After nearly being eliminated in the first round, the North Carolina sophomore rallied back to claim the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship title, winning 6-4, 7-6(2) over Vanderbilt’s No. 9 Gonzales Austin at the site of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Schnur only dropped one set the entire tournament, coming in the first round against Columbia’s No. 8 Winston Lin — a senior playing in his home territory.
But when Lin held match point in the third set and threatened to send Schnur home early, the Ontario native ripped off three straight victories on his way to winning nine consecutive sets and the singles title.
“Coming from almost the brink of losing to winning the whole thing is great,” said teammate Ronnie Schneider, who made it to the quarterfinals despite being added to the tournament draw just days earlier. “As the tournament went on, I could see the confidence growing. I’m not surprised at all that he won.”
Neither was Schnur, whose confidence helped him overmatch his opponents.
“Coming into the tournament, I kind of knew in the back of my head that if I showed up for every single match with the right attitude, I could win,” Schnur said. “I know I can win a lot of these matches if I just stay mentally strong.”
Mental strength became even more significant when physical strength was waning. After competing in five matches over four days, Schnur began to feel the effects of such a strenuous schedule.
“It definitely takes a toll on the body,” Schnur said. “(Sunday) morning I definitely wasn’t feeling the greatest as I woke up. It (was) getting a little bit harder and harder to wake up and get the body going.”
And in that final match, it was mind over body that propelled Schnur to victory.
“I wouldn’t say that I played my best match tennis-wise, just because I was physically tired, but I think I played my best mental match,” Schnur said. “You just kind of find the mental strength and the motivation knowing that the tournament’s coming to an end (and) there’s nothing that can really motivate me more than playing for a national championship.”
With the win, Schnur became only the second men’s player from UNC to be named indoor champion, and the first since Roland Thornqvist in 1993.
“It’s a very prestigious tournament to win — lot of great players have won it,” Coach Sam Paul said. “He’s now among some really elite players that have won that tournament.”
Schnur was honored to be mentioned in the company of such prestigious winners, but Schneider knows this is only the beginning for his teammate.
“His goal ultimately is to be one of the top pro players in the world,” Schneider said. “This is just a little stepping stone on the way.”
The champion’s mental approach is still the same as always, with his eyes set on a much greater prize.
“Seeing the names of the big champions that have won previous years and how they’ve done on the pro tour is incredible,” Schnur said. “To see my name up beside those names ... Hopefully I can play like that on tour soon.”