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Styslinger’s new racket: managing money, not making it on pro tennis tour

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August 16, 2017 06:02 PM

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Special for USTA Southern

Action photo: Virginia Media Relations

The vision had seemed so clear. Mountain Brook, Alabama’s Mac Styslinger would play tennis at the University of Virginia on his way to beginning a career on the ATP World Tour.

But the curly-haired blonde took a detour from the court. After leading one of the most successful athletic careers in Cavalier history, he chose to leave tennis behind.

A year removed from Virginia, he is an investment banker in New York.

“I definitely started to focus on academics once it got to college,” he said. “That’s when I realized I wanted to focus on that rather than just tennis like I had done in high school.”

Styslinger and his playing partner Jarmere Jenkins also notched a national doubles championship his freshman year.

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Mac Styslinger is on the job in the New York financial district.

“Mac led the most successful class in any sport in the history of our university in athletics,” Virginia tennis coach Brian Boland said. “There’s no question about it. No class has ever won three team national championships.”

Mark Styslinger calls his son’s college playing career incredible, and who could blame him.

“He actually got to play in the U.S. Open three years ago,” the father said of the wildcard berth his son and doubles partner received for winning the college national doubles title. “His senior year he was the captain of the team and they won the NCAAs. He had an incredible tennis career, graduated and now he works on Wall Street.”

After a semester at Indian Springs School, Mac spent the final 3½ years of his high school career at IMG Academy. That is a path followed by many with pro aspirations.

“A lot of kids go down to IMG and believe they’re going to be a professional tennis player,” he said. “Out of all the guys I grew up playing with down there, one or two have made the top 100 on the tour. I think everyone goes down there with the same goal in mind.

“The best guys definitely rise to the top and those are the ones that don’t go to college and are strictly focused on being professional tennis players.”

Mac said he realized while he was in college that life on the pro tennis tour was not for him.

“It just wasn’t what I really wanted to do, what I wanted to focus on,” he said. “Traveling on the pro tour and being a professional tennis player is a really tough life unless you’re top 20 in the world. I didn’t really believe I was going to be a top-20 player in the world.”

Boland, the Virginia coach, wasn’t surprised by his player’s decision because he had established so many options in his life.

“I think he understood the rigors of the ATP Tour and decided that was not what he wanted to do at this point in his life,” he said. “I respect that.”

The younger Styslinger has Boland to thank for career choice. He opened the door.

“Our tennis coach at UVa would bring in some speakers every semester,” the Mountain Brook native said. “One of them happened to be a banker from JP Morgan and he gave a pretty interesting speech. I talked to him a little after the speech and he convinced me to look into an internship in banking. That’s how it started for me. It sparked my interest.”

Majored in economics

So a major in economics wasn’t just a way to manage the millions he expected to make on the ATP Tour?

“I wish that was the case,” he laughed.

Mac interned at a firm in the summer of 2015. He later accepted an offer to work there after graduation.

Boland said Mac’s shift in careers is not uncommon among players who initially had aspirations of being the next great pro star.

“I don’t believe that’s a negative,” the coach said. “I believe that’s part of the college process and one of the reasons, by and large, most young men should go through college as a pathway to decide if they want to play professional tennis full time.”

Mac got a taste of pro tennis as he played in challengers and futures.

“He’s not the first one (to pass on turning pro) and he won’t be the last,” the coach said. “Whatever Mac Styslinger decides to do with his life, he’s going to have an incredible impact in the most positive and productive way in society.”

The younger Styslinger is an investment banker specializing in providing advice in mergers and acquisitions.

“I’m essentially a real estate agent but instead of selling a house, I’m selling a company,” he said. “And I’m not the one negotiating and doing all that. That’s my bosses. I kind of do the evaluation and analysis, valuing the companies that we’re in the process of selling.”

In a sense, he analyzed his life options as he chose a career in banking over one in tennis.  

“It was a great run and I had a ton of fun on the team,” he said of his career with the Cavaliers. “I love those guys.”

When it comes to tennis, Styslinger takes after his father.

Born Mark Styslinger Jr., Mac did as his father had done, playing junior tennis in his youth before going on to play in college. The father went to Southern Methodist University. He was a two-time All-America and helped the Mustangs to a second-place finish in the NCAA tournament. 

“I did very similarly to what he did," the father said, "except he was a lot better than I was."

 

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