Men’s tennis captain Greg Royce ’01 started playing tennis at the age of five, when many kids his age could barely lift a racquet. Now he’s coming to the end of a yearlong captaincy and a lifetime of competitive tennis.

“My mom put me in a summer tennis clinic, and I was a lot better than the others,” said Royce, who began his competitive tennis career at age nine. “The coach realized that I had become a lot better after that summer.”

A resident of Rye, N.Y., Royce attended the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N.Y., where he continued to develop his skills.

Since arriving at Yale, Royce has worked his way up the tennis ranks. The second-team All-Ivy selection played No. 1 singles last spring and played in the No. 2 through 4 spots as a sophomore.

This season, following the return of Steve Berke ’03 to the No. 1 spot, Royce plays in the No. 2 position for the Bulldogs in both singles and doubles play. Royce’s doubles partner, David Goldman ’04, said they’ve had a really good season.

“We’ve just lost one match this season,” Goldman said. “Our score’s something like 13-1.”

Indeed, the Bulldogs have had a very good season and are all set for the Ivy League championships that start this weekend.

“We’ve had really good revenge matches this year,” Royce said. “Beating New Mexico was really memorable.”

For the first time in the teams’ nine-year rivalry, the Bulldogs slammed the Lobos of New Mexico 4-3 in February. The Royce-Goldman pair emerged with a 9-7 victory in the No. 2 position.

Putting the success of his team ahead of his own, the captain credits the team’s victory largely to the play of his freshman counterparts.

Among his singles matches this season, Royce felt that his match against Kyle Kliegerman from Princeton was poignant. In late January, Royce triumphed over his former junior competition doubles partner 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to enter the semifinals at the Princeton Farnsworth Invitational.

“Kyle is a long-time friend and rival of mine,” Royce said. “We were both ranked No. 1 in the under-16 category. The last time I beat him was when I was 12.”

Although Royce’s exploits on the court speak for themselves, his colleagues have no problem speaking about his tennis skill.

“He’s got good attitude, and his game’s good,” Goldman said. “His service is really good, and he really steps into his forehand.”

Head coach Alex Dorato echoed these sentiments.

“He’s got a really big forehand and serve. Those are his two big weapons,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Royce’s sportsmanship comes through even when he’s off the court.

“He’s a very good captain — very personable, gets along well with everyone,” Dorato said. “Everyone feels he’s easy to talk to.”

When he has not been on the courts this spring, Royce, an economics major, has been working on his senior essay “Merger Arbitrage.”

After graduation, Royce will begin work at JP Morgan Chase & Co. in New York. This, he feels, will leave him little time for tennis. But he has other plans for his precious few spare moments.

“I want to take up golf and skiing,” he said. “I had to give up ski racing at 14 to make time for tennis.”

At the end of an exciting undergraduate tennis career, Royce summed up his feelings.

“Being a part of the tennis team has really been a tremendous experience, and I’ve met a lot of friends here,” he said. “It’s great to be part of a winning team. It all finally comes down to the friendships you make and the fun you have practicing, working hard.”

The day Greg Royce’s mother decided to put her son in a tennis clinic sure did pay off.

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