Hotels. Travel. Spreadsheets. Numbers. As a professional tennis player, Blake Strode often draws on knowledge gained as a student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
“It helps to make sense of everything,” Strode says of his business degree. “I definitely use things I learned all the time.”
Since graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2009, Strode, now living in Cary, N.C., has pursued his lifelong dream of playing professional tennis.
In the past two years, Strode has won successive U.S. Open National Playoffs and continues to get accepted to “bigger and bigger” tournaments, he says. This can complicate things a little. During his senior year, Strode was accepted to Harvard Law School. “I’ve deferred for three years since then,” he says. “It’s a year-by-year kind of thing – an ongoing question. But I’m going to go.”
Growing up in St. Louis, Strode says he “fell in love” with the University of Arkansas campus while visiting. “Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”
Though he didn’t follow Arkansas sports, he got caught up in the school spirit in Fayetteville. “You could tell that everyone loved, breathed the Razorbacks,” he says.
When he arrived for student orientation, he planned on majoring in industrial engineering. By day’s end, however, he realized a combined major of Spanish and international economics would be more practical and would also be beneficial for studying abroad. Still, playing tennis was also his goal, he says. “I wouldn’t have done anything that didn’t make sense to me,” he says.
As a student, Strode maintained a 3.98 grade point average. While a senior with the University of Arkansas men’s tennis team, he was ranked the nation’s 13th best singles player in an Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and won the fifth most single victories in Arkansas history.
He has come a long way from being the 12-year-old who won a contest for the best essay about tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Sponsored by the National Junior Tennis and Learning network, Strode’s prize was a visit to the U.S. Open. Years later, when Strode played in a tournament sponsored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, a similar Arthur Ashe contest for students occurred. This time, Strode met the students and got to read their essays and look at their Ashe-inspired art.
When he’s not competing in tournaments, Strode says he practices tennis at least four hours a day and works out during the rest, making his athletic career a full-time job.
Whatever path his life takes, he says he knows that Walton College provided a solid educational background. “I had a lot of good professors,” he says.
Yet, his tennis career keeps building, and he says he wants to see where it will take him for now.
“I’m just playing as many tournaments as I can,” he says.