In the classroom, they are ordinary students. On the tennis courts however, Irvine’s dynamic duo of senior Jonathan Endrikat and junior Brian Morton are nothing short of extraordinary. Currently ranked 22nd in the nation, the doubles team of Endrikat and Morton was selected to participate in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Doubles Championships, becoming the first Anteater’s doubles team to be selected for the NCAA Championships since Shige Kanroji and Trevor Kronemann in 1990.
Representing the crown jewel of Irvine’s Tennis program, Endrikat and Morton have just recently been named to All-Big West first team in doubles, representing the third straight year of the duo’s placement to the All-Big West first team.
However, this selection of Endrikat and Morton to the NCAA Championships is a first-time experience for the two seasoned Anteaters.
‘It has been something we have been working toward for three years,’ Endrikat said. ‘We have gotten close the past few years, and it feels great to finally make it.’
Beginning the 2003-04 season ranked 40th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason polls, Endrikat and Morton stormed out of the gates, winning the ITA West Region Championships in late October. The early successes of Endrikat and Morton continued throughout the fall season, propelling the duo to the number six-ranked doubles team in the nation and the number one-ranked team in the Big West region.
In order to spread the talent level among Irvine’s double teams, Head Coach Steve Clark separated Endrikat and Morton after a few matches during spring season, pairing Endrikat with senior Wkwesi Williams and Morton with junior Ryusuke Kashiwabara. The split did not merely provide good results for the team. The two players also improved their individual play through the split.
‘Brian and John came back much more mentally and physically improved,’ Clark said. ‘Not only in their game but also in their mental attitude.’
The duo of Endrikat and Morton finished the 2003-04 season with an overall record of 12-5, an impressive record despite the split.
Apart from participating in Big West play, the pair also participated in numerous side tournaments, garnering invaluable experience.
Although split for the majority of the season, Coach Clark paired Endrikat and Morton back together during the final stretch of the season, and to no surprise of the coach, the duo preformed very well, guiding UCI to a third-place finish in the Big West Championships.
‘It’s amazing. They would not have to play together for a year and they’ll still play well,’ Clark said. ‘They know each other so well and their styles perfectly match each other’s game.’
According to Clark, the complementary playing style between Endrikat and Morton is the key to the development of their great chemistry. Clark characterized Endrikat as the levelheaded playmaker while describing Morton an emotional shot-maker. Endrikat agrees.
‘[Morton] is the flashier player, a guy who is able to hit shots that I am just not capable of hitting,’ Endrikat said. ‘Generally I am more of the playmaker type who keeps the ball in play and hits the shots I am supposed to hit.’
The 2004 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships will take place in Tulsa, Oka. from May 26 to May 31. Sixty-four doubles teams were selected to participate in the tournament. Expectations are high for Endrikat and Morton. Although this is their first time at the NCAA championships, the duo’s performance at the Big West Championships and the ITA West Region Championships solidified their place as one of the premiere doubles teams in the nation.
Although they have the full support of the UCI behind them, the pressure is still tough.
‘We want to win [the NCAA Championships],’ Morton said. ‘Our short term goal is to win two matches and become All-Americans, but ultimately we want to win the tournament.’
When asked what expectations he had for his two star players, Clark described the importance of Endrikat, a graduating senior, to have fun in his final match as an Anteater, and to have Morton, a returning senior, gain valuable national experience for the benefit of next year’s team.
However, the ultimate expectation, as described concisely by Coach Clark, is simple:
‘I want them to win it all.’