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2016 Master'U Blog: Keep your eyes on us

December 1, 2016 03:52 PM

Six of the top college players in the country – Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State, Hayley Carter of North Carolina, Ena Shibahara of UCLA, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, Tom Fawcett of Stanford and Strong Kirchheimer of Northwestern – have been selected to represent the U.S. at the the 2016 Master’U BNP Paribas, the world's most prestigious international college team competition, which is taking place Dec. 1-4 in Marcq-en-Baroeul, France. The event features college teams from eight countries: Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Russia and the U.S.

Boise State men's coach Greg Patton is leading the U.S. team for the eighth time in the last nine years and is being joined at the helm by Ohio State women’s coach Melissa Schaub, as Team USA goes for its sixth straight title and seventh championship in the last eight years. Coach Patton is writing a blog for USTA.com during the team's stay in France. Stay tuned for daily updates.

By Coach Greg Patton, special to USTA.com

Our 2016 U.S. collegiate team competing at the Master'U BNP Paribas tournament is getting zoned in after flying over the pond to Paris and then taking a train to Lille, France, yesterday.

I can't tell you enough how thrilled I am to be coaching the cream of the crop of American collegiate talent in a team format for the bragging rights of having the greatest collegiate talent in the world. The Americans have won the Master'U BNP Paribas six times in the past seven years – a tremendous effort that is packed full of chills and thrills.
I must admit that I am still feeling the effects of jet lag and the pre-match heebie jeebies with our team, which consists of three men and three women and Coach Melissa Schaub from Ohio State. Our men on the team are Chris Eubanks (Georgia Tech), Tom Fawcett (Stanford) and Strong Kirchheimer (Northwestern), and the women are Francesca Di Lorenzo (Ohio State), Ena Shibahara (UCLA) and Hayley Carter (North Carolina).

They are amazing young people, and after spending two days with them, I am convinced how special they are. The age-old maxim that good people create great teams which create great player's rings is so true here. They are a classy, fun bunch, who kept the courts sizzling in our practices.

The players were enthusiastic when they jumped on the courts yesterday after a red-eye flight to Paris. We were only going to hit for an hour to get a feel for the courts at the Marcq-en-Barceul Club. The one-hour hit turned into a two-hour training session in which our sleep-deprived players amped up their racquets to make the courts beat to the percussion of six racquets smacking balls.
Although the eyes were reddened from sleep deprivation today, they still took the courts with an intense abandonment and true love of the game. After the two-and-a-half-hour training, we treated our team to a visit to the beautiful French village of Lille and also a visit to get chocolate crepes and chocolate candies. Vive la France!

When not on the courts, we have spent quality time together, team building and bonding. There's nothing better to motivate a team than to get the players to truly know each other. The best way for them to improve is to surround themselves and make friends with others who have gone through the same journey of attaining their dreams of excellence on the tennis courts.

This is a special trip for me, for it is my eighth trip to France with our top American players, which has included the likes of Steve Johnson, Noah Rubin, Jarmere Jenkins, Irina Falconi and numerous other talented American players. It is also special for me that I get to reunite with my coaching friends from around the world, as well as the excellent staff from the French Tennis Federation.

The feeling of the tournament is one of a Davis Cup/Grand Slam event. There is no better way to get our promising players ready for the rigors and radiance of the professional circuit than an international team tournament like this.

A special added feature of our trip already was to be serenaded by the piano playing of Chris Eubanks and the joking around of all six players. As USTA National Coach Steve Armitraj so aptly put it, "So funny."

Keep your eyes on us. Tomorrow evening we have the draw ceremony. By virtue of our 2015 championship, we are the No. 1 seed. The No. 2-seeded team is the host country, France, followed by the always tenacious No. 3 seed, Russia, and No. 4 Belgium. The other four countries competing are Great Britain, Germany (whom we miraculously defeated last year after saving three team match points), China and Ireland.

It is a jammed-packed, thrilling, three-day, intensive affair. We are tightening our seat belts right now as I type to get ready for another magic carpet ride in the chilly, hard indoor courts in Lille.