Stanford grad bolstering Jewish presence in tennis

He went to services instead.

"He knows he's Jewish and the values are there with him," said Clark Goldstein, Paul's father. "He's spiritual. He tries to live a good life and be considerate of others."

If there were world rankings for Jewish players, Goldstein would easily make the top five, close behind friend Justin Gimelstob, 21, who has been on the men's pro tour for a couple of years. In fact, it would be hard to find enough world-class players to compile a Jewish top 10.

"There's never been that many Jews in tennis," said Clark Goldstein. "It's not going to be any different for him on the tour as it was in juniors."

Growing up in the suburban community of Rockville, Md., Paul went to Hebrew school, had a bar mitzvah and was confirmed. "Some of his friends were Jewish and some of them weren't," said Clark Goldstein. "He's no different than any kid whose family has been members of a Reform synagogue. There were certain things he liked about Hebrew school, like the social aspects, and certain things he didn't."

What Goldstein was most passionate about was his tennis. "He didn't go to tournaments to hang out," said Clark Goldstein. "When he competes, he is pretty singular in purpose."

Goldstein's ability to focus helped him build an illustrious college career that climaxed at the end of May when he led the Stanford men's tennis team to its unprecedented fourth-consecutive NCAA championship in Athens, Ga.

Immediately after the Cardinal shut out the University of Georgia Bulldogs, 4-0, in the final, Goldstein's teammates lifted him on their shoulders and paraded their captain around the court as he held the trophy.

"It was very emotional. Paul wanted this championship very badly. He was really proud and happy," said Clark Goldstein, who flew to Athens to witness the milestone.

Goldstein, the team's only senior, became the first college player, along with reserve player Charles Hoeveler, to win four NCAA men's team tennis titles (under the current format in place since 1977).

The victory in the post-season tournament capped a 28-0 undefeated season for a Cardinal squad that coach Dick Gould called the "best team I've ever had" in his 32 years of coaching. That's high praise, considering that Gould also coached the undefeated 1978 team led by John McEnroe.

Gould also referred to this year's team as the best in men's college history.

"It was really remarkable," said Paul Goldstein. "The talent is great. It seems impossible, but we competed at the top of our game for the whole season."

Stanford has had three undefeated teams, and Goldstein, a four-time All-American, has been on two of them (the other was in 1995). "Wherever Paul goes, he breeds winning," Gould said.

In singles this year, Goldstein's only two losses came at the hands of his teammates, twin brothers Mike and Bob Bryan. Bob defeated Goldstein in the final of the NCAA individual championship.

Goldstein, 21, who has earned a degree in human biology, maintained his tennis excellence despite taking 18 units in the spring quarter.

Academic achievement was important in the Goldstein family. One of Paul's brothers is pursuing his MBA, and the other has just finished his first year of medical school at Johns Hopkins University. Still, involvement in sports was encouraged in the family.

"I am thrilled that Paul has gotten a degree from Stanford. His tennis [and having a four-year athletic scholarship] has a lot to do with that," said Clark Goldstein. "Tennis is a great learning experience. It's truly one-on-one, and it can be so humbling because there's always someone better than you."

Paul Goldstein was a good all-around athlete growing up in the suburbs. By age 13, after winning several regional and national tournaments in his age group, he decided to concentrate on tennis. His father, a mortgage banker, and his mother, Patty, a kindergarten teacher at Washington Hebrew Congregation, were not tennis parents.

"We were chauffeurs and supporters," said Clark Goldstein. "But the happiest day in our lives was when he got his driver's license."

The family led a pretty balanced life. No matter how successful Paul became at tennis (and he rarely lost), he wasn't made the focus of the family.

"His brothers didn't really watch him play and we never pushed it," said Clark Goldstein. "Now they're his biggest fans."

This season's successful formula had Goldstein and three other players rotating at the No. 1 singles spot. Goldstein assumed the leadership role, though he preferred to lead by example. "When it was appropriate, I would say something," he said.

One of those times occurred just prior to the final match of the NCAA team championships vs. the Bulldogs.

"There were 5,500 barking Georgia fans. I knew the challenge we were up against," said Goldstein. "I just told the team to match the crowd's energy."

Goldstein, who took the fall quarter off to play on the pro circuit, climbed to a ranking of No. 289 in the world last November. He turned pro this month without much fanfare. "There was no press conference," he joked.

The speedy all-court player is taking about a month off before hitting the road. He's hoping to return to his hometown area by getting a wild-card entry into an ATP Tour event in Washington, D.C., the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, July 20-26.

"I feel fairly confident. I've been successful at every level I've played. I'm anxious to see how I do," Goldstein said. "The first few months can be pretty difficult. It would be counterproductive to expect great results too quickly."

Goldstein admitted leaving college behind won't be easy. "It's a little scary how dramatically life changes," he said. "I'll miss living with people I care about. I'll miss learning and the freedom of being in college. I'll miss being able to get away from tennis. Having school and my social life kept tennis fresh."