After a whirlwind of success last season, junior Nathan Rakitt, from Marietta, Georgia, is looking to have another record-making year. Rakitt is the No. 1 seeded player on Tech’s team and is ranked No. 49 among NCAA singles players.
Last year, Rakitt won the Bulldog Scramble in Athens. After participating in the ITA Summer Championship in Bloomington, Ind., in 2014, Rakitt received an invitation to the qualifiers at the BB&T Atlanta Open. He held his own at the open, but fell to Michael Shabaz.
Rakitt has become a favorite in men’s tennis at Tech, growing into an All-ACC competitor. Rakitt saw losses in the first three matches of 2015, but he turned it around in the match against Furman, fighting for a win against Adam Steryous in singles.
Rakitt, with his sophomore doubles partner Cole Fiegel, also saw success against Jacob Behal and Stefan Rhodes. This season, Rakitt has played doubles with Fiegel and freshman Christopher Eubanks.
In the match on Jan. 31, Rakitt earned a singles win and a doubles win with Fiegel against Eastern Tennessee State University. He also won his singles match against Peter Bleach from the Citadel.
This year, Coach Thorne has put together a solid lineup. The team proved their strength in their match last Saturday, going 6-1 against ETSU and 7-0 against the Citadel.
The team is ranked 72nd in the nation. Rakitt has high expectations for this season and expects to improve that ranking drastically.
“I think this team, especially since I’ve gotten to school, is by far the strongest we’ve ever had. This year in our lineup, we have four freshmen that came in. Michael [Kay] and Chris [Eubanks] have been doing really well. Elijah [Melendez] and Daniel [Yun] are right outside of me, and they’re ready to play, so everybody has basically moved back in the lineup because of those freshman which is really exciting,” Rakitt said.
Rakitt has been very impressed with the work ethic of his freshman teammates.
“A lot of times, freshman will come in and expect to either not play or play the bottom, but these guys came in, and Chris is playing two and Mike’s been doing really well in the middle of the lineup,” Rakitt said. “I expect him to move up as well, so I see us doing very well. Our goal is to start with the third round of NCAAs and we’re definitely expecting to reach that goal.”
Success in the next few matches will be necessary to reaching the NCAA tournament. Last Friday’s match against UGA was especially lively.
“All you need to say is ‘fight.’ Everybody knows that that’s definitely the biggest match,” Rakitt said. “You have just got to fight. They are always tough, always contenders for the national title, always top five or top ten in the nation. So that’s definitely a big challenge for us, but I definitely feel like we have the right group of guys who believe in themselves as well as believing in each other.”
Rakitt still has one more year left in his collegiate athletic career.
He is majoring in Industrial Engineering but plans on continuing his success on the tennis court after graduating from Tech.
“I never really considered a professional tour. I kind of came here for academics and was planning on going into the business world right after school,” Rakitt said. “But I think last year I had a pretty good year. Definitely not the best that I can do—I feel like there is much more ahead of me—but after last year and hopefully this year, I will continue to improve, and I still have another year after that. I feel like I could go into the professional tour after that. So that’s the goal right now.”
Rakitt might not have considered the professional tour at first, but his performances here at Tech tell a different story.
In his time at Tech, Rakitt has developed his singles game to very high level and improved his doubles game each year.
Not only is he a strong competitor, but also he endures on the court. Rakitt knows how to improve after losses, stay humble after victories and to turn a match around after getting off to a poor start.
With all the makings of a competitor on the professional circuit, Rakitt looks forward to continuing his tennis career beyond Tech.
He may not be the only one from the team to make the professional circuit, as the freshmen on the team this year have proven to have a high potential to be great.
Tennis fans and followers can look forward to Tech’s rising in the national rankings with a dynamic lineup this year and in the future.