Career Records & Honors
Seasons Coaching: Seventh
Career Record: 95-76 (.556%)
Southern Regional Results:
When Per Nilsson returned to Starkville, Miss., in 2008 as the newest head coach of the Maroon and White, he was tasked with returning Mississippi State back to the national spotlight in collegiate tennis.
Seven years later, Nilsson has made the Bulldogs a household name the collegiate ranks once again, not just on the court, but in the classroom as well.
Most recently, the 2014 campaign featured a bit of a project for Nilsson, who was tasked with leading a squad of five newcomers (four freshmen, one JUCO) and three returnees (one sophomore, two seniors). Not to be deterred by a youth-heavy roster, Nilsson continued the winning tradition of MSU men's tennis in a season highlighted by the program's fourth-straight and 23rd overall appearance in the NCAA Championship. Nilsson's 2014 team earned 19 victories on the season, tying for seventh all time in overall season wins in the MSU record book. Of those 19 wins, the highlights came in back-to-back top-30 wins against No. 26 Harvard and No. 21 Memphis to send the Bulldogs to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship for a second-straight year, where they would defeat fourth-ranked Georgia for the first time since 2005.
Individually, Nilsson continued his stellar reputation for developing young talent, as freshman Florian Lakat topped the MSU lineup for a majority of the season en route to earning a school-record tying four SEC Freshman of the Week honors. The honors and earning 36 overall (singles & doubles) wins propelled Lakat to SEC Freshman of the Year honors, the third time one of Nilsson's players has captured the award, while also becoming the 17th All-SEC honor for the head coach with Second Team and Freshman Team conference honors. Capping the year was a bid to the NCAA Singles Championship for the freshman, the 10th selection for singles play since Nilsson took over in 2008.
Also of note inidividually was the doubles squad of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp, who earned their second-straight NCAA Doubles Championship bid and the fourth in the past five years for Nilsson. The doubles run was ended in the round of 16, which signaled the end of Stropp's time as a Bulldog. Under Nilsson's leadership, Stropp broke into the top ten of several categories in the MSU record book. The All-SEC star captured numerous awards in his time in the Maroon and Whiteboth on and off the court.
The 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons saw the biggest resurgence from the Bulldog tennis program. Nilsson’s 2011 squad returned MSU to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2005, as State advanced to the second round. The Maroon and White also captured the 2011 SEC West crown, the first in school history. Nilsson and his squad found similar success in 2012, capturing a second-straight SEC West title, while earning a hosting bid for the 1st and 2nd rounds of the NCAA Championship for the first time in school history. State finished the year ranked No. 11 nationally, Nilsson’s first top-15 squad and the school’s highest final ranking in 14 years.
However, the Bulldogs found their greatest success under Nilsson in 2013. Nilsson’s young squad (four freshmen rotating throughout the lineup for the year) destroyed expectations and returned MSU to the NCAA Championship Round of 16 for the first time since 2001. State finished with an 18-10 record, going 6-6 in SEC play. The 2013 season also saw MSU return to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship for the first time in 13 years, while also capturing their second-straight River Hills Cup (annual battle against in-state foe Ole Miss in Jackson, Miss.).
Individually, junior Malte Stropp and freshman Jordan Angus paired together for one of the top doubles squads in the nation, finishing the season ranked 14th with a 21-17 record. Seven of those wins came against ranked opponents, including defeating the No. 1 duo of Dan Cochrane and Andreas Mies of Auburn, the first win against the nation’s top duo by a Bulldog squad since 2001. In singles, Stropp pulled in 22 wins, with 15 coming in dual match play and six against ranked opponents. Angus put together 22 victories for the year, including an 11-0 start to the dual match season, the best start by a freshman in recorded MSU history.
For his career, Nilsson has compiled a 95-76 record, while going 36-42 in the tough Southeastern Conference. Entering his eighth year, Nilsson’s squads have captured two SEC West titles and earned four-straight NCAA appearances, with one run to the Round of 16 in 2013. Nilsson’s squads have also produced four ITA All-Americans, 17 All-SEC selections, one ITA National Freshman of the Year and three SEC Freshman of the Year.
Nilsson has racked up the honors for himself as well throughout his time at MSU, including an SEC Coach of the Year honor in 2011 and two ITA Southern Region Coach of the Year honors in 2011 and 2013.
In the classroom, Nilsson’s teams have been just as dominant. MSU has been named an ITA All-Academic team for the past five seasons, producing 40 Academic All-SEC selections and 29 ITA Scholar-Athlete selections. Nilsson has also had two players named ITA Academic All-America: Louis Cant (2011 CoSIDA At-Large, 2012 Capital One First Team) and Artem Ilyushin (2012 Capital One Second Team).
Nilsson was named the 18th head coach in Mississippi State men’s tennis history on August 1, 2007, succeeding former Bulldog and teammate Slyvain Guichard.
In addition to his coaching duties, Nilsson also presently serves as the chair for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Southern Regional Committee. In that role, he is influential in determining the ITA regional and national rankings, selecting entrants into the ITA's national tournaments, and choosing ITA regional and national award winners.
Nilsson came to MSU from Pepperdine University where he spent five years as an assistant. During that period, he was instrumental in the resurgence of the Waves tennis program on the national level. PU was 119-38 in his five seasons on staff while extending the school's streak of West Coast Conference titles to 17 straight.
Easily highlighting his resume while in Malibu was the 2006 campaign when Pepperdine claimed its first-ever national championship. Nilsson was very involved in Pepperdine's recruiting efforts leading up to that season, which saw the Waves post a 36-2 record and hand Georgia its only loss of the season in the NCAA title match at Stanford, Calif.
Leading up to that crowning season, Pepperdine improved from 27th in the country in 2004 to No. 8 nationally in '05, a year in which Nilsson was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's West Region Assistant Coach of the Year. The Waves advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals that campaign, ending at 24-3.
Prior to moving to Malibu, Nilsson spent seven years teaching tennis in the Atlanta area. From 2000-02, Nilsson served as the director of tennis at the St. Marlo Country Club. Among his duties were to manage the facility, develop tennis programs, supervise the tennis staff and coach team and individual tennis. From 1998-2000, Nilsson was the Director of Tennis at Appalachee Farms. In that capacity, Nilsson managed and directed all tennis activities. Nilsson spent three prior years as the head tennis pro at the Capital City Country Club.
A four-year letterman for the Bulldogs from 1991-1994, Nilsson posted an impressive 91 career singles victories for MSU (ranks seventh all-time in career singles wins) and compiled a 73-45 mark in doubles play which is sixth best in MSU history. Nilsson was a part of the MSU squad in 1993 that captured the SEC Championship. Nilsson had a solid junior campaign in 1993, finishing the season with a 29-18 overall record. He posted 16 dual match wins which was second best on the team that season. During his senior year in 1994, Nilsson served as the co-captain of the team and helped lead State to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship.
While at State, Nilsson reached as high as 19th nationally in the singles rankings during his senior season.
A native of Lund, Sweden, Nilsson was a high school exchange student at Jackson (Miss.) Academy as a prepster and was the 1990 Mississippi Academy singles champion. He is married to the former Beth Vennerstrom of St. Augustine, Fla.