Mitchell Frank came into the Virginia men's tennis program at a time when the Hoos had found their way to elite status in the sport. Brian Boland's squad had conquered the indoor team championships. His prior recruits had won every significant singles and doubles title in college tennis. The only obstacle that remained was winning the NCAA team title, and the program was knocking on that door annually.
Frank's freshman year is probably the best individual season in program history outside of Somdev Devvarman's senior year. Frank roared into college tennis by winning the ITA All-American and the Indoor Intercollegiate, the two major Fall semester singles tournaments in college tennis. He wound up posting a 38-2 record in singles for the Cavalier, losing only to Peter Kobelt and Blaz Rola of Ohio State. Rola would win the NCAA Singles title in 2013.
After skipping the fall tournaments in his sophomore year to recuperate from a knee injury, Frank lost in one dual match all spring. Frank returned to the ITA All-American tournament in 2013 and won the event again, en route to a 20-5 singles record and being selected as an All-American for the second time. He enters his final home contest at 12-3, having taken the fall off to play in professional tournaments. He is 7 wins shy of 100 singles wins for his career. He has easily joined the increasingly long line of men's tennis players that have played a role in turning what was long an irrelevant program into a national power.
It is Frank's sophomore campaign, however, that contains the moment that no Virginia tennis fan can forget. In the final match of the year, Frank's played UCLA's Adrien Puget in the NCAA team final. If there is any match in Virginia history that deserves to be referred to as "The Match," it is this one.
Frank lost the first set 6-0. After rallying back to send the match to a third set, Puget was approaching an overhead blast that would clinch the national title for the Bruins when his foot hit the net. Frank took full advantage of the reprieve, won the game and the next three. It's Frank crouching on the court moments after Puget sent his last shot wide, overwhelmed by what he and his teammates had just done that is the enduring image of Virginia's national championship run.
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Frank's career has been his devotion to the program. He committed to playing in Charlottesville when he could have followed many other American junior tennis talents onto the professional tennis circuit. After his spectacular freshman season, Virginia fans wondered if he would turn professional. He rallied back from injury to key the Hoos' national championship run. He has balanced playing in the occasional professional event with his college career, and is now at the top of the lineup as Virginia enters the postseason in search of a second NCAA crown.
The last chance to see one of the all-time great tennis players in Virginia history play on his home court is today at 3 pm on the Boyd Tinsley Courts at the Boar's Head Sports Club.