Facing Daniel Nguyen of USC, the then-Ohio State freshman lost a 6-0, 6-2 decision that helped contribute to the Buckeyes' loss to the Trojans in the NCAA championship match in May.
That loss put OSU in a 2-0 hole from which it could not recover as the Buckeyes eventually lost 4-1. Falling to a player he feels he should have beaten was devastating for Buchanan, who was billed by some as the piece that would push Ohio State over the top.
"That was probably one of the most important lessons I ever learned," the New Albany, Ohio, native said. "It was a huge letdown for the team, and I tried to take responsibility for that. That was definitely my fault. It just made me mature a little bit. You have to take everybody seriously, and if you're not ready, somebody else is.
"That served as kind of a wakeup call. It was also kind of motivating. I've thought about that millions of times."
Faced with another championship match on Aug. 16, Buchanan showed he had progressed from the spring. The second seed in the USTA Boys' 18 National Hard Court Championships, Buchanan defeated No. 8 Ryan Lipman to win the event's championship and earn a berth into the U.S. Open, one of the premier events in tennis. Buchanan did not lose a set in his seven matches in the tournament.
He begins U.S. Open play in Flushing, N.Y., either Monday or Tuesday with another challenge. Buchanan will face the seventh overall seed in the event, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
"It's what I've always worked for," he said. "It's something that it may come around 10 more times, 15 more times. I could be in it the rest of my life or it could never happen again. You have to savor what you have. I'm just excited to be a part of it and represent Columbus and Ohio State."
Buchanan should not be in awe as he travels to play in the grand-slam event. He's hit with some of the top players in the world, including No. 1 Roger Federer, in the past. During the last few summers, he's traveled to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the U.S. Open, and played in the event's juniors tournament, making the quarterfinals a year ago.
But never before has Buchanan been on a stage like this.
"It's my favorite tournament of the year by far," he said. "It's something not a lot of people are a part of. I've been lucky enough to play in the juniors (event) for the last four or five years, and I've had some unbelievable experiences there already. It comes around once a year. It's probably the most special time of year for me."
Buchanan will be a sophomore at Ohio State in 2009-10, but he's already made a mark on the Buckeye program – and vice versa. Rated my many as the No. 1 recruit in his class after winning seven USTA juniors tournaments, Buchanan graduated from New Albany High School early to play at Ohio State starting in January.
After battling through injuries troubles early, Buchanan went 11-4 overall in singles with a 6-1 mark in Big Ten play. He won his final six matches, including two in the NCAA tournament, before his national championship loss.
He credited his improvement over the season as well as during his summer junior tournaments to work with Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker and teammates like Bryan Koniecko, Steven Moneke and Justin Kronauge, all of whom ended the year ranked among the top 25 players in collegiate tennis.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "I'm telling you, this is the perfect situation. I think Ty is the best coach in the country for sure. He'll be in your face and fight you to the end. It works. I can't express how much thanks I have for him and how much he's helped me."
Buchanan will not be allowed to wear Ohio State gear during the tournament, but as someone born and raised in the Columbus area, he hopes to represent both his region and his university while in New York.
"Not a lot of great tennis players have come out of Columbus," he said. "Hopefully I can help motivate little kids and help everything in general here. I can't tell you how much it helps recruiting. The better somebody does coming out of a school, the more a player thinks they're going to get better coming out of the school. It's like if USC comes out with four great quarterbacks in a row. They're doing something right."