May 27, 2005
COLLEGE STATION, Texas –
While it isn’t the storybook ending to his career that Florida State University men’s tennis player Mat Cloer was looking for, the last week has been a pretty good read. After becoming the school’s first singles All-American, the senior ended one of the best careers in Seminole history with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 loss to fourth-ranked Catalin Gard of Mississippi on Friday (May 27) at the NCAA Singles Tournament.
The first four games of the opening set was all Gard as he jumped out to 4-0 lead with a pair of breaks. From there the two players held serve with Gard taking the first set 6-2. The match looked like it might get out of hand as the Rebel used another break for a 3-1 lead in the second. However, Cloer fought back to win five of the last six games. A pair of breaks got him back in the match and he held serve to win the frame and force a third set.
In the third stanza, the match was tied at one after a pair of breaks. Gard held for a 2-1 advantage then broke Cloer again for a 3-1 lead. Getting a break of his own, Cloer pulled to within 4-3, but Gard showed his merit by wining the last two games to take the set and the match.
“Catalin is a very good player and he and Jesse Witten are the two best players that Mat has played all year,” FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “He’s a very solid player, in great shape and he didn’t miss a ball. Mat made a great effort to come back and win the second set down 3-1, but Catalin changed his strategy in the third set and started hitting a heavier ball and I thought Mat did a great job, but it wasn’t quite enough.”
The last ten days have solidified Cloer’s position as one of the greatest players in not only school, but also conference history. Saturday (May 21) his third-set victory over Illinois’ No. 23 GD Jones gave Florida STate a 4-2 victory and put the Seminoles in their first Elite Eight. Wednesday night he received the national ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award, the first national award for and FSU men’s tennis player.
Then on Thursday, the two-time ACC Player of the Year became the first player in school history to earn All-America honors in singles with his victory over #9 Sven Swinnen that also made him the last conference player in the singles draw.
“I felt that Mat played his best tennis at the end of the year when we needed him to,” Hultquist noted. “The win over Sven yesterday was one of the best of his career and we’ll always remember the match against Illinois that he won to clinch the spot in the Elite Eight.”
Had Cloer played a full four seasons at Florida State he would have shattered every record in the books. Cloer graduated from high school a semester early so he could play with the Seminoles in the spring of 2002. The last two years he skipped the fall tournaments in order to play on USTA FUTURES Tour where he moved up 369 spots in the world doubles’ ranking.
Irregardless of the length of time that Cloer played at Florida State, the numbers speak for themselves. His 85 singles victories equal Michael Ingham for the third spot on the career list. He rates fifth with 152 combined wins and eighth with his 69 doubles triumphs. His 29 wins in 2003 are the fourth on the single-season list and he is one of three players to win 20 or matches in back-to-back seasons.
Last season he became just the third player in ACC history to win its top honor twice as he repeated as Player of the Year. His third All-ACC selection last month made him just the fourth player at FSU to accomplish the feat and the 38th in the entire history of the conference. Cloer is also the first player in school history to qualify for the NCAA Singles Tournament three times.
“When I came here six years ago I was looking for someone to elevate this program and Mat was the one that did that,” Hultquist added. “After his four years here we’re one of the better programs in the country and a lot of has to do with him, he helped put Florida State tennis on the map. He’s accomplished a lot, but he’s the hardest worker I’ve ever coached and he’s been team leader on and off the court.”
Florida State brings back five players next year that have played in at least 20 matches each this season, including Jeff Groslimond (Atlanta, Ga.) and Chris Westerhof (Durban, South Africa) who each won 20 bouts and reset their own single-season doubles record with 27 triumphs.