Jacob Bullard was likely just too tired to muster up any negative displays of emotion or loud outbursts during last month’s USTA Clay Court Nationals.
The 16-year-old Calabasas High junior said he’s been working on his on-court demeanor and it paid off as he was named the USTA’s Sportsmanship Award winner at the prestigious national event.
“It’s been a long summer and I came home from Kalamazoo just completely exhausted,” said Bullard, who called making the finals of the Clay Court 16s and earning the Sportsmanship award at a national tournament the highlight of his summer. “I thought I maintained my composure pretty good in all my matches. I’m normally pretty intense but I made a big improvement in that area and I think they noticed. This was my first one of these so maybe I’ll start to get more.”
A week after leading the Southern California 16s Intersectional team to fifth place in the nation in Shreveport, La., Bullard came in as the No. 8 seed at the Clay Courts in Florida. “I think I surprised some people at clays making the final because I don’t normally train on clay,” he said. “But I like playing on it and it suits my game. I like the humidity and the heat.”
Following clays, Bullard went up to the 18s and helped SoCal capture the National Team Championships at the University of Illinois. Bullard played No. 5 and won all his matches in singles and two out of three in doubles playing with Palisades’ Jake Sands.
Then it was on to Kalamazoo for the USTA National Hardcourt Championships.
“Looking back, I think I might have played too much,” Bullard reflected. “I’ve never been so tired than I was when I got home.”
Bullard said winning the National Team Championships ranks up there as one of his best tennis moments. “Just playing for great coaches like Trevor [Kronemann] and Grant [Chen] was amazing. It was an honor to be there with them. Everyone on the team was close and we had good chemistry.”
Bullard will begin his junior year at Calabasas High after doing online school last spring semester. “I missed my friends a little bit and I couldn’t motivate myself not having a teacher there,” said Bullard, who attended Chaminade High his freshman year and got to the third round of The Ojai Boys’ CIF event. “I figured it out, but would rather just go to high school.”
Bullard, whose father is the recognizable longtime TV comedian and writer Pat Bullard, a one-time host of the game show Love Connection, said he would like to pursue a possible journalism career, or maybe get into sports broadcasting. “I like English and History,” he said. “Science and Math, not so much.”
Bullard will play the three SoCal USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments in the fall and is looking forward to researching future colleges he would like to play for during his junior year. “I’m looking at TCU, UCLA, USC, Stanford, North Carolina, Duke and Arizona State,” he said. “I’d love to play professional tennis so I want to go somewhere that can give me the best chance and help me do that since that’s always been my dream.”