Photo credit: UNC|Photo credit: UNC||

There are currently five Canadian players ranked inside the Top 50 in singles in the NCAA, with a handful of others hovering just outside. The option to go to University while pursuing a tennis career is becoming increasingly popular amongst players and Canada is no exception.

There have been a few trailblazers of this movement in the Great White North, notably Brayden Schnur and Carol Zhao who not only made the choice to play in the NCAA instead of turning professional right away, but also had outstanding University careers.

In fact, Schnur played a small role in convincing his fellow Canadian Benjamin Sigouin to follow the university route, as he even wound up attending his alma mater

Photo credit: UNC

“Brayden went to UNC and he tried to influence me to come here, explaining what a great school it is. I didn’t have very much knowledge about college or playing collegiate tennis, so he gave me some insights and I am very happy with the decision that I made.”

Currently in the Sports Administration program at the University of North Carolina, Sigouin is one of the school’s top players. The former no. 4 ranked junior player was named Atlantic Coast Freshman of the Year in 2018, following in the footsteps of Schnur who also received the honour back in 2014.

“I’m lucky because I’ve had so many fantastic memories so far. I’ve won some match at three-all and earlier this year we made the Final Four at the Indoor Nationals. Hopefully this is just the beginning of another great year.”

Hoping to have another stellar season in 2019, Sigouin has a lot success to build off of from last year. The Vancouver native notably won his first professional title when he was crowned doubles champion at the Kelowna Futures. He acknowledges that the format of collegiate tennis has helped him grow his game and get him ready for the next step in his career.

“The facilities available to the players and the level of tennis has really gone up in the NCAA. It provides you with opportunities that you might not have otherwise had. Nowadays, with the way the tour is organized, it is not always easy to turn pro. You need a bit more time to mature both physically and mentally to be able to compete with that caliber of players. That is why I think that college is a fantastic option and it has greatly benefitted me.”

Sigouin is also enjoying the team atmosphere that comes with playing University tennis.

“I just enjoying getting to go out onto the court and playing with my team. When you play here, you represent your school, your teammates, the fans, the alumni and the list goes on and on. We have entered into a brotherhood and it gives you extra motivation when you play a match.”

Photo credit: Sarah-Jäde Champagne

Once he is done with his studies, the Vancouver native hopes to turn pro full time, having already taken part in a few ITF and Challenger tournaments over the past two years. This summer, he is looking to participate in the ATP Challenger events in Gatineau and Granby. But first, he will be in action at the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships, being held from May 16 to 25 in Orlando, Florida.

*Feature photo: UNC