The 12-time SEC regular season champions are entering a new era under the newly hired Gators men’s tennis head coach, Adam Steinberg.
After 11 successful seasons, former head coach Bryan Shelton stepped down to spend more time coaching his son, Ben Shelton, who reached the semifinal of the US Open Sept. 8.
Three weeks after Bryan Shelton stepped down, UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin hired Steinberg for the upcoming season.
With back-to-back NCAA quarterfinals appearances with the Michigan Wolverines and 32 Division I head coaching seasons, Steinberg brought a wealth of experience to Gainesville. But it wasn't just his resume that made him stand out; it was his unique approach to the game.
“I think he brings something a bit different to [the] University of Florida and definitely to men's tennis,” said Florida junior Nate Bonetto. “It's his own style, and I think it's been proven to be very successful.”
Bonetto’s relationship with Steinberg dates back to his junior year of high school when Florida and Michigan recruited him. He chose to become a Gator to let go of his opportunity to work with Steinberg, but now he finds himself enjoying the best of both worlds.
“He called me right after he accepted the job, and the first thing he said was, you know, it's funny how life comes full circle,” Bonetto said. “We didn't get the opportunity in my first two years to work together, but I think we're both very excited to work with each other now.”
Florida graduate student Magnus Johnson, who recently transferred from Florida Gulf Coast University, quickly noticed Steinberg's dedication to strengthening the team's connection.
“He seemed like a guy who really invested in his players,” Johnson said. “He really wanted to create a tight bond with the guys he works with and wants them to become the best that they can.”
Steinberg's initiatives ranged from simple gestures like high-fiving on the court to encouraging teammates by calling out their names. Johnson emphasized this approach contributed to the team's positive mindset, even when things didn't go as planned.
“We all trust each other and we all know we're working hard,” he added. “But if someone's feeling down, I think it's important for the team to just be there.”
As a recent addition to the team, Johnson was at the forefront of shaping a supportive team atmosphere. It was one of the most important aspects of the game to him, and Steinberg recognized that, Johnson said.
“I think that will be the first priority to [say] ‘Hey, this is who we are as a program,’” Steinberg said. “‘This is how we're going to live every day as a team and go from there.’”
The coach believes a healthy team dynamic begins with players investing in each other’s lives, both on and off the court.
“When that happens, you can achieve things sometimes you never thought possible,” Steinberg said.
But Steinberg’s main goal of the season was also his most compelling reason for coming to UF — winning a national championship.
“The goal for me coming to Florida every year is to compete for SEC and national championships,” Steinberg said. “Be one of those teams that's in the mix every single year to do that.”
Florida’s 2023-2024 men’s tennis roster only has two returning players: Bonetto and sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn. The team is considered smaller and younger than most in the country, but Steinberg sees this as a strength.
“The guys in this program, even young players, they've played tennis all over the world against great players,” he said. “They're used to that type of competition…. It's going to bring out the best of them here.”
UF’s recruiting base presented a significant change for Steinberg. The opportunity to recruit top junior tennis players for a Florida school allowed him to rebuild his team effectively.
“I feel like junior tennis, one of the best in the country is here,” he said. “You can recruit the best junior players in the country; you can recruit them right out of Florida.”
Proudly joining the Gator Nation, Steinberg is eager for fans to witness the power of his team and anticipates a season filled with promise, he said.
“Our goal is to keep Florida tennis competitive with the best in the country, and that's what we're gonna do,” Steinberg said.
The Florida men’s tennis team is set to start its season at the United States Tennis Association National Campus Sept. 22 through the 24 to play in the Bedford Cup in Lake Nona, Florida.
Contact Krisha Sanghavi at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @krishasang.
Krisha Sanghavi is a third-year public relations and economics major. In her free time, she loves cheering on Miami sports teams and spending time with her friends.