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Opinion: Record-breaking men’s tennis unstoppable on Columbus courts

sports_menstennisWith cameras raised and the volume so low you could hear a pin drop, Ohio State senior Peter Kobelt stepped up to the line to serve for match point against Northwestern’s senior Raleigh Smith.

It seemed routine, as Kobelt has sealed so many matches for the OSU men’s tennis team this season. But this meant so much more than any other match.

He lofted the ball up and, with one powerful swing, rocketed his serve at Smith, who could barely get a racket on it. Smith’s return barely made it over the net and Kobelt knew exactly what to do with it. He fired into the corner of the court for the win, secure the match and history for the Buckeyes.

Kobelt had just sealed the deal to complete OSU’s 185th consecutive home win. That’s more than any other team in any other sport in the history of the NCAA.

One hundred eighty-five straight.

If the magnitude of that many wins doesn’t sink in, then consider this: The beginning of the streak started with a 5-2 win over Purdue on April 5, 2003.

That’s 4,104 days ago.

At that time, “Finding Nemo” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” were some of the top-grossing movies at the box office and “In Da Club” by 50 Cent and “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly were the top songs on the radio. Do you feel old yet?

Dominance like that over a nearly 11-year span is beyond impressive. Dominance might even be too light of a term to describe the run. When it comes to the Buckeyes playing at the Varsity Tennis Center, perfection seems like a more appropriate word.

In the sports world, teams don’t just stay good like this, but the Buckeyes have proven to be magical in Columbus.

The Super Bowl champions when this streak started were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since then, the Buccaneers have had four different coaches and have become the bottom-dwellers of the NFC South.

Roger Federer, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, had not yet won a Grand Slam title when the Buckeyes began their streak. He now has the most ever with 17.

Over a decade, this remarkable winning streak has seen its way through the invention of the smartphone, three presidential elections and inflation of gas prices (it was $1.49 per gallon in Ohio in April 2003).

The Buckeyes have fielded 10 All-Americans during the streak, including having at least one each season since 2004. They also have had a doubles national championship in 2012 (Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola) and a singles champion in 2013 (Rola).

Kobelt is the only All-American on the roster now, but one man who has been at every win throughout the streak is head coach Ty Tucker.

Playing at Ohio State from 1989-91, Tucker was a two-time All-American before going pro in 1992.

He returned to Ohio State as an assistant coach in 1995 and became head coach in 1999. Since then he has turned the Buckeyes into a national power and Kobelt referred to this streak as “his baby.”

After beating Illinois Sunday, the Buckeyes only have three more opponents left on their 2014 home slate in Tulsa, Iowa and Nebraska. As the No. 2 team in the nation, though, it is likely they will host a regional for the NCAA tournament to try and add on even more wins to the streak.

With Kobelt being the lone senior on the team, the future still looks bright for OSU with younger members of the roster looking to extend dominance the Buckeyes have managed so far in Columbus.

The Buckeyes (21-2, 6-0) are next scheduled to play at Minnesota Friday at 3 p.m.

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