As the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s longest-running award, the Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award honors the life and legacy of the person many would call the greatest collegiate tennis player of all time.
Playing collegiately at the University of Southern California, Osuna set the world on fire with his charisma and high-level of play, becoming the only player to this day to be ranked No. 1 in the world while on a college tennis roster.
A part of the “golden age” of USC men’s tennis, Osuna won two NCAA National Championships during his time with the Trojans as well as one NCAA singles title and three NCAA doubles titles.
Not just an inspiration to those around him at USC, Osuna was also a national icon back home in Mexico where he was revered for taking Mexico to their first-ever, and only, Davis Cup Final as well as for being a four-time Grand Slam Champion across both singles and doubles.
Osuna tragically died in a plane accident at the age of 30 in his home country of Mexico just ten days after leading Mexico to their first-ever Davis Cup victory over 17-time champions Australia.
Rafael Osuna’s impact as a tennis player is as important as the impact he left behind as a human being. An example of this is reflected on former World’s No.1 Manuel Santana, as he puts it best: “In Osuna’s case, the Man surpasses the Champion”.
The 1969 US Open Championships Committee declared August 28, during the 1969 US Open Championships the “Rafael Osuna Day” “to honor the memory of great sportsmen and player”. All pictures of other players were removed from the grounds and only Osuna’s pictures were displayed. It’s the first time the tournament honored a former champion in this manner.
This ITA award, which honors one Division I men’s student-athlete each year, honors the player who demonstrates many of the key tenets of Osuna’s game including, but not limited to, sportsmanship, character, academic achievements, and outstanding tennis accomplishments.
Osuna will continue to be remembered as one of the best collegiate tennis players in the history of the sport and by presenting this award to a current student-athlete each year we ensure his legacy and impact continues to be recognized for years to come.
- This player should have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and unwavering dedication to his team; with exceptional hard work, courage, sportsmanship, and a positive, cooperative attitude that makes people around him play better.
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