Hall of Fame: Tennis great Daniel Klemetz to be enshrined in 2018 class

Sep 29, 2018 at 08:00 am by Voice Wire

Daniel Klemetz

Take a look inside the Blue Raider Hall of Fame at Middle Tennessee, and you'll find a group of talented tennis players.

Perhaps none of them were better on the court than 2018 HOF inductee Daniel Klemetz, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better person, too.
Klemetz played in the middle of what could be coined the "Golden Age of Tennis" at MTSU, and he was possibly the Golden Boy.
The Vanersborg, Sweden native was maybe the best recruit ever to commit to the Blue Raiders after being ranked eighth nationally in Sweden as a senior in high school at De La Gardie-skolan in Lidkoping. He chose Middle Tennessee in 1999 over the likes of Baylor, Fresno State, South Alabama, Stanford and Tulane.
Klemetz hit the ground running in the Boro, winning a program-record 29 matches in his freshman season, a record that still stands. He was named All-Ohio Valley Conference, the first of six all-conference titles in his career across the OVC and Sun Belt Conference.
His immediate success came because of a comfortability he felt in the program.
"There are a lot of other foreign players there, and it's easy to blend into a team of foreigners when you're a foreigner yourself," Klemetz said. "Coach Short managed to get really good international players together and get good results."
A wrist injury slowed Klemetz at the end of his sophomore fall season, but in the spring, he picked it up, winning 29 matches for the second straight year and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Championships.
Determined to keep improving, Klemetz made history in 2002.
He was ranked 12th in the country in singles at the beginning of the spring after a productive fall season, and proved the rankings right. He posted a 16-3 singles record in the spring and was ranked ninth going into the NCAA Championships, giving him All-American honors, the second Blue Raider ever to do so as a singles competitor.
Maybe the most important honor ever bestowed on a Blue Raider was given to Klemetz during the NCAA Championships. He was named the Tennis Magazine/Arthur Ashe Jr. Sportsmanship Award Winner, a national award given to a student-athlete who shows great athletic play along with leadership, sportsmanship and academic prowess.
"Overall, he was probably the ultimate student-athlete," legendary MTSU Head Coach Dale Short said. "He was incredibly smart as well as having probably the best character of any student-athlete I ever had … and, obviously, he was the best player in the country.
"For him to win the Arthur Ashe Award – that's the upmost honor that any student-athlete can get – it showed how he's just a tremendous positive impact for so many people. I was very, very fortunate to have someone like him. He had the whole package."
Klemetz followed the All-American nod in his junior year with a stellar fall campaign as a senior.
He won the ITA All-American Championships singles title, being named the second national champion in program history after fellow 2018 Blue Raider HOF inductees David McNamara and Julius Robberts won the tournament's doubles title in 1997.
McNamara was an assistant coach with the Raiders during 2002, and he had a hand in helping Klemetz take the title.
"I think I remember most vividly the night before the finals, when David forced me to go down into a tub of ice because I'd played four really tough matches back-to-back," Klemetz said. "That wasn't a pleasant experience, but it worked."
After the All-American Championships win, Klemetz rose to No. 1 in the national ITA rankings, the first Blue Raider or Sun Belt Conference player to ever achieve that feat.
In the spring of 2003, he went on to reach the NCAA Championships Round of 16, the second singles player to go that far in program history, and was named All-American for the second year. He was ranked 17th at the conclusion of his career.
Klemetz's 109 career singles wins are still ranked second all-time at MTSU, and he's also still third on the career combined wins list with 180.
When his collegiate days ended, he had a short professional tennis career before moving back to Sweden, getting a master's degree and becoming a market analyst for Volvo.
He started working voluntarily and part-time at a church, and after a while decided to quit his job at Volvo to continue working at the church, where he stayed for 10 years and eventually became a pastor.
It was in his next job where Klemetz started using what he learned at Middle Tennessee the most.
"Three years ago, when we moved to a different city, I started working with refugees coming to Sweden, mostly from Syria," he said. "We have had several hundred thousand refugees come to Sweden from Syria, and I've been working with governmental agencies trying to help them find jobs and help them get into the Swedish society.
"One thing that I learned at Middle more than anything else was the power in having people believe in you … and that's what I've carried with me into my job now."
On Saturday, Klemetz will be among a group six other individuals inducted into the Blue Raider Hall of Fame.
"It's a great honor," he said. "I was astonished when I got the message. It feels like yesterday I was here almost, and it's been 15 years."
The Hall will not only gain maybe its greatest tennis player ever, but it might just add its greatest all-around student-athlete, also.
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 goblueraiders.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.

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