Tad Maclean and Finn Murgett’s story is well-documented over the past year, having gone on a surprise run in the 2021 NCAA Doubles Championships.
Ranked No. 26 nationally, the Auburn men’s tennis duo knocked off pairs ranked No. 25, no. 22, no. 10 and No. 71 for a spot in the NCAA finals, where they lost in three sets to Tennessee’s Adam Walton and Pat Harper, the No. 3 tandem in the nation.
However, their story goes back much further than the 2021 NCAAs, and even further than their careers at Auburn.
Maclean, from Cornwall, England, and Murgett, from Holmfirth, Yorkshire, actually grew up a six-hour drive from each other. They first met in their early teens at an international tennis tournament in Bournemouth, England, and continued a friendship.
“We became closer from having similar interests and similar backgrounds, similar childhoods,” Murgett said. “We could relate on many things and just became closer through that.”
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About a year before Maclean arrived in Auburn in 2018, he and Murgett began playing doubles together, traveling to tournaments in Ireland and Malta, among other locations. So, when Murgett arrived on the Plains two years after Maclean, and, their pairing on the court was a no-brainer considering their previous playing experience.
“It’s really rare to be able to bring guys in from across the pond, different countries and them know each other as well as [Maclean and Murgett] to, ”Auburn tennis coach Bobby Reynolds said. “The key to doubles is that relationship part. No matter when we’re looking at our team and trying to figure out who’s going to pair well with each other, that’s a huge part of the success of doubles so, having them already know each other for the past five, seven years, that just adds to the cohesion that they have when they play.
“The honest truth is they’re more like brothers.”
With last season’s NCAA run, Maclean and Murgett finished 2021 ranked No. 18 with a 20-14 record. They’ve built on last season, and are currently ranked no. 10 nationally with a 19-6 record, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Beyond Maclean and Murgett’s long-standing relationship, both the pair and their coach seem to agree on what makes things click.
“I think it’s the big guy-little guy pairing, right?” Reynolds said. “[Their] strengths and weaknesses really gelling together as one really, really good product. ”
Listed at 6-foot-3, Maclean provides a big serve, and Murgett, listed at 5-9, brings a quickness and strong forehand, Reynolds said.
“He’s small and fast and I’m tall and slow,” Maclean said with a chuckle. “We complement each other well and hide our weaknesses really well, I’d say, and we know when to have more energy and in turn less energy.
“We also enjoy playing together more as well. It’s more fun because we know each other. ”
Their success has also coincided with Auburn’s team performance. Auburn men’s tennis was ranked No. 47 in the ITA’s final team rankings of 2021, but it’s ranked No. 24 heading into NCAA selections Monday. The Tigers are 8-9 against ranked competition this year – up from 1-11 last season – with wins against No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 9 South Carolina.
“I had a talk with a coach recently and they said we can make Sweet 16,” Murgett said. “It’s clear that we’re on the rise, and I feel that everyone in the country knows we’re on the rise and moving pretty fast.”