(November 10, 2012) High school student-athletes from across the USTA’s Eastern section will get a chance to learn about the opportunities to play collegiate tennis on November 11 at USTA Eastern’s 26th Annual College Showcase Day at the Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco, NY. Professional doubles player Eric Butorac, who also doubles as an assistant coach of the Harvard University men’s team will address the potential collegians on the ins and outs of the recruiting process.
Butorac, winner of 13 pro doubles titles in his career and a member of the ATP Players Council, played college tennis at Ball State University and Gustavus Adolphus College.
Butorac said that the main message he wants to get across to the students at the college showcase is: “when you are looking at a school, make sure that you’ve looked thoroughly at the both the coach and the players on the team. In college you spend a lot of time with your teammates. When I got married last year I had 14 teammates fly from Minnesota to Rhode Island for my wedding.
“Make sure it’s a group of individuals you want to spend a lifetime with because that’s really going to enhance your college experience,“ Butorac told Tennis Panorama News.
“(My) college coach changed my tennis game and enhanced it more than I ever could. Coach is the closest person to me in this world after my wife and parents,“ he added.
Butorac admits he’d like to work full-time as a college coach when his pro career.
“I’m a volunteer,” said Butorac. “This is my third season as a volunteer assistant coach.
“One of the biggest challenges is the experience in coaching while I’m on tour. Hopefully when I stop playing in the next couple of years, I’ll be able to move into it smoothly and quickly into a coaching role.”
For now, Butorac is gaining valuable experience for the future. “I get to be a full time coach when I’m home, and sit in on budget meetings, recruiting, admissions, as well as obviously practice,“ he said.
“I’m a big proponent of at least doing a year of college,” Butorac said of those toying with the idea whether to go to college before turning pro. “I think there is a small group of individuals we could look at over the past 10 years who should have skipped college – I mean – Sam Querrey, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish. I think now more than ever, we are at the highest average age on the pro tour in the top 100– we have 10 guys over the age of 33 years old.
“I think there is no rush to make it on the tour when you are 18, 20 years old, especially as a man. I think a couple of years in college getting bigger, stronger faster, learning to play matches, it would be a really benefit for the tour. If things don’t go well then you have an education to fall back on.”
As a member of the ATP Players Council he was encouraged about increase in prize money given to players at the Australian Open, two million to the women and to the men.
“Doubles is getting a 17 percent raise, which is about 15 percent of the total number,” said Butorac.
“I was with (Roger) Federer in Shanghai and we had to divide up all the money. We just completed the breakdown last week and it should be approved by Australia.
“The great thing about Australia is that they gave us the two million dollar increase and they gave us a strong hand in distributing it, so we were able to give the money to the early round singles players and a $350,000 increase in the doubles.
“First round will get over a 30 percent increase, second round right around 30, and every round after that a 12 percent increase.”
So what is his take on the state of pro doubles these days?
“As far as the quality of tennis play, I think we are at the highest quality we’ve ever been at,“ Butorac said. “We’ve made some rule changes – no ad scoring, and a tiebreaker for the third. This has allowed the singles player, especially the mid-ranked singles guys who play doubles quite regularly. I think more than ever you are seeing players like Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal sign up for doubles events through the year. It’s pushed the top players like the Bryan Bothers and other top doubles teams to continue to improve.
“I’ve heard Bob and Mike (Bryan) speak often about how it used to be about playing doubles teams if they played singles players it was kind of a pushover. And now the game is tough because all of the doubles teams are as strong as they’ve ever been and the singles guys have really figured out how to play the game of doubles as well.
“You see guys like Rafael Nadal winning Indian Wells – from that standpoint (in doubles) we are in a really good place.
“I think from a marketing and publicity standpoint, for whatever reason doubles has been a tough sell. We don’t get on TV that much – we’ve on the Tennis Channel a handful of times a year. Davis Cup, Grand Slam finals – five matches a year on major networks.
“I think it’s an exciting game. I think more Americans play more doubles than singles so they enjoy it a lot. But in Europe, it’s continued to be a tough sell.”
(Editor’s note – this interview was conducted just prior to Hurricane Sandy hitting the New York City area.)