Azusa Pacific senior Oliver Frank won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division II national singles title on Oct. 17. This is the second straight year that an APU player has claimed that title after Jan Meyer claimed it last year.
Frank beat Ahmed Triki from Barry University 6-4, 6-2 in the D-II final. To reach the final, Frank beat Armstrong State’s Alberto Cacerees Casas 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinal and Sherif Abohabaga from Southwest Baptist University 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinal.
“Everyone on the top level was giving it all on the courts. It was very nice to get the chance to play all of them,” Frank said.
After winning the D-II final, Frank earned a spot in the ITA Oracle Cup, also known as the “Super Bowl” of college tennis. This is a series of competitions between the champions from D-II, D-III, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and junior college (JUCO) tennis teams.
Frank took the men’s singles final over Tyler (Texas) Junior College’s Jorge Martinez 7-5, 6-1. This match followed Frank’s three set defeat 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 of last year’s champion Kevin Konfederak of Georgia Gwinnett College, who also defeated APU’s Meyer last year.
“That was a crazy match — long sets, long rallies. Konfederak used to be ranked in the 480’s in ATP world rankings,” Frank said. “I think I had an out-of-body experience. I played unbelievably well. I didn’t struggle at all. I was confident through the whole match, which was very nice.”
More than 8,000 players played in 60 regional tournaments across the country to gain entry into the ITA Oracle Cup. Each division sent eight single players to the tournament.
“It’s such a big deal to win that tournament. It’s so difficult. You’re talking over a thousand different players,” head coach Mark Bohren said. “In 22 years I doubt we’ll ever have a guy be able to do that accomplishment. I’m super excited and impressed that he was able to do it.”
With his win in the ITA Oracle Cup, Frank earned a spot to play in the 2016 ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York from Nov. 3-6. This is where the US Open is held every year. He will be representing APU and all D-II schools as he faces off against 31 of the best D-I tennis players in the country.
“Getting to New York is a huge deal, but also just playing at the facilities at Billie Jean King is gonna be exciting,” Frank said. “I really look forward to the tournament itself and the whole experience.”
Frank has not lost a singles match in college so far, given he’s only been playing for APU for two months since he transferred from Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.
“It’ll be interesting to see how he can compete, but just to be in New York with the best D-I players is going to be quite an experience for him as well as our tennis program,” Bohren said.
In addition to Frank being the D-II singles champion, he competed with APU senior captain Pascal Engel in doubles. The pair reached the D-II finals before losing in a three set match to West Florida.
“Just a couple points in the second set didn’t go their way. If they did, they would have been national champions,” Bohren said.
After losing, Engel supported Frank the whole way through the ITA Singles Championships. He encouraged him, as did the rest of the team back in Azusa.
“The great thing about Oliver and Pascal is that they represent our school really well,” assistant men’s and women’s tennis coach Kirby Ronning said. “They really encompass all the things we try to work on with our guys with having a good attitude and having a team first mentality.”
Frank has been playing tennis for 17 years, since he was four, lending to his success despite his short time at APU.
“It’s crazy. I’ve only been here two months and I got to go to regionals, then D-II nationals, and now D-I,” Frank said. “Time goes by so fast. I love practices, I love my team. Everyone on the team is really supportive of each other.”
The tennis team won’t begin their season until the beginning of February, yet they’re still practicing every day, getting ready for the season.
“We’re just trying to reach our goals of getting in better shape and learning to improve our game so when second semester comes, we can make it to the national tournament again,” Bohren said. “That’s our one and only goal. Hopefully at some point, things go our way and we can compete for a national championship.”