STARKVILLE, Miss. – Matt Roberts has been named Mississippi State’s new head men’s tennis coach, as announced by athletic director Scott Stricklin Saturday. The hiring is pending the approval of the Board of Trustees, Institutions of Higher Learning.
Roberts steps into the head coaching role after two seasons as MSU’s assistant under Per Nilsson, who accepted the head women’s tennis coaching position at Pepperdine recently. During those two years, Roberts has been highly instrumental in the continued resurgence of MSU men’s tennis into the national spotlight, helping to guide the Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA Championship appearances, including the NCAA Round of 16 in 2013.
“I'm very honored and appreciative of the opportunity to lead the storied MSU men’s tennis program,” Roberts said. “I look forward to continuing the success we have had, particularly what we have worked hard to build during the past two seasons.
“The future of our program looks very bright and my goal is to continue to recruit character individuals at Mississippi State that will lead to great team chemistry, while also emphasizing academics and professional development.”
Roberts joined the MSU program in the summer of 2012. From day one, he hit the ground running, bringing to Starkville a wealth of coaching experience.
The new MSU leader has indeed been key in the Bulldogs continuing their return to the top of the national collegiate tennis scene and 2014 was a perfect example. Roberts assisted Nilsson in coaching the 2014 squad to 19 total victories (t7th at MSU all-time) and its fourth-straight and 23rd overall appearance in the NCAA Championship. The Bulldogs finished the season ranked 19th (fourth straight top 20 finish), making it 54-straight weeks that the Bulldogs have now been ranked in the ITA top 25. Individually, Roberts helped recruit and coach rookie Florian Lakat to SEC Freshman of the Year and All-SEC Second Team honors, along with NCAA Individual Championships bids for Lakat and the nationally-ranked doubles squad of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp. Roberts was named 2014 ITA Southern Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
In his first season as assistant for the Maroon and White, Roberts helped guide the Bulldogs back to the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time since 2001. MSU compiled an 18-10 record in 2013 and were ranked as high as No. 9 nationally, allowing MSU to host the NCAA First/Second Rounds for the second-consecutive season. MSU finished ranked 11th in the nation.
“We are very excited to announce Matt Roberts as our next head men’s tennis coach,” Stricklin said. “He has been an integral part of the success we have had recently and having him lead our program will give us the opportunity to continue the great culture and approach he and Per have worked hard to establish.
“Matt has ties to the SEC as a player and coach, and a great vision for keeping our tradition-rich program in position to consistently compete for championships on the conference and national levels.”
Roberts came to MSU after spending the prior three seasons as an assistant at Michigan State, where he was a key factor to the Spartans’ success working with legendary coach Gene Orlando. Prior to that, Roberts was a volunteer assistant tennis coach at Arkansas-Little Rock (2008), where he helped lead the men's tennis team to one of its most successful campaigns in the program's history. Other positions Roberts has held include tennis pro at Proutsneck Country Club in Maine (2007-09) and tennis pro/recreational director at the Wal-Mart Fitness Center (2006-07).
No stranger to the SEC, Roberts was a three-time captain and four-year letterwinner (2003-06) at the University of Arkansas, showing that he knows what it's like to compete in the rigors of the toughest league in the nation. During his time in Fayetteville, Roberts amassed a career record of 84-50 in singles play, helping lead his team to a top 25 ranking in each of his four seasons. Roberts' upperclassman years were where he shined the most, registering a 54-19 record and two All-SEC honors as a junior and senior.
Before attending Arkansas, Roberts was one of the top-ranked juniors in the United States. From 2000-02, he was ranked as the No. 1 Southern junior and climbed to be as high as number seven in the national junior rankings. Roberts was an instrumental part in Pulaski Academy winning the 2002 Arkansas High School State Championship, where he also captured the individual championship.
While playing professionally on the ATP circuit, Roberts achieved career high rankings of No. 517 (singles) and No. 522 (doubles).
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Roberts graduated from Arkansas in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in coaching and teaching.