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Following a three-year stint in professional tennis, Chris Drake is in his third season as Arvid Swan's top assistant coach for the 2009-10 men's tennis season. At the conclusion of the 2009 dual season, Drake was named the ITA Midwest Regional Assistant Coach of the Year for his efforts in leading Northwestern to an 18-9 record and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2004-05 campaign.
"Chris Drake was a great college player at Brown University and a top-100 doubles player in the world on the ATP tour," Swan said. "Chris' collegiate and professional experience as well as his coaching background have allowed him to make an immediate and significant impact on the program. His recognition as Midwest Regional Coach of the Year last spring was well deserved."
Drake's coaching resume includes a 2008 summer during which he coached the doubles team of Eric Butorac (United States) Ashley Fisher (Australia) throughout the French Open and Wimbledon Championships. At the French Open in May, Butorac and Fisher fell to one of the top five doubles teams in the world in Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyet (7-6, 1-6, 7-6). Butorac and Fisher proceeded to claim a five-set win in the first round at Wimbledon before bowing out to the team of Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy.
Butorac and Fisher both went on to claim ATP doubles titles this summer, Buotrac in Los Angeles and Fisher in Indianapolis.
While attending Brown, Drake racked up numerous honors as he led his team to its first Ivy League title. The two-time captain was a unanimous selection to the All-Academic Ivy League team in 2002 and '03 and was one of just seven players in the nation to win the 2003 Region I Rafael Osuna Award, which is given to a player that displays sportsmanship, character, excellence in academics and has outstanding tennis accomplishments.
After his graduation in 2003, Drake began playing on the Futures Tour in 2004. In his first year on tour, he achieved an ATP ranking in both singles and doubles play.
Drake then began playing on the ATP Challenger Tour a year later, where he became the 10th-highest ranked American in the World, was the No. 1 seed in "The Championships Wimbledon" doubles qualifying event in 2006, defeated 12 players ranked in the top 50 of the ATP doubles rankings and won a total of six ATP Challenger doubles titles.
Q&A with Chris Drake
How has the program evolved over the last two years?
"The core values of our program have not changed. This program will always pride itself on the work ethic and determination of its players. In our first year, we lost matches because we were overmatched, but the team worked hard consistently, fighting and competing in every match. This consistent approach translated into success in our second year as we won many close matches because of the tough attitude we developed. After winning some matches against top-30 teams and having chances to defeat top-10 teams, the guys have developed the confidence that they can play with anyone. I think the players have always believed in the program and what we are doing but last year's success really solidified their belief and reinforced what Arvid and I have been telling them--that all the hard work will pay off."
What will it take to get this team to the next level?
"Our team will continue to grow with the improvement each player. We have built a team of hard-working student-athletes. We will continue to recruit top level student-athletes, but we are not going to be a team of former professionals. To compete with teams that have more experience, we need to outwork them and to develop our players. Our current players and our incoming freshmen have all shown that they are motivated to improve and that they have the ability to develop into elite college players. To get our team into the top-25, each player will have to maximize his potential and it is our intention to help each player attain that goal."
How do you relate to the guys on the team and what is your role in helping the players reach their potential?
"I played college tennis and managed to improve my game to the point of being able to have success on the professional circuit while still performing in the classroom. In many ways, I have done what a lot of our players are aspiring to do. I can understand the challenges that they face, but also help them see the tremendous athletic, academic and career opportunities available to them at Northwestern."
What makes being a student-athlete at Northwestern so unique?
"I truly believe that I could not be at a better school and tennis program than Northwestern. NU is so special in that it offers its student athletes the unique opportunity to pursue and top education, have the opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship, and play against the best competition in the country in the Big Ten Conference."