Finishing Ohio State Tennis Careers with NCAA Doubles Championship “Means the World” to JJ Tracy and Robert Cash

By Dan Hope on May 31, 2024 at 8:35 am
Robert Cash and JJ Tracy
Robert Cash and JJ Tracy (Ohio State Dept. of Athletics)

Robert Cash and JJ Tracy finished their Ohio State tennis careers on the highest of notes.

In their final match as Buckeyes last weekend, Tracy and Cash teamed up to defeat Florida State’s Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc and Joshua Dous-Karpenschif in the NCAA men’s doubles championship match, becoming the second straight Ohio State tandem to win the national title in men’s doubles.

It was a dream-come-true ending to careers full of success for both Buckeyes.

“It means the world,” Tracy told Eleven Warriors on Thursday. “It's something you dream of as a little kid and growing up and watching other people do it, you always think like, ‘I want to be that person, I want to be that team that ends up with the trophy.’ And to finally do it and complete it, it was a perfect, amazing feeling.”

Cash and Tracy entered the doubles tournament with added motivation after the Buckeyes came up short in their quest to win their first-ever team NCAA championship, falling to TCU in the semifinals. While they’re still disappointed they were unable to secure the team title as the No. 1 seed, it made them hungrier to make sure they ended their careers on a positive note rather than a sour one.

“It was gut-wrenching losing that semifinal match. And I know that means the world to JJ and I, and it meant the world to everybody on our team and our program,” Cash said. “It was so tough losing that match, but for both of us, it was our last matches, last tournament as a Buckeye. So we definitely didn't want to leave that bad taste in our mouth. And we wanted to go out and do what we do best and compete as hard as we can. And yeah, we definitely wanted to end our career as a Buckeye on top.”

While the NCAA team title continued to elude Ohio State this year, Cash and Tracy accomplished just about everything else during their Buckeye career. Cash, who played five seasons for the Buckeyes, leaves Ohio State as the program’s all-time leader in doubles wins (148). Tracy, who played four seasons as a Buckeye, ranks fifth all-time in combined singles and doubles wins (235).

Despite their individual accolades, both of them pointed to Ohio State’s team championship at the ITA Indoor Nationals this season as their favorite memory as Buckeyes.

“I wanted to do it for the team, for the program, for the fans, for everybody involved with Ohio State tennis,” Cash said. “That one meant so much to me and meant so much to everyone around me.”

The fact that both of them grew up in Central Ohio – Tracy in Powell, Cash in New Albany – made it all the more meaningful for both of them to help the Buckeyes win throughout their OSU careers.

“To be able to do it as a Columbus and an Ohio native just means so much because everybody in Central Ohio bleeds scarlet and gray,” Cash said.

“Growing up and watching other people do it, you always think like, ‘I want to be that person, I want to be that team that ends up with the trophy.’ And to finally do it and complete it, it was a perfect, amazing feeling.”– JJ Tracy on winning the NCAA doubles championship

Both of them credit Ty Tucker, Justin Kronauge and the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff with playing an integral role in their development as tennis players over the past four to five years.

“They are the most passionate coaches that you'll find,” Cash said. “Coach Ty and Coach Kro are just high-level coaches that care so much and want us to get better every single day they're out here. No matter the time of the day, they're always ready to put in the work. And every time we step on the court, it's 100% or nothing. So it's just, we like to say, stacking good days on top of good days. And that's just giving 100% and doing everything you can and really focusing on every shot you hit throughout practice. And it really adds up. In my five years, I got so much better.”

Because of the foundation the coaches have built, Cash and Tracy are confident Ohio State will continue to have success even though they and three other seniors who played key roles – Cannon Kingsley, Justin Boulais and Andrew Lutschaunig – are leaving the program.

“I know everybody is ready,” Cash said. “We practice against them every day. They can hang with everybody. Everyone can beat everybody. So just won't be surprised to see Ohio State right where we left off. We've been (ranked) in the top five for the last 18 years … We never have down years. That just shows how good Ty and Kro are at their job.”

While their Ohio State careers are now finished, Tracy and Cash will have the opportunity to fulfill another tennis dream later this summer. As a reward for winning the NCAA doubles championship, Cash and Tracy received a wild card berth into the main draw of the U.S. Open, where the first round of doubles will be held on Aug. 28 and 29 in New York.

“I brought it up earlier about having the national championship be something you dreamed of as a little kid, but playing in the U.S. Open is something that every tennis player wants to do,” Tracy said. “And the fact that we could see our names out there playing against one of the top 20 singles players in the world or any of the top 25 doubles players in the world is just a dream come true. It makes you want to train even harder so you can go out there, compete, and be your best.”

Tracy will begin his professional tennis career next week by playing in the Tyler Tennis Championships on the ATP Challenger Tour. Cash, who aspires to be a surgeon, had decided before his final season as a Buckeye that he would go to medical school rather than pursue a professional tennis career, but he now plans to test the pro waters over the next year before deciding whether to start medical school.

“I really wanted to go to medical school, that's always been my dream. But winning the NCAA Championship definitely changes something because, you know, a wild card into the U.S. Open is something that's extremely valuable and can definitely kick-start a career,” Cash said. “So definitely now evaluating my further options regarding my future, just trying to take it day by day and make the right decision.”

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