Move like a gazelle? A forehand that he can ‘rev up’? Be a recipient of the Accelerator Programme?
Briton Toby Samuel checks all the boxes and if the 21-year-old can race up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as fast as he moves around the court, he will be the next college player to find success at the highest level.
The University of South Carolina star finished the collegiate season at 10th in the ITA Rankings, earning him six main draw spots into select ATP Challenger Tour events, thanks to the ATP/ITA Accelerator Programme, which aims to become a launching pad for the top players within the American collegiate system and accelerate their journey to the pro level.
Samuel is using an Accelerator spot at this week’s Calgary National Bank Challenger, where he secured his third win at that level on Tuesday.
“That’s been so helpful for a lot of college players making that transition to the Tour because we’ve missed out on four years to play on the Tour. I feel like our level is at this level, we just haven’t had enough time to get the points to get here,” Samuel told ATPTour.com in Calgary.
Under head coach Josh Goffi, the Bournemouth native went 24-5 in singles this past season and alongside Connor Thomson became South Carolina’s first ITA All-American doubles champions.
“He’s like a gazelle on the court. He moves as well as anybody in the world on the tennis court,” Goffi told ATPTour.com in May. “Toby is a very talented individual. He plays a pretty strong game, he has a very strong backhand that he takes on the rise and his forehand is extremely heavy and when he wants to rev it up, he can rev it up as well as anybody in the world. He has a very kinetic serve, a beautiful motion.”
Samuel is taking this semester off from college tennis to try his hand at the pro level, but plans on returning to Columbia in January to complete his eligibility and graduate with a Sports Management degree in May. One goal in particular sticks out in Samuel’s mind when thinking about his final semester at South Carolina.
“I’d love to finish out my university career with a team title, that’s something I’ve always set out to do,” Samuel said. “Everything the university has given me, to give back a little bit would be amazing. Then just try and push as far as I can on the Tour, that’s the ultimate goal for me and a lot of tennis players. It’d be amazing to be at the top of the game, playing in those big tournaments and seeing your name up there.”
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Regardless of any result this season, the college route is one that Samuel will forever cherish.
“It’s been amazing, some of the best years of my life,” Samuel said. “Just being able to train and compete with a group of guys that I get on with so well under a great coach like Josh, it’s been a great experience. I’ve been able to mature mentally and physically on and off the court, which has really helped my tennis develop and I think I’m ready for the Tour now.”