By Marquis Driver–
The sport of tennis seems to be among the list of forgotten programs that do well at the University of Louisville and should be better publicized on campus. The team has enjoyed success this year in singles and will begin doubles play this semester.
U of L captured a championship this fall and is currently home to the number one ranked singles player in college tennis, a feat that has never been accomplished before at the University of Louisville. These accomplishments were largely because of the contributions of one player.
Enter Sebastian Stiefelmeyer.
Stiefelmeyer is a 6-foot-1 senior hailing all the way from Vienna, Austria. He is Louisville’s most decorated tennis player and a straight-A student when it comes to academics. Stiefelmeyer also happens to be the only player to win the ITA Division 1 Singles Championship for the school, let alone come close to it. And because of lack of publicity the majority of people simply don’t know about it.
But when put into perspective the fact that Stiefelmeyer came out on top is more than applause worthy.
The ITA All American Championship is one of three championships to compete in for singles play. The other two, NCAA Tourney and U.S Open, are small in comparison to the ITA All-American Championship. The NCAA is a 64-player field while the U.S. Open is a 32-player field.
The ITA on the other hand is a 365-player field, comprised of all of college tennis’ best in the beginning of the year.
“He won by far the hardest one. Very few people are injured at that time of the year and very few people are tired at that time of year. Everyone is confident and energetic. Many of them haven’t even experienced a loss yet,” Head Tennis Coach Rex Ecarma said. “That’s why he deserved the number one seeding because he won the toughest tournament when everyone was at their best.”
It could be said that Sebastian is a trail-blazer at the University of Louisville and will go down as one of its best players to ever grace the court in their career here.
When asked where Stiefelmeyer ranks among his 25-year tenure at the University, Ecarma stated, “He’s right up at the top. He has to be one or two now after all that he’s done for the program here. He put it all together this fall.”
“He did some good work in his first three years and now all the things that we’ve been teaching him and investing in him are coming to fruition now.”
Stiefelmeyer began playing tennis at the age of eight and came to America to receive an education and still be able to play at a highly competitive level. Stiefelmeyer was a highly touted recruit coming from Maroltingergasse, Wien, seeing offers from more than a few schools.
But of all the offers he had, the now consensus top collegiate tennis player chose Louisville.
“I knew I wanted to come here from the first phone call. I felt the bond between me and Coach Ecarma. When I saw the past successes of Louisville it was an easy decision, and I don’t have one complaint about it even now,” he said. “In Austria, I would’ve had to choose to either continue my studies or go play professionally. I didn’t want that.”
Next up on the docket for Stiefelmeyer is doubles and team play this semester, and he will be looking to graduate in May with a 3.5+ GPA. After that he plans to go back to Austria because he has to fulfill a mandatory requirement to enter the military draft.
He will also look to play over the summer and go for his master’s degree in September. When asked about going pro now he maintained his hard working and selfless attitude, saying “We’ll see how the summer goes first. I want to focus on what’s in front of me and have us finish top 20 in the team season,” he said.
“If I continue to play well and maybe find a sponsor for the pro tournaments then I’ll definitely try my hand at it.”
Sebastian and the men’s tennis team kicked off the semester’s play with the Hawaii Invitational in Honolulu. He encourages people to come out and see them play during the indoor season this semester because they will have more home matches than last year.
The Cards first home match is Jan. 18 against Drake University at 12:00 p.m. and later that day they will face Murray State at 5:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy / Intercollegiate Tennis Association
Photo of Stiefelmeyer and Head Coach Rex Ecarma with ITA trophy.