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Junior transfer Jacob Bullard provides a needed boost to the ASU men's tennis squad

Bullard has won five out of his six singles matches this season after having a cold start to his career and looking to 'have a lot of ups and downs'

Jacob Bullard.jpg

ASU junior Jacob Bullard serves during the Sun Devils matchup with San Diego at the Whiteman Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Tempe. ASU won 5-2.

Jacob Bullard has been playing tennis for as long as he can remember. 

From the age of 7 Bullard's parents would take him to play on the weekends and he instantly fell in love with the sport. He would watch his favorite tennis player, Roger Federer every time he could, increasing his already budding interest in the game.

Now, the junior plays on the ASU men's tennis team after transferring from the University of Texas two years ago.

"Since I was first introduced to tennis, I immediately started to love watching it, and even today, I watch a lot of the time," Bullard said. "My parents are just kind of big fans of tennis, and on the weekend, they would take me to play and stuff."

Bullard grew up in Calabasas, California, and his parents started taking him to the annual BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. The best players in the world participate every year in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden — past winners including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, No.1 world player Carlos Alcaraz, and Bullard's idol, Federer. Watching the best in the world go head-to-head inspired Bullard even more. 

Bullard played tennis as much as he could and got a private coach when he was 11. He played all over the world, from Columbia to France, and got to play at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden a couple of times. 

Bullard continued to play in high school and the more time he spent playing, the more he succeeded. He rose up the ITF Junior rankings, going as high as 75th. That success caught the attention of ASU head coach Matt Hill, who met Bullard through the tennis circuits when Bullard was 15, and the two often talked.

His success would lead him to get looks from colleges like ASU, UCLA, Texas Christian University and the school he eventually picked, Texas. He committed at the beginning of his junior year of high school, an early commitment for any college athlete.

Bullard said he picked Texas over the others early because he and his family liked the coaching staff and the university's resources. But by the time Bullard got there, many of the coaches he knew, had left. 

"The coach he committed with wasn't there when he showed up, and that changes everything," Hill said.

Bullard played one full season and the first semester of his sophomore year at Texas. After that, he felt he needed a change, and the first person he called was Hill.

"I just needed a change," Bullard said. "It was a no-brainer for me to call him (Hill), and then things ended up working out, and here I am."

Bullard took his talents to Tempe for the 2021 season, but struggled due to a lack of matches at Texas, some nagging injuries during his inaugural campaign and the absence of overall team success. He only won six of 16 singles matches and never found consistency in doubles.

This season has been the complete opposite.

"I thought he was fantastic over the offseason," Hill said. "He's been doing really well in a lot of good things, like in the areas that we wanted to see him grow in."

For Bullard, once he healed and the number of matches he played grew, the improvements on the court showed, and they showed fast. Bullard has won five out of six singles matches this season and Hill called him one of the most improved players on the new roster. 

"It feels like a breath of fresh air," junior Max McKennon said about the team. "We're all super excited. Our team chemistry is the best it's been since my freshman year." 

ASU is 11-6 this season, and it already has more wins now than the entire campaign last year when the Sun Devils were 9-15. Bullard's performances seem to be a crucial part of the newfound success. 

"I was putting a lot of good work in," Bullard said about his offseason. "I won a lot of matches in the fall, and I was able to kind of carry it into the spring."

For the time being, Bullard has found his groove. However, he knows there will be plenty of uncertainties in the future, but that's just part of tennis, the game he's been playing his whole life.

"You're still going to have a lot of ups and downs," Bullard said. "I'm pretty happy with where things are and how things have been progressing, so you just kind of gotta keep working and see what happens from there."

The men's tennis team next plays in a round of Tempe games against Pac-12 opponents starting Friday against USC, streaming on Pac-12 Network at 6 p.m. MST. 

Edited by Walker Smith, Jasmine Kabiri and Piper Hansen.

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Vinny DeangelisSports Reporter

Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and 

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