Tulane Men’s Tennis: A Tradition of Excellence

Emmet Pare, the Frenchman from Chicago who played his college tennis at Georgetown University, was one of the early stars of professional tennis. He traveled with the legendary Bill Tilden in his first barnstorming tour in 1931. However, by 1933, Pare had settled in as the head pro at the New Orleans Tennis Club. It was in that year that Pare also began his head coaching tenure at Tulane University. For 40 years, until his retirement in 1973, Pare’s Green Wave squads were a national powerhouse and the scourge of the “Old” Southeastern Conference.

From 1938 until Tulane left the SEC in 1966, the Green Wave won 18 conference championships, including nine straight from 1951 until 1959. That year was also monumental in another respect for Tulane, as Pare’s squad captured the school’s only team national championship, winning the 1959 NCAA title. That championship followed NCAA runner-up appearances in 1949 and 1957.

Tulane boasts eight individual NCAA singles champions and two NCAA doubles winners. Clifford Sutter won Tulane’s first national championship, claiming the NCAA singles title in both 1930 and 1932. Following Pare’s arrival in 1933, the Green Wave added another six singles titles to its trophy case, including an impressive three straight in 1953, ’54 and ’55. Ernest Sutter won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1936 and 1937, while Jack Tuero claimed the 1949 singles crown. Hamilton Richardson began a three-year run of Tulane singles championships in 1953, repeating as champion again in 1954. In 1955, Jose Aguero claimed the NCAA singles title, Tulane’s eighth in a span of 25 years. However, the winning continued into the late 1950’s, as Crawford Henry and Ron Holmberg teamed to give Tulane the NCAA doubles champions in 1957 and 1959.

Richardson and Aguero led perhaps the strongest of Tulane tennis teams from 1952 through 1955. Richardson led the squad from the No. 1 position, while Aguero was perhaps the nation’s most formidable No. 2 singles player after joining the team in 1954. Richardson nearly added a third singles championship in 1955, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible due to his participation on the Tulane varsity as a freshman, pushing Aguero centerstage ­ where the Brazilian won the singles championship in his own right that season.

The 1957 Green Wave squad may have matched the 1954-55 Richardson-Aguero squads in overall strength. The team had an incredible 1-2-3 punch with Aguero as a senior and super sophomores Holmberg and Henry at the No. 2 and 3 positions, respectively. The 1957 team earned the Greenies their second NCAA runner-up honor, though the Henry-Holmberg duo captured Tulane’s first NCAA doubles title that season.

Henry and Holmberg also led a strong 1959 squad, as Tulane won the first NCAA Championship in school history. The duo again captured the NCAA doubles crown that season, giving Tulane its eighth individual national championship under Pare.

As might be expected, Pare’s teams dominated not just the national tennis scene, but also the Southeastern Conference as well. In 1939, the Green Wave won the first of 18 SEC titles, claiming back-to-back championships again in 1941 and 1942. After Georgia Tech won the first post-war SEC championship in 1946, Tulane reasserted itself in 1947, winning three straight which would begin a run of 15 league titles in an 18-year span. Florida briefly halted the rolling Wave by capturing the 1950 SEC crown, but Tulane responded by winning nine straight titles from 1951 through 1959. Georgia Tech and Florida won the SEC in 1960 and 1961, respectively, but the Greenies closed out their stay in the SEC with titles in 1962, ’63 and ’64.

Tulane’s 1950’s squads not only won the SEC nine out of 10 seasons, but made a habit of claiming a majority of the nine championship matches each season at the league tournament. In 1953, Green Wave players won all six singles titles and all three doubles matches. A year later, Tulane claimed the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 singles matches and all three doubles positions. In 1955, Tulane claimed five singles titles (all but No. 6) and again swept the three doubles spots. The great 1957 squad won five singles championships and two of the three doubles matches.

The great Tulane tennis tradition continues today in the likes of coach Robert Klein, All-American Robert Samuelsson, Dennis Lundberg and Ronald Kloppert. Even with the likes of Richardson and Aguero dotting the Tulane record books, Samuelsson is widely regarded as one of the best to ever wear the green and blue. He made quite an impact in just his first season, winning Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors and being named second-team All-Conference USA in 1996. And as if Freshman of the Year weren’t honor enough, Samuelsson came back as a sophomore and claimed the title of C-USA Player of the Year and was a first-team all-conference selection. As a junior in 1998, Samuelsson again earned C-USA Player of the Year and first-team all-league honors, and earned Tulane’s first All-America award since 1960 after reaching the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Samuelsson has had plenty of help during his stay at Tulane. Dennis Lundberg also earned first-team All-Conference USA honors in 1998 and has consistently seen his name dot the national rankings. Ronald Kloppert was a third-team All-Conference USA choice in 1998 and teamed with Samuelsson to reach the NCAA Tournament as a doubles tandem.