COLLEGE STATION, Texas. – The University of Arkansas’ top men’s tennis player, senior Blake Strode, has been named the national recipient of the ITA/Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership & Sportsmanship, the ITA announced today.
Strode, who was named the central region Arthur Ashe recipient last week, beat out other nominees from Harvard, Georgia, Toledo, Rice, New Mexico and Pepperdine for the national honor.
“I’m really really excited for Blake,” head Arkansas coach Robert Cox said. “He’s very deserving of this prestigious award. He’s the perfect recipient given his character. He’s a true class act.”
As the national award winner, Strode will be honored on Arthur Ashe Court at the U.S. Open on Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, August 29. Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day honors tennis legend Arthur Ashe and continues his mission of using tennis as a means to instill in kids the values of humanitarianism, leadership and academic excellence. Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day introduces children of all ages to the great sport of tennis while bringing families together for a fun, interactive experience.
The central region Arthur Ashe nominee last year, Strode has continued to garner recognition for his play on the court and his work in the classroom. In the last year alone, Strode has earned his third All-Southeastern Conference honors, been named the runner up for the prestigious Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship, earned his second SEC Scholar-Athlete nod and was the central region recipient of the ITA/Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award.
A recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, Strode earned a double major in international economics and Spanish, maintaining a 3.976 grade-point average, while rising up the national ranks on the tennis court. Currently ranked No. 15 by the ITA, Strode reached the highest singles ranking of his career earlier this year as the No. 13 player in the country.
Strode’s ability to lead his teammates by example on and off the court is what has set Strode apart and made him the quintessential student-athlete and one of head Arkansas coach Robert Cox’s favorite players of all time.
“It doesn’t surprise me that other coaches around the country see what we at Arkansas get to see everyday,” Cox said. “Blake is a very special young man.”
On Wednesday, Strode begins play in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Championship against Chris Clayton of Harvard. The match is set for 1:30 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the Texas A&M campus. Live video of Strode’s match with Clayton will be available at, http://www.aggieathletics.com/ncaa2009/tennis/stats.html
For complete coverage of Arkansas men’s tennis, log on to www.ArkansasRazorbacks.com.