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For Gamecocks’ newest national champ, ‘surreal’ emotions followed by next challenge

On Friday, South Carolina’s Paul Jubb was staring down the end of his collegiate tennis season, losing the opening set in semifinals of the NCAA men’s singles tournament.

Two days later, he’s a national champion, the first title winner in program history — and already racing on to the next challenge. After traveling from Orlando, where he won the championship Saturday, to Columbia for a brief stop Sunday, Jubb is set to return to his home country of Great Britain on Monday, starting a summer of tennis against professionals.

Not bad for someone who came to South Carolina without an official visit at only 16 years old, trusting in coach Josh Goffi to take him to the next level.

“(Goffi) just came to my hometown club in (Hull, England) and that was when I told him, if you give me the same opportunity what all these other players are getting who are my level, I told him I’ll be the best and I’ll rise to the top, and somehow it happened.”

Three years later, Jubb is a junior veteran — albeit one who’s even younger than some of the Gamecocks’ current freshmen — and a national champion after taking down No. 1 seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, who twice defeated Jubb earlier this season.

“The main thing was just being really aggressive with my feet and taking time away and driving back into the ball,” Jubb said of his strategy in the straight-sets win. “And the past few times I did that perfectly in the first set, but then died down in the second and didn’t capitalize and then he took control in the third, and it was just a matter of sustaining that and not allowing him back into the match.”

After clinching the crown Saturday, Jubb fell to the court and got up with a celebratory scream. That moment, he said, was a cathartic release after failing to finish the match on the previous point. After that, he shared an embrace with Goffi.

“It was just surreal,” Jubb said. “I said (to Goffi) we did it. And all the emotions came out of me, and I thanked him for taking a chance and recruiting me and allowing me to come here, and I was just so happy.”

The surrealness of it all was only just getting started — congratulatory messages came flooding in, and Jubb, not the most prolific user of social media, started getting shoutouts on Twitter from South Carolina legends like Dawn Staley and Frank Martin and tennis legends like coach Judy Murray, mother of Olympic gold medalist and Wimbledon champ Andy Murray.

“The support has been unreal. I’ve just been thanking everyone, there’s been so many people who have been sending me messages. I didn’t expect to get this much support and I’ve just been sending thank-yous and thank-yous, and it’s been great,” Jubb said.

“My Twitter is blowing up more than ever. I’ve never been that active on Twitter and Judy Murray and Dawn Staley and Frank Martin, they’ve all tweeted at me and stuff like that. And getting support from them has been really cool.”

He won’t have much time to celebrate on campus as his summer season starts quickly — he’s set to return home briefly, toting his national championship trophy, to play the grass court season, then on throughout Europe competing against professionals and developing his skills.

But Jubb will be back to South Carolina in the fall — even after reaching the pinnacle of NCAA tennis, he has no plans to turn pro, he said. Because he came to USC so young, he doesn’t feel any urgency to leave college early, and he wants to keep improving under Goffi, whom he credits for greatly improving his tennis IQ.

And while he’s not a South Carolina native, Jubb appreciates the fact that he’s USC’s first tennis champion.

“It’s just a great thing to have, when you made history and you’re in the history books, and it’s gonna be a thing to cherish for the rest of my life,” Jubb said.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.