Former University of Florida All-American Mark Merklein, perhaps the most decorated men’s tennis player in UF history, is returning to Gainesville as an assistant coach, head coach Bryan Shelton announced on Friday. Merklein will join Shelton and volunteer assistant Scott Perelman on the Gators’ coaching staff beginning this summer.
Amer Delic, who served as the assistant coach this season, has taken a job as the Director of Tennis at The Polo Club in Austin, Texas.
“As sad as we were to see Amer leave, we are thrilled to welcome Mark back to Gainesville,” said Coach Shelton. “Mark had an amazing collegiate career here and went onto have a great professional career and has become an exceptional coach at the highest level. Mark is highly respected in the tennis community as being a great guy and our guys are going to enjoy working with him and learning from him. Coach Perelman and I can't wait to combine with Mark and lead this program to the top.”
“For me, it’s something that I’ve wanted for a while,” said Merklein. “Especially now with Bryan there, a guy that I played on the tour with and looked up to. He was kind of a mentor for me, and now we get to work together to get the program into the top 10 and challenge for national championships. That’s what my plan was when I went to Florida as a player and now I want to do that as a coach.”
Merklein, who lettered at Florida from 1991-94, was the first Gator to earn All-America honors in both singles and doubles and was a two-time individual national champion. In 1993, he teamed with David Blair to win the NCAA doubles title and a year later he dominated the NCAA singles draw, dropping just one set the entire tournament on his way to claiming the singles title.
“The people and the relationships that I had at Florida, from Jeremy Foley to the coaching staff to the athletics staff, I felt like I was part of something,” Merklein said. “When I left I even said to everyone, including Mr. Foley, that it was a goal of mine to one day come back and coach and win national championships. I’ve said it so much now, it’s time to actually do it and put the work in. I’m excited to do that alongside Bryan.”
His four All-America honors are the most in school history and he was also selected as the 1994 SEC Player of the Year and was a three-time All-SEC selection. He finished his career ranked first in overall wins (now ranks fourth), first in singles wins (now third) and second in doubles victories (now 10th). Merklein was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame in 2005.
For the past two seasons, Merklein has served as an assistant coach with the University of Michigan men's tennis program, helping the Wolverines finish second in the Big Ten back-to-back years and reaching the NCAA Tournament each time. Prior to his stint in Ann Arbor, Merklein spent six years as a national coach with the USTA Player Development Center in Boca Raton, Fla., and three seasons as a volunteer coach for the Gators from 1998-2000.
Merklein played on the ATP professional tour for 12 years, 1994-2005. He achieved career-high rankings of No. 35 (doubles) and No. 160 (singles) in the world, capturing four doubles titles during his career. Merklein coached tennis professional James Blake (ranked as high as No. 4 in the world) for two years, and was responsible for Blake's complete fitness and nutrition program in addition to coaching.
Merklein also has international playing experience, competing for the Bahamas at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia (quarterfinalist), and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He also played for the Bahamas' Davis Cup team from 1999 to 2005.
Merklein, 40, and his wife, Giulia, have two daughters, Gina and Olivia.
THE MARK MERKLEIN FILE
Born: June 28, 1972
Hometown: Coral Springs, Fla.
College: University of Florida (1991-94)
University of Florida (Volunteer Assistant), 1998-2000
USTA Player Development Center (Head Coach), 2006-11
University of Michigan (Assistant Coach), 2012-13
Former head coach of USTA Player Development Center in Boca Raton, Fla. (2005-11)
Coached men's tennis pro James Blake (ranked as high as No. 4 in the world) for two years
Playing Career Highlights
Played in 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games (Bahamas)
ATP Tour Professional (1994-2005)
Bahamas' Davis Cup team (1999-05)
NCAA Doubles Champion (1993)
NCAA Singles Champion (1994)
Four-time NCAA All-American
1994 SEC Player of the Year
Inducted into University of Florida Hall of Fame (2005)