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July 18, 2019

Former Stanford Tennis Standout Ricky Becker Interview

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Photo by Stanford University
Photo by Stanford University

Ricky Becker is a standout tennis player from Long Island who went on to achieve excellence in collegiate tennis at Stanford University before giving it a try in the pros. Ricky was consistently ranked in the top five in the country in USTA tennis throughout the junior age groups. At Stanford, Ricky found himself ranked inside the Top 20 in D1 NCAA singles. As Ricky goes on to say in the interview that LRT Sports did with him, some of his most memorable experiences happened as a critical member of two national championship-winning teams (Ricky was also MVP of Stanford’s 1996 championship team). Today Ricky coaches some of the best rising tennis players in the Eastern section while also offering recruiting advice and consultations to high school tennis players looking to play in college.

LRT Sports: What led you to ultimately choose Stanford when you were selecting the college you wanted to play at?

Ricky: I wanted to go to a top-five academic school where I had the best chance to make it as a pro tennis player. I thought that by going to Stanford that I would practice with future pro tennis players rather than with future top doctors and investment bankers, which was more in line with what I was looking for. I also liked that many players took the Stanford path and did well on tour.

LRT Sports: Of all your tennis achievements at Stanford, both individually and as a member of the team, which was your favorite moment and why?

Ricky: Both the 1995 and 1996 NCAA team titles were, but 1996 stood out a little more. I found myself down 5-2 and match points in the third set in the deciding match against Georgia in the semis. Even though a few thousand people were rooting against me, I remember feeling like I loved the guys on my team and being my senior year, I wasn’t going to let the college tennis experience end. Fortunately, he admittedly got a little nervous, and I was able to raise my level of play, and I was able to pull out the match. My coach said years later in a newspaper that was his favorite college tennis memory, which meant a lot to me with his experience around college tennis.

Individually, my highest honor was after I graduated. A gentleman named Tom Rondell passed away due to pancreatic cancer. Before he passed away, he asked his daughters to donate a chair (those chairs weren’t cheap!) honoring me in “Stanford’s Row of Champions.” Although Tom and I unfortunately never met, he said that he always admired the passion and attitude I brought to the court and the team. I met his daughters a couple of years after that and knowing a person who I heard was a great man felt that way about me was practically spiritual and the greatest honor.

LRT Sports: How would you describe your relationship with your coach at Stanford while you were on the team?

Ricky: Fortunately, I had an excellent relationship with the coaches on the team. I had great respect for them but liked them as well. They created a fun atmosphere, but when it was time to work, it was time to work. I was particularly close to the then Assistant John Whitlinger. I used to babysit his kids and Whit, and I would often go to San Jose Sharks and Oakland Raiders games together.

LRT Sports: Do you think that a college coach review website would be beneficial to high school recruits looking to play NCAA athletics?

Ricky: I do think it’s a great idea and I’m surprised it’s something that has never been done before. I also think it’s a way that coaches could get better by getting feedback from some players. I would be careful though not to take one review and run with what one person says but for more of an overall feel about a coach. It is hard to make everyone happy. After all, coaches do have to make lineup decisions!

LRT Sports: Did you feel like members of the team accurately represented the Stanford coach and tennis program on your recruiting visit?

Ricky: It’s interesting because I felt like wherever I went, the players who were borderline starters weren’t as welcoming as the top-players or the people who were just happy to be on the team. I feel like it was a tough read because some college athletes are more honest, and some are good soldiers and toe the company line. Unfortunately, as a prospective recruit, it’s hard to know who is who.

LRT Sports: What advice would you have for high school tennis players and high school athletes, in general, looking to play collegiate athletics?

Ricky: I could say a lot of things but what I would suggest is when making your list of colleges at the beginning of the process to make a list of 15-20 schools that interest you for reasons that are important to you and your family. Try to stick to your list and not get persuaded or take too much time looking at a school, not on your list. College coaches are usually good people, but they are salesmen when it comes to recruiting, and I find that when someone goes to a school, they originally weren’t even considering, they remember when they get to college why that school wasn’t on the list in the first place, and then they transfer.

Updated: 7/18/19