Tennis newcomer wants team to achieve first national title

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JT Sundling transferred from a school with two national championship titles to take a swing at singles and help the Horned Frogs secure a national title this semester.

Sundling came to TCU, a team that lacks a national championship title, from the University of Southern California and its three-time national championship tennis team.

Why? He said it was time to move on. And head coach David Roditi was just the guy to help him accomplish that.

Sundling, who played doubles for USC his freshman and sophomore years, said he wanted to get to the top of college tennis and felt Roditi would be able help him improve his game.

“Growing up, one of my big goals was to win a team championship. Obviously, being able to go and do that two years in a row is pretty unbelievable,” Sundling said. “Just thinking about it, it’s an amazing accomplishment. I’m really happy I was able to do that, but I think toward the end I was ready to move on.”

Roditi said Sundling was interested in playing singles, and he was not getting that opportunity at USC.

“He loved being part of a championship team, but he thought he wanted to do more,” Roditi said.

TCU has never won a national championship team title in tennis. David Pate and Karl Richter won a championship in doubles in 1981.

When Sundling called Roditi up, he was beyond flattered, the coach said.

“Obviously, any time you’re getting a call from any player who’s playing No. 1 doubles for the three-time defending champion, you’re surprised,” Roditi said.

Roditi said he thought Sundling had a unique perspective to bring to the team. He could share the small details of success, like handling locker room situations and competition between teammates.

Sundling said winning a national competition takes more than just training before tournaments. 

“It’s just every day. Every day starting now and every day in the spring. It’s not just the month before or once the tournament gets here,” he said.

A year ago, Sundling started looking around at other schools and scrutinizing their tennis teams. 

Sundling narrowed it down to three schools: Boise State University, University of Michigan  and TCU.

“We were flattered that we were only one of three schools he looked at, and he didn’t know anything about TCU,” Roditi said.

He visited TCU during the summer and liked it immediately, despite the 110-degree heat. Roditi had to convince Sundling that the weather would improve, and it would get much colder in Michigan and Idaho at the start of the semester.

“I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been here before,” Sundling, who is from Thousand Oaks, Calif., said.

When Sundling made the decision to transfer to TCU, Roditi was happy to have the Californian, he said.

“We’ve always had a great relationship, so it was very exciting for me when he called me and told me he decided he wanted to be a Horned Frog,” Roditi said. “It was a good day for us.”

Roditi and Sundling met when Sundling was still in high school. Roditi, who still holds records for combined career victories from the days when he played tennis for TCU, was a coach at the United States Tennis Association’s National Training Center in Carson, Calif.

“He looks more like a swimmer almost. He’s lanky, yet he’s a good athlete. He’s got great hands and a great feel for the ball and a great feel for the game,” Roditi said. “That’s what I’ve always liked about him.”

Sundling will make his Horned Frog debut this weekend in Tulsa, Okla. at the ITA All-American Championships.

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