Blue Raider Hall of Fame: Dynamic doubles duo made MT history

Sep 27, 2018 at 11:00 am by Voice Wire

David McNamara and Julius Robberts

Middle Tennessee has been graced with plenty of outstanding foreign tennis players, particularly in doubles competition. One duo helped pave the way for that.

David McNamara and Julius Robberts may have grown up on different continents - McNamara is Australian, while Robberts hails from South Africa - but when they connected on the court in Murfreesboro, they were unstoppable.

They'll be recognized on Saturday with five other former MT student-athletes as the newest class inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame.

"It's a great honor to be inducted, first of all, and to be inducted with David means the world to me," Robberts said. "Our run as a doubles duo was just an incredible experience, and to be able to do that with David and to be inducted at the same time is just a special moment for me and for him."

In 1997, the Blue Raider men's team had maybe its best season ever, finishing 17th overall in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings, still a program best, while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship.

That season, alongside nationally ranked singles players Fred Niemeyer (fourth) and Anthony DeLuise (39th), the doubles team of David McNamara and Julius Robberts made MTSU history.

The duo captured the first national championship in program and Ohio Valley Conference history when they won the ITA All-American Championship doubles competition, dropping only one set in five matches to win the title.

"That was a special moment, and it really came out of nowhere," McNamara said. "There were a lot of special moments for Julius and I, and that was definitely one of them."

The duo went on to finish ranked 16th in the country in the ITA rankings in 1997, then followed with a 13th-place ranking as seniors in 1998, at the time a program record for a doubles team. They were also ITA All-Americans in 1998.

By the time they were finished, Robberts was a four-time All-OVC honoree, while McNamara was a three-time recipient. Robberts also finished fifth all-time at MTSU in career wins (175) and doubles win percentage (.725) and fourth doubles wins (95), while McNamara was fourth in total wins (179), fifth in doubles wins (94) and seventh in doubles win percentage (.701). Both are also on the top-10 list all-time in singles wins.

It was the way they complimented each other both on and off the court that led to early success and a fast friendship that's lasted through the years.

"We complimented each other well," McNamara said. "It was sort of the things I didn't do well, Julius did do well. Even our personalities - I was very much an emotional player and in your face, and Julius was calm, cool - that was somewhat opposite on the tennis court, and especially in doubles, you feed off each other."

Both players also fell in love with the Murfreesboro community.

Coming from outside of the United States, foreign players have often found a home in the Boro, and it was no different for Robberts and McNamara.

"It's the Southern charm," Robberts said. "It's just how accepting the community is of the student-athletes coming in there, and especially the foreign ones. The community is so loving, and I just remember the time I was there how they were so welcoming to us. They took care of us like we were one of their own kids."

"Coach Dale Short did an amazing job of building this family environment, too," McNamara said. "My teammates and I, including Julius, the majority of us are all still very close. My good friendships are from that team."

Life after playing at Middle Tennessee has taken McNamara and Robberts on different paths. McNamara played professionally and had a head coaching stint at MTSU from 2008-10 after Short retired. Robberts spent time as a school psychologist before becoming a tennis pro and coach, and now he's the co-owner of Olde Towne Athletic Club in Marietta, Georgia.

Their paths will connect again on Saturday where it all started two decades ago, and with them will be friends and family members from South Africa and Australia.

They'll all celebrate two of the best foreign student-athletes to ever call Murfreesboro and MTSU home.

This is a part of a series of stories about the Blue Raider Hall of Fame inductees leading up to Saturday's Hall of Fame game. Induction ceremonies will take place on the lawn of the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at 3:30 p.m., prior to this year's Hall of Fame Game vs. Florida Atlantic at 6 p.m.

Josh Vardaman is the staff writer for Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.

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