As the Georgia men’s tennis team prepares to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament this weekend, fifth-year player Britton Johnston and his Georgia teammates are looking to rebound from their heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final. With 20 doubles wins this season alongside partner Blake Croyder, including the past four in a row, Johnston wants to end his college career on a high note.

Here, Johnston talks about his preparation, mentality and favorite moments as a Georgia tennis player.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q: Going back to the SEC tournament, what were your key takeaways that you are going to implement as you get ready for the NCAA tournament?

A: Well, firstly, that we’re definitely a force to be reckoned with. And we have a lot of confidence, even though we lost an absolutely heartbreaking match in the final, but we know Kentucky is a top top caliber team, and we had points to win so that only means that we’re a top top caliber team. What we did going 12-0 in the regular season, it doesn’t happen very often. The SEC is the toughest conference, so it just shows how tough the sport is. It should only build us up rather than hurt us, in terms of losing in the finals. We have a lot of good things to look back on throughout the year, and so we’re just gonna carry it with us. And we’re going to go get it.

Q: What does the preparation look like for the NCAA tournament with you and Blake, both physically and mentally?

A: Well, mentally, definitely the days off were nice after the loss this weekend. But we’re motivated because we know how good we can be and we want it. It’s our last year, it’s our last match every last time we step on the court now into the last match. And that’s not to put pressure on us. It’s more to almost free us up because it’s like we don’t, you know, what do we have to lose? It’s our last shot. So just in terms of preparation, we’ve worked really hard this whole year, and for NCAAs, obviously the stage is bigger, but it’s still just a tennis match. So just sticking to what you know, and having confidence within that is really what carries the team.

Q: How would you describe the dynamic of you and Blake’s relationship?

A: Blake and I’s relationship is, I would say, a pretty funny one. It’s like a brotherly kind of love. Dig at each other a little bit, laugh with each other and definitely push each other to do well and I think it’s part of the reason we have so much success is when one of us is not performing at our best or even acting at our best we can. The other one will surely say something and it’s not out of hatred, it’s only just out of the best for each other. So if if he has a bad attitude, I like to get on him sometimes about it, cheer him up, or make a joke, make him laugh a little bit, loosen up and then usually, it turns successful for us, and it’s not just one sided, like does it for me too. And I think that relates to a lot of our success.

Q: Who do you have coming to support you at NCAAs, and what does their presence do for you and your match?

A: Well, my parents and probably a lot of the seniors’ parents and Blake’s parents, too, get along with each other well. They will all probably roll up to NCAAs. There’s a lot of close friends Blake and I have through tennis and through Atlanta, close ties and I imagine quite a few of them will come out and there’s some of our favorite fans because they get loud and maybe a little on the fence of things they say to people but it makes us smile, makes us laugh. When you’re on court, things maybe aren’t going your best, you get to look out and see people who really care and support you. It takes your mind off of things a little bit and it helps cheer you up a little bit. And just doing it for other people always, I think brings out the best in someone. It’s easier to do for other people than sometimes it is for yourself.

Georgia tennis player Britton Johnston during Georgia’s second round match of the 2023 NCAA Division I men’s tennis championship against Oklahoma at Henry Feild Stadium inside the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., on Sunday, May 7, 2023. (Tony Walsh/UGAAA/Dawgnation)

Q: How are you and your four other fifth-year teammates all soaking in the last little bit of your college experience?

A: Well, honestly just enjoying it, as much as we can. Shortly after this, I have job interviews and working and the real world, so this is an absolute privilege to still be playing here. So just enjoying it is the best thing, make sure you every time you see one of your teammates going up to him saying ‘hi,’ give him a hug because the days are numbered, in fact. Just enjoying it, I don’t have a better answer than that.

Q: What are your plans for next year?

A: My tennis career will probably not be continuing. I would like to really work in Atlanta. Looking to do some real estate in Atlanta, and I’m very excited about that new venture. I hope it goes well. From then on, still staying connected with the university, of course, and I’ll definitely come back for matches. I gotta come back and get my ring, so.

Q: Prior to a match, is there a theme song that y’all listen to?

A: I don’t usually pick the music but Blake definitely loves some Chief Keef. Blake loves Chief Keef before to get him pumped up. Oh! Actually, there is a song. I have to think of the name of it. It’s by Young Thug, though… ‘Digits!’ ‘Digits’ by Young Thug, that is our song.

Q: What would be your favorite memory?

A: I would say our (regular-season) match against Kentucky this year was definitely one of, if not the best memory I’ve ever had on these courts. Crazy doubles point. It just was the match of the weekend. Us versus Kentucky, both top five programs. Duking it out, and it came down to Blake and I for the doubles point. And I played probably the best tennis I’ve ever played for Georgia, and ended up carrying out for a win. We had, I think it was, 2,800 people here. So it came down to me, and I hit like the winning shot and we just went freakin’ nuts and that was definitely special. And then singles. The guys came out with tons of momentum and we just knocked him up and that was definitely solidifying, not quite clinching, but basically clinching the SEC for us and that was just really awesome.

Katie Boff is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.