May 26, 2005
COLLEGE STATION, Texas –
Is anyone having a better time at Texas A&M University than Florida State University men’s tennis player Mat Cloer? First the senior leads his team to its first Elite Eight appearance. Next he picks up the program’s first national honor with the ITA/Arthur Ashe Award. On Thursday (May 26) he went one step farther by claiming the school’s first All-American honor in singles.
“It means a lot to be the school’s first singles All-American,” Cloer added. “This year has been about making history, not just for me, but the entire program. This does get a little bit of a monkey off my back. I put a little too much pressure on myself in the past, but now I can focus on just winning the match.”
Since he wasn’t one of the 16 seeded players, Cloer (Brevard, N.C.) had to earn his award by winning a pair of matches in the NCAA Singles Tournament. After winning his first round match, the two-time ACC Player of the Year faced ninth-ranked Sven Swinnen of Oregon, who beat him in three sets during the second match of the season. Going in Cloer’s favor was that he had only lost to the same opponent twice in one season.
“I returned really well today,” Cloer noted. “I did my homework on him and knew he had a big serve so I sat on those and really concentrated on returning. He didn’t have an easy service game the entire match, especially in the third set. I really fought today and got balls back that he didn’t expect.”
Doing his homework paid off for Cloer as he ran out to a quick 3-0 lead thanks to the only service break of the set before having to sit through a 20-minute rain delay. When play resumed the two players held serve twice until torrential rains postponed the match for three hours. After the second delay, the players exchanged serves with Cloer winning the first frame 6-3.
“I felt that the key to the match was that Mat made him work every time he served, Sven didn’t get any quick games,” FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “Even though he had a big serve, Mat made him work the whole match and Mat is one of the fittest players in the tournament so the long points are going to be to his advantage. We’ve been here nine days and we’ve already done a couple of times so Mat is very comfortable with his surrounds and is excited to be here”
In the second set, Swinnen turned the tables, running out to a 3-0 lead with a break of his own. Cloer fought back and got a break, but the Duck held for a 4-3 lead then broke for 5-3 advantage before winning the second stanza 6-3.
“It didn’t affect me too much,” Cloer said of the rain delay. “I came out firing in the second set and just had some mental lapse and missed a few of my shots. He came out to win today and I had to earn the match.”
With the match tied at one set each, Cloer took command and used a second-set break for a 2-0 lead that he expanded to 3-0. The two held their next two service games with Cloer breaking Swinnen to win the third set 6-2 and earn his All-America certificate.
In addition to being one just 16 players remaining in the draw, Cloer is the last Atlantic Coast Conference player remaining in the singles tournament after five went into the day’s action. Thursday was a good day for upsets as Cloer was one of five players to beat a higher seed with four of the wins coming against Top 25 players.
“I think it says a lot that Mat is the last conference player left in the singles draw,” Hultquist added. “Maybe he didn’t have the year that he wanted to in the conference, but he’s the last one standing. I know being an All-American has been weighing on him for the last three years and now he can really relax and take care of one match at a time.”
It had been ten years since Florida State had an All-American of any kind. Ken McKenzie and Brian Stanton won the school’s only award in doubles during the 1995 campaign. Besides making history with his All-America accolade, the victory moved Cloer into a tie for third place in school history on the career singles list as he equaled Michael Ingham with his 85th triumph.
“It just keeping coming for us and a lot of it has been at the end of the year,” Hultquist noted. “We had our first conference final, first trip to the final site, first trip to the Elite Eight, first national award winner and now our first singles All-American. We’ve accomplished a lot of things in a short amount of time.”
Up next for Cloer is a round of 16 appearance against fourth-ranked Catalin Gard from Mississippi. The two will square off at 1:30 p.m. (CDT) at the Mitchell Tennis Center.