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Bobby Reynolds WTT photo
Bobby Reynolds Takes Long Road to Vanderbilt Degree

Written By: Joshua Rey

March 12, 2015

 

It's August 20, 2014, and the first round of men's qualifying is underway at the US Open.

 

Ten times over the last 11 years, Bobby Reynolds has competed at the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world. It's where he faced former Top 5 players David Nalbandian, Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Robredo, and went toe-to-toe with Rafael Nadal on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

 

But today, Bobby's battling a different opponent altogether: traffic.

 

It's the first day of his senior year at Vanderbilt University, and after an 11-year hiatus, he's commuting 232 miles from Marietta, Ga. He'll bunk with his brother-in-law three nights a week this semester and spend the other four back home.

 

"It was a little bit of a grind," said Reynolds.

 

The American was grinding long before rebooting his business studies in Nashville, Tenn.

 

Reynolds carrying the Mylan World TeamTennis trophy
Photo courtesy of Kevin Koski

On July 27, 2014, he ended his pro tennis career by leading the Washington Kastles to their fourth consecutive Mylan World TeamTennis Championship. It wasn't Pete Sampras winning the Open, but for Reynolds, it was a fitting finale to a decade's worth of workmanlike results.

 

He won main draw singles matches and reached the Round of 16 in doubles at all four Grand Slams. He surpassed Stanford coach Paul Goldstein with a men's record 31 USTA Pro Circuit titles. Hell, he even took a set off Roger Federer in the living legend's hometown.

 

All eyes were on Reynolds in Basel, just like they were last summer when he walked into Dr. Robert Crowson's classroom.

 

"It was a little odd being 32 and I think my TA was about 27 and all of the kids in my class were at the oldest 22," Reynolds said, laughing. "They definitely looked around and were like, who is this old guy?"

 

Only the greatest tennis player in Vanderbilt history, that's who.

 

Reynolds led the Commodores to their first and only SEC Tournament Championship in 2003, one year after Vanderbilt went 1-10 in conference play. The Dores didn't stop there, rallying past Pepperdine and saving two match points against UCLA before falling 4-3 to Illinois in the NCAA Championship match.

Bobby Reynolds 2014 Washington Kastles Highlights + Interviews
Bobby Reynolds 2014 Washington Kastles Highlights + Interviews

 

"Bobby was huge, just huge," Vanderbilt coach Ken Flach said following the win over the Waves. "It's amazing how much heart he has. He was down a break in the third and knew his team needed him. He simply put us on his neck, like he has all year."

 

Lining up at No. 1 singles and doubles for Flach, Reynolds was named the Most Outstanding Player of the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. He ended his junior season as the ITA National Player to Watch.

 

But there would be no more watching Reynolds in collegiate competition. He turned pro prior to his senior year, confident that Vanderbilt had fully prepared him.

Reynolds in Vanderbilt attire
Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University

 

"I would tell every junior -- unless they're just so good -- that there's no reason not to go to college and play tennis there for at least a couple years," said Reynolds. "You're able to grow up. You're away from your parents. You get to run time management and be in a social setting... It's really tough, as it is, to be on tour and then try to be young and social also."

 

From Aruba to Vietnam, Reynolds competed in 24 different countries professionally. But he always had a soft spot for Vanderbilt. Reynolds returned to the Currey Tennis Center each November from 2004 to 2008, winning the Music City Challenger singles title in 2005 and the doubles crown two years later.

 

In 2009, Reynolds reached career-high rankings of No. 63 in singles and No. 46 in doubles before a wrist injury forced his withdrawal from the US Open.

 

After missing six months, Reynolds fell outside the Top 400. He got back on the grind in February of 2010, plugging away at Challenger events and in qualifying draws to rebuild his rankings to No. 109 in singles and No. 103 in doubles. But he'd never crack the Top 100 again.

 

"You can't make a living playing Challengers," said Reynolds, who estimates that a pro spends $120,000 annually on coaching and travel expenses. "The points are what you play the Challengers for so hopefully you get your ranking inside the Top 100 and you stay up there."

 

During the post-injury phase of Reynolds' career, he made a second home in Washington with the Kastles. It was as if the guy from Flach's quote, who carried the Commodores to the NCAA final, never lost his ability to lead. 

Reynolds giving his retirement speech at Kastles Stadium
Photo courtesy of Rich Kessler

For three weeks each July, Reynolds served as the Kastles' iron man. He played in all 78 of the team's WTT matches from 2010 through 2014, helping Washington to two perfect seasons, four league titles and a record-setting 34-match win streak.

 

"My best time on tour was playing for the Kastles," said Reynolds. "I grew up playing team sports and I feel like whenever I'm on a team, the best side of me comes out because I'm able to hoot, holler, have fun and relax. I'm playing for something greater than just myself."

 

Reynolds' parents, Robert and Joyce, were in attendance when he served out his final home match for the Kastles. They were also there for Reynolds' last main draw singles match at a Grand Slam.

Reynolds during his last Grand Slam main draw singles 
match at 2013 Wimbledon
Photo courtesy of Fred Mullane (Camerawork USA)

 

After beating fellow ITA All-Americans Rhyne Williams and Steve Johnson, Reynolds worked his way out of qualifying and onto Centre Court at Wimbledon. His opponent was World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and with rain falling on the retractable roof, theirs was the only match being played.

 

If you were a tennis fan with a television on June 27, 2013, you were watching Bobby Reynolds.

 

"To be in that situation was surreal," said Reynolds. "This is everything I've worked for. I have nothing to lose basically because I'm here; I'm on this court. It was a really neat feeling. Honestly, I didn't even understand that because it was raining they were only going to be showing my match. I'm probably lucky that I didn't know... I would have been even more nervous."

 

Djokovic won 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-1.

 

That doesn't cross Reynolds' mind on August 20, 2014. His 15-month-old son Parker does. His wife Josie, expecting their second child, does.

 

There wouldn't be a Reynolds family without Vanderbilt. It's where a sophomore tennis player met a freshman heptathlete, starting a love that stood the tests of time and distance also known as the ATP World Tour.

 

Like her husband, Josie was a two-time All-American. They both still boast Vanderbilt records: Josie for her six-foot high jump in 2004; Bobby for his 46 singles wins in 2003.

 

To think, he would have gone to Illinois were it not for his childhood coach David Drew.

 

"He made me list the pros and cons of every part of the school," said Reynolds. "The conference, the girls, the partying, the tennis, the coach. You name it and it was on that list. Eighty to 90 percent of the checkmarks were in Vanderbilt's favor other than tennis. He looked at me and he said, 'What's going to happen if you get hurt and you can never play tennis again?'" 

Reynolds with wife Josie and son Parker
Photo courtesy of Rich Kessler

Husband, father and retired tennis player Bobby Reynolds is about to find out.

 

After acing Djokovic eight times on Centre Court, he aced all four of his courses last fall. An internship away from graduation, Reynolds is honing his skills this semester at Benich Dental in Woodstock, Ga., where Josie is a dental associate.

 

He dreams of coaching the Commodores one day, but for now, Reynolds is considering a family practice.

 

"In the next couple years, she's going to want to have her own place," said Reynolds. "Hopefully this helps and I can get a little more understanding of the whole business and behind-the-scenes stuff... In the end, I might be her boss."

 

Come commencement on May 8, there's no reason why not.