Following the departure of Matt Hill, USF’s previous men’s tennis head coach, to Arizona State, the men’s tennis program decided that the best fit for the new head coach was already there. After serving as assistant coach for one season, Ashley Fisher was promoted to the head coach position for the 2017 season.
During his one year with the program, Fisher helped lead the team to their third-straight American Athletic Conference title, a No. 13 national ranking and their third trip to the NCAA tournament.
Before joining the USF tennis program, the Australian native had a successful 13-year professional tennis career. He was ranked in the top 20 in the world while winning four ATP World Tour doubles titles.
“We are a very lucky team to have an ex-professional tennis player to be as a head coach,” said senior player Vadym Kalyuzhnyy. “It’s just a more professional work environment.”
Although the ultimate goal is to win matches, Fisher is focused on the process this season.
“We just want to create a great program. We already sort of have that, there has been a lot of success here, but we want to kind of keep pushing forward and get the program into the top ten and start competing for national championships,” Fisher said.
Another mission of his is to connect and mentor each of the players.
“It’s nice to win tennis matches, but we have a greater responsibility in that we have to mentor these student-athletes and impact their lives and we have a big opportunity to do that,” he said. “I want to be remembered as a great tennis coach, but probably just as importantly I want to connect with these guys and kind of be there for the rest of their lives.”
Every week, dozens of students take a break from classes and come together to enjoy a sport they love.
The USF Tennis Club has been a part of the sports club program on campus for over 10 years and has reached thousands of students over their time on campus. Whether you have played your whole life, or just started the sport, the tennis club has both a fun and competitive atmosphere to reach all levels of players.
“I’ve played tennis my entire life and I really love the sport. But when high school ended I didn’t think I would be able to play anymore,” said Nicole Viera, a member of the club for 2 years. “But joining the tennis club gave me the opportunity to continue playing in a very competitive atmosphere.”
The club is a completely student-run organization on campus. Every year members vote for officers for the club and training is done by the members themselves, rather than by a coach.
“We strive to make a competitive and social atmosphere for people that enjoy tennis,” said Samad Loa, the Vice President of the club. “Just come out and have some fun, play some games and play some matches.”
The tennis club at USF is one of the school’s most competitive clubs on a national level. The club finished second in the state of Florida last year, and also finished 20th at the national tournament.
“We try to just come out and make some friends that will last a lifetime,” said Loa. “Just enjoy tennis, that’s kind of what our club is all about.”
While football and basketball may be the most prominent sports at most college campuses, tennis threatens to make a splash at the University of South Florida. The men’s tennis team has won back-to-back American Athletic Conference championships, and they’re led by a player who can walk around USF campus almost unnoticed.
Roberto Cid, a tall, lanky senior who moved to Florida from the Dominican Republic when he was 13, received the honor of All-American following his sophomore campaign two years ago.
“Since I came here, I had big goals with the coach (Matt Hill),” said Cid. “Hopefully I can continue to make history.”
What gives Cid his edge over his rivals? His notorious competitive streak would be a good place to start. A favorite story among the tennis team is that Cid was playing the third ranked player in the country at a tournament this past season. The player did something that Cid was not happy with, and it showed in the results. Cid won, and his opponent walked off the court saying “I just can’t beat him.”
Cid is the fifth ranked player in the country for men’s singles and 982nd in the entire world. He is trying to focus on the present, which includes winning a national championship as a Bull.
“This year we have a really good team. We can definitely do something special at the end of the year,” Cid said.