Thomas Laurent has every reason to view himself on a higher level when compared to his Oregon teammates.
Just two seasons into his collegiate career, Laurent is firmly established as the Ducks’ top singles players and led Oregon during a historic 2016-2017 season for the program.
Not many would blame Laurent if he strutted with a little bit more swagger, if he acted like “the man” of the team.
But that’s not who the French native is. He just wants to fit in.
“He’s better than all of us, but he doesn’t act like he’s better than all of us,” said Cormac Clissold. “He’s still one of our mates.”
Laurent may just be one of the guys off the court, but on it, his play is far from ordinary. After playing four matches in the No. 1 spot during his freshman year, Laurent was a fixture there for his entire sophomore campaign, in which he put together arguably the greatest individual season in program history.
Laurent compiled a 30-7 record in singles, the most wins for a sophomore in Oregon history, and he won 18 consecutive singles matches, another program record.
Playing in the No. 1 spot, Laurent got each opponent’s best punch. He delivered, though, winning six matches against ranked opponents. His incredible season earned him a spot in the NCAA Singles Tournament, the first Duck since 2005 to qualify.
The scary part? Laurent is beginning his junior season, with his best tennis expected to still be ahead of him.
“I expect him to have a chance to beat anyone he plays,” head coach Nils Schyllander said.
And yet, for a player that is on pace to finish his career as the winningest player in both singles and doubles history at Oregon, Laurent doesn’t like to think of himself as more of a leader than anyone else on the team.
“I think leadership is more outside of the court,” Laurent said. “It’s not just because [I’m in the No. 1 spot] that you’re just deciding whatever the team is doing.”
Laurent may not be the “rah-rah” type of leader, but that doesn’t mean that his teammates don’t follow his direction. Not only does his play speak for itself, but his work outside of it does too. On top of his record-shattering season, Laurent earned first-team all-academic honors in the Pac-12.
“He’s just very relaxed, very chill, doesn’t really speak highly of himself,” Clissold said. “He just goes out on the tennis court, does what he does, comes off and hangs out with us.”
Laurent has picked up where he left off to kick off tournament season. The junior advanced to the semifinals of the ITA All-American championships two weeks ago, qualifying for the ITA Fall Nationals.
“I’m just trying to get good results, and if I get good results, the rankings are going to follow,” Laurent said.
Oregon put together one of its best seasons in 2016-17, posting a 19-7 dual record, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and was consistently ranked in the ITA Top 25.
That ascension begins with the play of Laurent, whose levelheadedness and humble attitude have paved the way into what hopes to be a successful season for the Ducks.
“His play shows where we’re heading as a program, and I’m very proud of everything he’s accomplished out there,” Schyllander said.
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich