Texas tennis may be facing the end of an era

Nathan Han

Last week, senior Bianca Turati announced her decision to enter the professional ranks and forgo her additional year of eligibility.

She’s the first of four Texas tennis seniors — including her sister Anna and men’s seniors Yuya Ito and Christian Sigsgaard — to decide on whether or not to stay an extra year after the coronavirus cut their spring season short.

But no matter what Ito, Sigsgaard and Anna Turati decide, those four seniors have left behind an undeniable legacy at Texas. 

They won multiple Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships. They were near the top of all college tennis players year in and year out. And, most importantly of all, Ito and Sigsgaard captured the men’s NCAA national championship last year, a win that occured one year ago on this date, May 19.

While not all the program’s successes rest on their shoulders — men’s head coach Bruce Berque won the 2020 Professional Tennis Registry Coach of the Year — all four seniors played a crucial role.

“Over the past four years, Texas has reestablished itself as a top women’s tennis program nationally,” Texas women’s head coach Howard Joffe said in a statement. “The exemplary state of our team and program is the product of lots of devotion by many people. But the one person whose contributions, attitude and conduct that has gone the furthest and had the most profound effect has been Bianca Turati.”

There’s no denying the effect Bianca and the others have had on Texas considering the results they’ve brought to the tennis courts.

The four contributed to a combined five Big 12 regular-season or tournament titles. They improved the final ITA rankings of both teams by an average of 10 spots compared to the first six years of the decade. And all four brought it from their first days, when Bianca Turati and Sigsgaard started their first collegiate dual matches in the number one singles spot. 

But the biggest lasting impact the four have had on the program has been in its reputation and recruiting. According to the Tennis Recruiting Network, the men’s team had its first No. 1-ranked recruiting class in history after winning the national championship and followed that up by getting Eliot Spizzirri and Micah Braswell, who were both No. 1 recruits in the nation at their highest rankings.

On the women’s side, while next year’s recruiting class hasn’t yet been ranked, they will have perhaps their strongest recruiting class ever. Blue chip prospect Peyton Stearns was one of the top prospects of her class and chose Texas over several other schools and over making the jump straight to the pros.

"They are offering me the one-and-done deal, where I can go for a year and leave after and then come back and get my education,” Stearns said in an article from Tennis Recruiting by Rhiannon Potkey. “They will bring me to at least seven pro tournaments, and I trust them. Some other schools say they will, but I have never seen their players play that many. That was huge for me."

The player for Texas who played in that many professional tournaments? Bianca Turati, who played in exclusively professional tournaments in the fall and also chose to compete at Texas instead of directly turning pro. While Stearns may only stay one year before entering the professional ranks herself, Texas also hauled in No. 6 recruit Charlotte Chavatipon and No. 10 Malaika Rapolu.

Texas will finally have a top five women’s tennis recruiting class after a decade of only breaking the top 25 once. Both Turatis played no small factor in that success.

Anna Turati, Ito and Sigsgaard have yet to announce their decision on whether or not they’ll use the extra year of eligibility. But no matter what they decide, these four seniors have worked wonders for Texas tennis. They’ve helped vault the program into powerhouse status — with the likes of perennial powers Florida and Stanford whom the men’s team was 3–0 against both teams in the shortened 2020 season.

Now, with the departure of the first of those four, it’s up to a new incoming generation of Texas players to carry the torch and try to match what Ito and Sigsgaard did one year ago when they overcame program turmoil to take home the national championship.