It's a few hours before match day at UNC's Chewning Tennis Center, and Taylor Swift blares through the speakers as fans trickle in. Moments before play begins, the music winds down and by this point, the noise has been replaced by the raucous cheers from players and fans alike.
It’s loud. It’s exhilarating. It’s a stark contrast to the quiet and polite clapping found in sparse crowds at pro tournaments.
And for UNC tennis players, this atmosphere is why they keep coming back.
"You're never going to get people screaming in your face, stuff like that," sophomore Reese Brantmeier said of pro tournaments. "I've grown so much as a competitor during college.”
Many North Carolina tennis stars are now choosing to stay in college rather than go straight to the pros. For players like Brantmeier, who already have professional experience, that decision is based on a desire for further development and an unmatched team environment.
“The level of competitiveness in this isn't matched in pros,” she said. “The level [of competition] is so high, but you're never going to get that team atmosphere."
“For the whole team”
Will Jansen, a London native, was considered one of the top junior players in Europe. But instead of pursuing a full-time professional career, he decided to enroll at UNC.
Unlike in the ATP, the facilities, coaches and trainers are provided for him in Chapel Hill. Most importantly, he said the team aspect of an otherwise individual sport makes competing in college special. He can watch his friends play beside him and relish in their encouragement. He’s not competing for himself, but for a team who counts on him to put up points. The crowds are rowdier, too.