Feb. 5, 1997
Feature On Purdue's Gordon, James And Myersby Steve Timmer
Three years ago, the Purdue men's tennis team was at the bottom of the Big Ten with little or no respect in the sport of men's tennis. Today, they are preparing to send three of their most respected players to Dallas to compete in the Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor Tennis Championships.
Head coach Tim Madden, after being hired in 1994 to revive the men's squad, brought in three very talented recruits following his first year. Those three recruits, now sophomores, are slowly but surely building a name for themselves and the program that they represent.
"I consider becoming a better team in tennis a process, and when I got here Purdue hadn't been on the national scene in about 10 years," Madden said. "I was lucky enough to get some very good recruits and they are performing well. Those players are the ones leading the team to the national level."
Those three recruits, in their second season with Madden, have brought with them new life to Purdue's program. The trio of sophomore standouts, Jamie Gordon, Cris James and Derek Myers have come from different backgrounds on the road to establishing themselves, and their team as a forced to be reckoned with.
Gordon, a native of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, found himself ranked in the top five nationally and 348th in the world in the ITF computer rankings before attending Purdue. Gordon, preparing to enter the ITA National Indoors for the first time, has proven himself as a hard worker who is dedicated to improving his overall game. Entering his second year at Purdue, Gordon has won the Region IV title and is currently ranked as the No. 1 singles player in the region and 44th nationally. But, the one thing that Gordon strived to be a part of the most last season, he did not get. The abilities of his fellow freshman teammates James and Myers, landed them a trip to several national tournaments where they represented Purdue as freshmen.
Gordon took it upon himself to work diligently in the summer to improve his game, minimize his weaknesses and better establish his abilities going into his sophomore season. "Jamie has been on a mission," Madden commented. "I think it was that he was envious of (Cris and Derek's) opportunities, and he made it his goal to be with them at national tournaments."
The hard work and dedication has paid off, as Gordon now has qualified for the ITA National Indoors. "I knew that I belonged at the national tournaments, I just needed to prove it," Gordon said. "Now I have to show that this wasn't a fluke and solidify myself as a national caliber player."
The two other sophomores, Cris James and Derek Myers, have also contributed to the Boiler tennis program just as Gordon has. Unlike Gordon though, the team of James and Myers have combined their individual abilities together in doubles play. The two have come to establish themselves as a formidable duo.
Among their list of accomplishments includes an overall national ranking of 15th in doubles, the 1995 Region IV title, and first place at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic which consisted of several very impressive wins over some of the NCAA's top tennis duos. The ITA National Indoors will prove to be a tougher test though, as tournament entries are by invitation-only, and the players are the finest collegiate players in the nation. It is the third in a four-part, invitation-only series referred to as the "Grand Slam" of collegiate tennis, ending with the NCAA Championships in May.
"We are excited to go to any of the national tournaments," James said. "The first few were a learning experience. Now, one of our goals is to win one of the ITA Grand Slam tournaments."
"Consistency is the key for us," added Myers. "On any given day we can beat anyone in the country. As we develop consistence we will beat those teams more and more. This is a big deal to play in one of these tournaments, and I think we have a chance to really win if things go our way."
Their success has helped to improve Purdue's level of competition and to bring a degree of respect from the opponents that they face. The Boilermakers are ranked 55th in the country and have started the season off with a 4-3 win against Miami of Ohio.
"The combination of these three talented players and their dedication to improving their games has impressed Madden. "All three of them take it upon themselves to find the best competition. Purdue didn't go as a team to the Milwaukee Classic, but these three guys took time out of their vacation to go and compete against the best competition that they could," Madden said.
Gordon, James and Myers will put their reputations on line in Dallas Thursday, with competition lasting through Sunday.