No one in Ryan Murphy’s ’05 family ever played tennis.
His father, who captained the Pennsylvania basketball team, provided athletic roots. But at the young age of six, Murphy’s decision to pick up a tennis racket at his family’s country club was all his own. His passion for tennis followed him from that New Jersey club to Houston, where his tennis career blossomed in high school, and now to New Haven.
A two-time All-American at Kinkaid High School and the No. 1 ranked junior tennis player from Texas, Murphy was a highly sought recruit. After his performance at the under-18 national tournament in Kalamazoo, MI a competition featuring the top junior players in the country, men’s tennis head coach Alex Dorato proceeded to heavily recruit Murphy for Yale.
“[Murphy] was hustling like nobody was hustling out there to win every point,” Dorato said.
Murphy’s will to work harder than his competition has played a large role in his success at Yale. As a freshman, Murphy’s relentless style of play helped lift Yale over Harvard in a crucial match. With the score tied 3-3, the competition came down to the outcome of the No. 1 singles match. Murphy dealt well with the pressure and came out victorious.
“[Murphy] won by just wearing the [Harvard] kid down,” Dorato said.
His success as a freshman did not stop at that early victory against Harvard in the fall. By the end of his freshman year, Murphy had earned first team All-Ivy honors and was ranked among the top 50 players in the NCAA. But the Harvard win stands out the most for Murphy.
“My best memory in college so far has been winning that decisive match against Harvard freshman year. The whole team atmosphere was incredible,” Murphy said.
Although tennis is primarily an individual sport, Murphy said he appreciates the team aspects of the sport.
“My favorite part is playing for a team in such an individual sport,” Murphy said. “The team aspect just makes it so much more meaningful and fun, especially with such a great group of guys.”
His hard work ethic and desire to see his team win are traits that have helped bring his teammates to a higher level of play. In practice, Murphy puts forth the same die-hard effort that he exhibits in matches.
“Murphy is an animal when it comes to his tennis,” Andrew Arons ’05 said. “He won’t tolerate poor effort from anyone because he hates losing and in a very individual sport, he sincerely cares more about the team than his individual match.”
Even the back injury that Murphy suffered last spring did not slow him down.
“Injury is never an excuse [with Murphy],” teammate Neil Tolaney ’04 said. “I cannot recollect a moment in time when he has not put forth 110 percent effort on the court or during sprints and weight lifting.”
As a result of his pulled back muscle, Murphy missed all the team’s spring break matches. He also lost to rival player David Lingman of Harvard, who he has beaten in the past. Murphy still managed to finish the season ranked No. 18 in the Northeast Region and was second team All-Ivy.
The back sprain also caused Murphy to miss the men’s open tournaments over the summer, but if he has it his way, Murphy will make this junior season his most successful campaign.
“This is definitely the most talented team I’ve played with at Yale, so I definitely have high expectations for them and myself,” Murphy said. “I hope to stay healthy and help the team out this season.”
Beginning with the ITA tournament this fall, an individual tournament composed of 64 of the Northeast region’s best collegiate players, Murphy looks to get the ball rolling on a season that he hopes will culminate with qualifications for the NCAA spring tournament for both himself and the team. At the ITA competition last year, Murphy finished in the top eight. If he finishes in the top two this fall, he will advance to the NCAA National Indoor Meet, a tuneup for the prestigious NCAA tournament in the spring.
With the addition of southern California all-star Brandon Wai ’07, the ever-driven Murphy appears poised to lead his team to the Ivy League championship, an honor that would secure a team berth in the NCAA spring tournament.