Athlete, and earned many more accolades. He ended his career in Knoxville by turning pro, but not before amassing a record of 60-12 in singles and 38-11 in doubles.
Michael Venus began his career at the University of Texas. After spending one season with the Longhorns, he made the decision to transfer to LSU. Venus etched his name into the LSU men’s tennis record books. He was the first Tiger in program history to receive ITA All-American status in 2008. Venus is only one of two Tigers to earn a Top-10 finish in both singles and doubles. In his final season with LSU, Venus earned the SEC’s top honor as he garnered the conference’s Player of the Year award – the first to do so at the time since 1998.
Heading into the Bronze Medal match, Venus and Daniell come in with slightly more experience than Sandgren and Krajicek. The New Zealand team competed in the Rio 2016 Games together but lost in the Round of 32. The medal match will mark the third time in 2021 that Krajicek and Venus have faced each other in doubles — the previous two meetings Venus took the match with partner Puetz.
Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s match, Sandgren, Krajicek, and Venus will make history. The matchup is the first time in Olympic history that both teams in a medal match have a former collegiate player.
See How All the Former Collegiate Players Faired in the Tokyo 2020 Games
Links to official Tokyo 2020 website
- Marcos Giron, UCLA
- Austin Krajicek, Texas A&M
- Rajeev Ram, Illinois
- Tennys Sandgren, Tennessee
- John Peers, MTSU & Baylor
- Sander Gille, ETSU
- Joran Vliegen, ECU
- Robert Farah, USC
- Dominik Koepfer, Tulane
- Tim Puetz, Auburn
- Joe Salisbury, Memphis
- Neal Skupski, LSU
- Ben McLachlan, California
- Jean-Julien Rojer, UCLA
- Michael Venus, Texas & LSU