April 18, 2024

Chris Woodruff: Great Player. Great Coach?

As a player, he defeated the great Andre Agassi in the 1996 French Open, played in an Australian Open quarterfinals matchup and was ranked No. 29 in the world in men’s singles.

As a coach, Woodruff continues to achieve at a high level. Woodruff has accrued a number of awards for his coaching, including ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013. Now, with his second season as Tennessee’s head coach now behind him, Woodruff is still winning. He continues to improve Tennessee’s team, with the Vols accruing 41 wins to only 16 losses under Woodruff, and he has now led Tennessee to an SEC Tournament final.

No stranger to the big stage, Woodruff was right at home at the 2019 SEC final.

No. 13 Tennessee entered the SEC tournament with high hopes and quickly rolled over Georgia 4-0. Tennessee, led by Woodruff, moved through the semifinals with a 4-3 upset over No. 3 Florida to reach the SEC tournament finals.

The Volunteers, high on two straight tournament wins, then ran right into the impenetrable wall that was No. 6 Mississippi State, where they were dismantled by the Bulldogs in a 1-4 loss.

So what’s next?

When Woodruff and the Volunteers next step onto the court, they will be without star Timo Stodder, who has just completed his senior season. However, Tennessee’s upcoming season is bright, as the Vols will presumably retain two All-SEC players in Scott Jones and Adam Walton. Additionally, Woodruff and his staff will have the opportunity this offseason to further develop many of their players, as only Timo Stodder and Preston Touliatos are currently seniors.

However, with the Volunteers still fresh off a third-round SEC Tournament exit, questions surrounding the success of future Tennessee teams have arisen.

Is Woodruff the right coach? Is this the coach that can kick Tennessee’s tennis program into overdrive and elevate the team to a national title?

Let’s look at the facts.

Woodruff achieved at a high level as a professional and has proven himself to be an adept coach. He has improved the Tennessee team and fell just short of an SEC Tournament title.

Yet, Woodruff could not win that 1996 French Open quarterfinal. Woodruff and the Vols fell one match short of being SEC Tournament champions. The great success that Woodruff has experienced is marred by his inability to find that same success on many of the biggest stages he has played on.

So, can Woodruff find a way to craft a Tennessee team that will rise to the top of the sport, or will greatness slip through Woodruff’s hands one again? Only time will tell.

Until then, Volunteer tennis fans can rest easy knowing that Woodruff is only entering his third year as head coach and that it seems as if the Volunteers will continue to improve with each passing year under Woodruff’s guidance.

The Volunteers’ future looks bright with Woodruff at the helm, for now.


Edited by Kaitlin Flippo and Robert Hughes

Featured image by Caleb Souders, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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