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May 5, 2014

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – What a year it has been for Blaz Rola. Just 50 weeks after the former Buckeye All-American became Ohio State’s first NCAA singles champion, the native of Ptuj, Slovenia, has made it into the Top 100 in the ATP World singles rankings on Monday – becoming the second Buckeye in program history to accomplish such feat.

“It feels great,” Rola said. “Being the fourth man in history of my country to do that it is something special. To do it in my first official professional season really shows that I was and still am surrounded by right kind of people to whom I am more than thankful for. A lot of credit also goes to Ohio State tennis program that shows that they are working to train and improve players that can really play on professional level.”

Rola advanced to the semifinals of the Ostrava Challenger in the Czech Republic last weekend to claim 40 ATP points and jump six spots in the ATP world ranking to No. 100. He becomes just the fourth male tennis player in his native country to make the ATP Top 100. Director of tennis and head coach Ty Tucker said he isn’t surprised by the success Rola is having on the Tour and couldn’t be more proud of the former Buckeye.

“It is exciting to see Blaz Rola navigate his way to the top of professional tennis,” Tucker said. “I am not surprised that he is in the Top 100 on the ATP World Tour. When I think of a professional athlete, I think of Blaz Rola. He is a guy that tries to be the best in every aspect of the game. He eats, sleeps, practices, studies and stretches like a professional athlete should.”

Rola has been busy to say the least. He has participated in 10 tournaments already this year, including a second-round run in his first Grand Slam event at the Australian Open in January, claiming three-consecutive victories in the qualifying round to earn a spot in the singles draw. He defeated Federico Delbonis of Argentina, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 Jan. 14 in the first round and became the second Buckeye in program history to win at a Grand Slam since Roger Smith in 1988 (ranked as high as No. 96).

Since being on the professional circuit Rola has:

  • In Challenger Events: advanced to four finals (winning at Guangzhou, China), eight semifinals and nine quarterfinals since the fall of 2013.
  • Claimed three Futures Events titles with four finals appearances
  • Competed in 14 different countries
  • Began the year at No. 201 in the world rankings in November of 2013
  • Has the highest jump in the rankings from the end of last year to this week

What’s been his secret for success? Rola said it’s hard to pick a specific reason, but says he’s been able to take advantage of his opportunities.

“It’s hard to pick what tournaments  I have played the best in, but the ones that definitely stick with me are the Australian Open and Guangzhou,” Rola said. “As far as improving, I think it is difficult to do on the tour. You are traveling all over the world, you are just playing matches week after week and when you are not playing, you are focusing on getting rest and recharging. You have to get better with matches and use every chance and time available to do so.”

Following his Grand Slam debut, Rola earned his first career challenger win Feb. 24 in Guangzhou, China, defeating Yichi Sugita of Japan 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3 in the final to win his fifth-consecutive singles match. With the victory, Rola earned 90 ATP points. Overall, the 2013 Ohio State Male Athlete of the Year has picked up at least 40 ATP points in five tournaments in the past year to help push him up to the top of the tennis world.

“It’s a great feeling, but it doesn’t mean everything,” Rola said. “It makes me happy because it is another step that is bringing me closer to my goals. I’m still very motivated for more and playing better tennis.”

With that kind of work-ethic and mindset, the future looks bright for Blaz Rola. As for his former team, Rola said he wishes the best of luck as the Buckeyes begin NCAA play with hosting the tournament regional this Friday and Saturday in Columbus. For more information on the NCAA first and second round, click here

“It’s great to see the program having such an amazing year,” Rola said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Ty Tucker and the Ohio State program. I like their chances in the NCAA Tournament and I will be cheering them on every step of the way.”