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Opinion: Ohio State men’s tennis streak deserves place among historic records

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There’s Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game and Byron Nelson’s 11-straight PGA Tour victories. Then there’s the Ohio State men’s tennis team’s 200 home victories in a row.

While none of those records are likely to be broken, the first two will go down in history with much more fanfare than the third. But it could be argued that the Buckeyes’ streak, which ended Friday with a 4-3 loss to Oklahoma, is the most impressive of the bunch.

In his prime, Chamberlain was the single most dominant player in basketball history. The same could be said for Nelson when it comes to golf, but neither of them would have been likely to post the same numbers against modern competition.

Beyond that, Chamberlain’s ridiculous record required just 48 minutes of pure domination. Still impressive? Of course, but stack that up against Nelson.

Eleven straight victories on the PGA Tour means you’ve sustained quality play for months on end, not for one measly outing. But even still, Nelson came in second seven times during the 1945 season and missed out on the top two five times.

That’s getting nitpicky of course, but nitpicking is necessary when stacking a record up against that of the OSU men’s tennis program, which won every single match in Columbus for nearly 12 years.

That’s right, 12 years.

Not only did the Buckeyes sustain dominance for more than a decade, but they did it with three full rotations of recruiting classes.

By the time the streak ended, the names that started it were ancient history.

The main constant has been coach Ty Tucker, who was on hand from the beginning of the streak right up until the end, and beyond.

To sustain a record for that long, to dominate in a fashion neither Chamberlain or Nelson or any other great athlete could have, is significant. And that could be felt by anyone in attendance at the Varsity Tennis Center on Friday when redshirt-senior Kevin Metka fought through match points and cramps before falling just short against Oklahoma sophomore Florin Bragusi.

From the moment the doubles competition started, right around 8:30 p.m., there was tension throughout the crowd.

There are two sets of stands at OSU’s indoor arena: One main permanent area with bleachers, and then a few folding chairs and another set of bleachers set up on the opposite end of courts 1-4. I sat front and center in my OSU-logoed folding chair right up until Metka’s match — being played on court 6 on the other side of the main stands — was the only one still going.

I spent most of my time trying to keep track of scores and — if I’m being honest — trying to figure out exactly how the scoring worked. The tension in the crowd around me rose and fell with every point scored by either team, as spectators cheered, clapped or craned their necks trying to see the scoreboard behind them.

OSU took two of the three doubles matches, earning the Buckeyes a point, before singles play began.

Redshirt-sophomore Ralf Steinbach was the first Buckeye to finish his singles match, easily dispatching his opponent to put OSU ahead, 2-0.

Then the Buckeyes picked up another win on court one, but their players on courts two, three and five all lost. But Metka and Bragusi were still playing, so the crowd — officially announced as an OSU indoor record of 713 — moved into the stands or stood courtside to watch Metka fight for the streak’s life.

While he had chances to end it in the third set, Metka came up just short, about as close as he possibly could without winning. And with that loss, the streak was snapped. But the crowd exiting the building wasn’t angered. There was barely even disappointment.

Metka and OSU had lost a match, moving their record to 12-4,  and the streak ended at 200, but the crowd on hand simply seemed to have respect for what had been accomplished already.

At the end of the day, Tucker said it best: “Everybody in the world knew that the streak would end at some point.”

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