2003 national champs: Where are they now?


2003 national champs: Where are they now?

Michael Calkins

Residence: Kirkland, Wash.
Currently: Co-owner of Athletic DNA, a sports apparel line. Also runs a a tennis academy for high-performance junior players.
In his words: “The team environment is clearly the best experience I have ever had in my tennis career. Craig Tiley did such a good job with everyone to make sure we always enjoyed the process of competing, working as a team, and always making sure individually we are improving. In 2003, everyone on the team knew we were the team to beat, but we were never afraid to lose. We thrived in having teams play their best against us, knowing that everyone would step up to the challenge. Craig and Bruce kept everyone on the team loose and healthy. I have vivid memories of practicing the day before our round of 16 match against Washington and everyone was just loose and excited to be on the tennis court. I don’t think anyone ever hit the panic button and reflected on how we were undefeated with the weight on our shoulders. I can honestly say that our national championship run in Athens, Ga., was one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Pramod Dabir
Residence: San Francisco
Currently: Founder of West Agile Labs, a web and mobile development company.

Ryler DeHeart
Residence: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Currently: Men’s assistant tennis coach at the University of Alabama.
In his words: “I remember being down 3-1 and thinking we were in trouble and having come so far, it would be so tough to lose to Vanderbilt in the final. They were playing essentially with nothing to lose and taking it to us. I remember the guys working their way back into the match and it ending with an overrule on Court 6 that went Chris Martin’s way (and assistant coach) Bruce Berque literally jumping into Chris’ arms after he clinched it for us. And then the entire Illini tennis nation that was there storming the court and just soaking in the moment. It was truly unforgettable.”

Amer Delic
Residence: Gainesville, Fla.
Currently: Men’s assistant tennis coach at the University of Florida. At the end of May, he will be moving to Austin, Texas, to become partner in a tennis academy.
In his words: “Going 32-0 and winning a national team title was the greatest accomplishment in my tennis career, hands down. Winning the individual title certainly helped jump-start my professional career. However, winning the team championship and sharing it with the coaches, teammates, families, supporters of the program, the University — that was truly special.”

Alex Hobson
Residence: Evanston
Currently: Completing PhD in American and Middle Eastern history.

Chris Martin
Residence: Dallas
Currently: Investment manager for Headington Oil Co.
In his words: “A funny thing I remember about that championship year was our doubles play down the stretch. We had an uncannily tall team that was known for our big serves and strength in doubles play. We were 28-4 in team doubles points that year, which would usually be a testament to our advantage in doubles, but we chose the four biggest matches of the season to lose the doubles point (national indoors finals, Big Ten tournament finals, NCAA tournament semifinals and finals). That led to some interesting locker room speeches by Craig and Bruce.
Conner Murnighan
Residence: Chicago
Currently: Associate business development executive at Northern Trust Co.

Rajeev Ram
Residence: Carmel, Ind.
Currently: Professional tennis player on the ATP World Tour.
In his words: “What I remember is, after Chris Martin won the last match to clinch it, how many people — from past players to staff and Illinois affiliates — were so happy that they were overcome with emotion at winning. Up until I went to Illinois, and ever since, tennis has been a very individual sport. You win alone and you lose alone. That’s just the nature of the game. But seeing all those people who weren’t even playing getting choked up made me realize how much they invested in the goal we were after. It was a collective effort for the entire time that Craig was the coach, and everyone who played for him had a hand in winning that title. That made me realize the culture I was a part of and just how unique and special that was, especially in an individual sport like tennis.”

Phil Stolt
Residence: New York City
Currently: Executive vice president of Cirrus Fitness, which designs and sells fitness equipment with school-specific colors and logos.
In his words: “I think we pulled it off because of the vision of Tiley and Bruce to put the right team together when my class came in freshman year with Delic, Calkins, Wilson and myself. It was by far the best recruiting class in the country. We all played different roles at different times, and together we knew we had something special if we worked hard and stuck together. Craig Tiley was a mastermind to deal with all our personalities.”

Brian Wilson
Residence: Bellevue, Wash.
Currently: Runs a tennis academy for high-performance junior players and serves as a faculty coach for the USTA.
In his words: “I think a lot of what I remember about our team and the national championship run is pride. We took great pride in our training, in our preparation, our dealing with people, our play and our attitudes. This showed throughout the year as the pressure increased the more we won. I remember feeling so prepared for the national championship match and knowing that all of my teammates felt the same way. Having all the guys prepare and be confident we had out-trained our competition showed.”

Evan Zeder
Residence: New York City
Currently: Co-owner of Athletic DNA, a sports apparel line. His company sponsors several former Illini players on the ATP World Tour.
In his words: “Craig did something in college tennis that hadn’t been done in a long time and hasn’t been repeated since with a lot of foreign players coming over to play college tennis, and that is win with an all American team. This made chemistry a lot easier for all of us. And with all of the alums strongly supporting the program and knowing what it had come from, there was a very real feeling of every player knowing we were playing for something bigger than ourselves.”

Craig Tiley

Residence: Melbourne, Australia
Currently: Australian Open Tournament Director and Director of Tennis Australia.

Bruce Berque
Residence: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Currently: Men’s tennis head coach at University of Michigan



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