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OSU tennis program hopes to give college town more identity

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Bunyawi Thamchaiwat returns the ball as the No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowgirls play the Texas Tech Raiders on Mar. 6, 2020 at the Greenwood Tennis Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

From announcing the cancellation of the season at team dinner to getting to host a championship again, was hope for Jay Udwadia and the tennis program.

After months of cancellations in sports, life came back for the Oklahoma State tennis program after it was announced they would host a national championship in 2024.

It was back in March when the team met and Udwadia confirmed the unthinkable sequence of events.

“I remember that day of having everyone on the team at my house for a team meal, and kind of explaining to them, there’s no season,” Udwadia said.

For a while, it seemed like a year of disappointments, and an odd look on the tennis court for OSU, especially for the international players.

“It took a lot of zoom calls with the team just to kind of tell them what was going on, and should you come back or should you stay home because it wasn’t looking very good in the U.S.,” Udwadia said. “I actually told half my team, just stay back in Europe, because I thought there would be better opportunities for them not to be shut down and to be able to compete.”

Udwadia wanted to make it as flexible as possible for his players overseas. Half of his team is in town, the other half remains in Europe.

“That was my decision to tell them to do what you feel comfortable with, but if you can play tournaments overseas, then just stay home and take internet classes,” Udwadia said.

After a while of hardships with the pandemic, Udwadia and the team were pleased to hear that after all the hard work in bringing nationals here in the first place, the team would still earn their right to host.

“I’m glad they gave it to us, we’re happy we get to host a national championship in Stillwater,” Udwadia said.

Udwadia said that he had a feeling the program would still get a chance to host, but wasn’t sure on what year they would get that chance, now they know.

“I felt confident that they were going to give us a year since something happened where they canceled it and we did all the work to host and a lot of these upgrades and a lot of hard work to get it done,” Udwadia said.

The national championship is tremendous news for the program, but Udwadia’s core players now won’t be able to taste the championship atmosphere when they’re graduated by 2024.

Udwadia sees the opportunity as a way for great recruiting in the future.

“I think given the circumstance of a pandemic, it’s nothing you can control, but it gives us a lot of time to prepare for the championships as far as building another team and getting anything we need done facility wise or anything,” Udwadia said. “It’s going to be a brand new team, that’s something we’ll be working hard to recruit and we got some time to get there.”

For the past two decades, the OSU tennis program has been in the national eye.

The announcement comes with a reminder of the recent success of the tennis program, and it shows how prominent tennis has become in Stillwater.

“You could tell people that we’re hosting the national championships, and instantly they know Oklahoma State is really serious about their tennis program, and they got the facility and the resources to do something,” Udwadia said. “It automatically puts us in a different league in people’s mindset of what Oklahoma State tennis is.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com