On The Plains with Raul Dobai: “Faithful to my convictions”


Although it is over 2,500 miles from his hometown of Vancouver, Canada, senior Raul Dobai calls Auburn home after spending the last three seasons on The Plains. Born in Romania, Dobai and his family emigrated to Canada when he was 14 years old. There, he played junior tennis for Tennis Canada with multiple junior titles before making the decision to move south to attend the University of New Mexico in the United States.
Dobai's success continued with the Lobos, where he was named Mountain West Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year while leading the squad to a conference championship in 2021. However, Dobai claimed that it was Auburn that felt like home when he made the decision to transfer.
"The main thing that attracted me to come to Auburn was that when I left the campus here, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the family," said the senior. "When I was looking at who I wanted to become at the end of my three years here, I knew that the people that were around were the people that were going to help me become the person that I wanted to become. Also from the tennis side, I really bought into the vision that the coaches had here, and I knew that I could play a big role in the growth of the culture and in the vision that they had for the program to come in the next few years."
One of those people that undoubtably attracted Dobai to Auburn was head coach Bobby Reynolds, who had just finished his fifth season with the Tigers when Dobai made the decision to move east.
"I think Bobby [Reynolds] was probably one of the main reasons why I came to Auburn," Dobai said about his head coach. "When I came on my visit here, I really felt like we aligned on our core values. And we aligned a lot on our life philosophies, which I feel like he was really able to reinforce into my life throughout my college years which made me stay accountable to myself and to him as well. He is someone that I respect a lot and I wouldn't want to let down."
The Canadian solidified himself as a regular starter in both singles and doubles for the Tigers as soon as he got on campus, posting an overall record of 16-14 in singles and 13-13 in doubles. After Tad Maclean graduated following the 2022 season, Dobai received the nod to join Finn Murgett on the top of the Tigers' doubles lineup in 2023.

Murgett and Dobai have posted a combined 21-18 record in the No. 1 doubles position over the past two seasons, received an invitation to the NCAA Doubles Championship in both 2023 and 2024 and rose to No. 4 in the ITA doubles rankings on September 5, 2023. Even with all the success on the court, Dobai claims that one of his favorite memories came when he wasn't in the singles lineup.

"One of my best memories was actually when I didn't even play. In the final of Blue-Gray, I only played doubles because I was sick. I had an eye infection in both eyes. I couldn't see, but just being a part of the fight and the camaraderie that happened on that night to win against Arizona was incredible."
The Tigers defeated three ranked opponents on the way to the 2023 Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic title in Montgomery, Alabama. Auburn took down No. 44 Texas Tech in the first round, No. 25 Middle Tennessee in the semifinal round, and No. 14 Arizona in the championship match to claim the championship for the first time since 1984.
"I would also say one of my other best memories was when it came down to me two years ago in the first round of the SEC Tournament against Ole Miss and I was cramping," continued Dobai. "I was down match points in the third set came down to me and I pulled it off for us. That moment when I won and everyone piled up on top of me, it was more of a testament of all the hard work that we had the whole year and it paid off in that moment."
Dobai's come-from-behind win in a third-set tiebreaker helped Auburn earn its first win in the SEC Championship since 2015 at the time.
Not only has the senior built strong relationships with his teammates during his time in college, but he has also found some outside of tennis through his church in the area.
"I feel like in my three years here, I found a really good community outside of tennis, which I think helped me take my mind off of all the stuff that we have through tennis. I found a good community through my local church, Auburn Community Church, where I got to serve a lot. I had a lot of fun building relationships there and serving on the parking team. I know that sounds a bit funny, but those are some of the best mornings that I've had here away from tennis."
There is no question that Dobai considers himself a member of the Auburn Family and is grateful for how his experience on The Plains will prepare him for life after college. The senior will graduate with a degree from the Harbert College of Business over the summer and is confident that his faith with guide his next chapter, wherever that might be.
"I think it goes without saying that being a student-athlete prepares you for the next step in life," said Dobai. "I think that when you're a student-athlete, there are a lot of responsibilities put on your shoulders. There's the aspect of coming in every single day no matter how you feel and trying to do the best that you can on that day. I think one of the biggest lessons that I've learned over my years here was that throughout the roller coaster that is college tennis, I have to be faithful to my convictions.
"In the words of Miles Fidell, who is the lead pastor at the Auburn Community Church, I'm just trying to be faithful to where my feet are right now. And I'm trying to embrace adversity because I may not know where I will be or what I will be doing, but at least I know who I will be doing it for."