In 1993, the Yale men’s tennis team tied for the Ivy League championship after compiling an impressive 19–5 overall record.
During the very next spring, the Bulldogs entered their regular season Ivy League match with Harvard as underdogs, but upset the Crimson after Robert Pohly ’93 and Steve Griesemer ’93, clinched the match with side-by-side victories at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. Current head coach Alex Dorato was the interim head coach during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, and he recalls the two episodes as possibly the greatest moments in his 23-year tenure.
Dorato referred to his position as the Yale men’s tennis head coach as his dream job.
“This job has been an honor,” Dorato said, “and I don’t think that I will ever feel differently. No matter what happens I will always be incredibly grateful for this opportunity.”
In fact, Dorato is only the fourth Yale men’s tennis coach since 1913. He follows in the footsteps of Steve Griggs, John Skillman and William Hinchliff. When Dorato first arrived at Yale after playing college tennis at the University of New Mexico and working in Albuquerque, he spent seven years — from 1986 to 1992 — as the associate men’s tennis coach under Griggs. Dorato simultaneously served in the same position for the women’s tennis team.
“I believe that with every year that passes, I am a better coach because I know more. I try to motivate my players internally so they want to work hard for the team and for each other and for Yale.”
Dorato was awarded the Jack Barnaby Award in 2001 as the New England College Coach of Year by the United States Professional Tennis Association. During that season, he led the Bulldog squad to another 19–5 record and a No. 56 national ranking. The 2002 team made it to its first ECAC Team Championship final since 1977, while Dorato led the 2012 team to an extraordinary 18–6 record.
Fourteen of Dorato’s 23 seasons have been winning ones. After splitting home matches with Penn and Princeton last weekend to begin 2015 Ivy League play, Dorato has lead this year’s iteration of the Bulldogs to an overall 11–7 record — on pace to notch his 14th winning season. Nine of the 11 wins this spring for the Elis have been at home in the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.
Although Dorato is the winningest coach in Yale history, he noted that he has lost the most number of games in Yale history, too.
According to Photos Photiades ’17, Dorato typically avoids the stardom, and with his quiet demeanor and motivating coaching style, he exemplifies humility.
“On the court, he is a great coach,” said Alex Hagermoser ’17. “He is really focused and dedicated to the team and the program. He always executes his game plan even in practice.”
Dorato characterized his relationship with his players using two words: trust and respect. He expressed the desire to see them succeed on and off of the tennis court. That desire, he said, extends beyond graduation.
According to Dorato, his highest priority is to give his players the best possible college tennis experience.
“Off the court, he is a very gentle person where you can have a normal conversation with him,” Photiades said. “He really cares about his players and wants them to do well in school.”
While Dorato has been the head coach at Yale, the Bulldogs have exemplified academic excellence and community involvement. Since 1996, Yale is the only Division I men’s tennis team to receive the ITA All-Academic Team Award every year. Dorato has also coached winners of the Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships. He is the president of New Haven Youth Tennis Education, a non-profit organization that reaches inner-city youths in New Haven through tennis, and Dorato also participates in the New England Division of the United States Tennis Association.
“Community service has been a huge part of what I have been doing for the last 10 years,” Dorato said. “I have tried to give back as much as I could, and I really enjoy doing so … My players see that I want to help them in school and give them an opportunity to do community service.”
Dorato and the Elis will be back in action this weekend as they travel to Columbia and Cornell for matches on Saturday, March 11 and Sunday, March 12.