Men's tennis faces nation's top teams in tournament

    With a No. 20 ranking, the top spot in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and a successful 6-1 homestand, the UCSD men’s tennis team eagerly packed their bags and flew to Pensacola, Fla., on April 2 to play their toughest matches of the season against the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 12 teams in the country.

    Tyler Huff
    Guardian file

    “”Our attitude was like a young fighter wanting to get in the ring with the champions. We wanted to prove what we could do,”” said UCSD head coach Eric Steidlmayer. “”Our expectations were to have tough matches. We didn’t really know the level our opponents would bring and so we only expected tough, competitive matches.””

    The opposition was tough indeed as the Tritons dropped their first two matches against No. 3 West Florida and No. 2 BYU Hawaii, but managed to resurge and defeat No. 12 Armstrong Atlantic to finish off the West Florida Tournament 1-2.

    UCSD played its first match of the tournament against West Florida on April 3 and lost 7-2. In doubles, the Tritons found themselves in a 3-0 hole, as the Argos swept early on. Bryan Swatt and Sameer Chopra lost to No. 13 pair of Radovan Chrz and Daniel Steinhilber 8-6. Jeff Wilson and Tommy Novak lost to Fernando Damus and Guillaume Deverbizier 8-6. And Sean Nagel and Mike Meyer lost to Paulius Jurkenas and Mario Vergara by a score of 8-6.

    The Tritons did not fare any better in singles, losing four matches in straight sets, while only tallying a couple of singles victories. At No.1 singles, Chrz, ranked No.14 nationally, defeated Chopra 6-4, 6-3. At No. 2, Swatt lost to Deverbizier 6-2, 6-1 and at No. 3, Mike Meyer lost to Fernando Damus 7-5, 6-1. At No. 4, Blake Wilson-Hayden lost to Paulius Jurkenas 7-5, 6-2. The two Triton victories came at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, in which Emil Novak defeated Mario Vergara, and Wilson defeated Sven Glaser with scores of 7-6, 6-3 and 6-2, 6-3, respectively.

    “”Our performance against West Florida was OK. I don’t think we played well by any means, but not bad either, just somewhere in the middle. [The Argos] are talented all the way through, and probably didn’t let us play as well as we could,”” Steidlmayer said.

    UCSD next faced off against another top-ranking team, playing No. 2 BYU Hawaii on April 4, and lost 7-2 for the second day in a row.

    “”Against BYU, we were pretty poor in doubles in all the matches and fairly good in singles in nearly all the matches. Again, a decent performance, with nothing too good or too bad,”” Steidlmayer said.

    At No. 1, Swatt and Chopra had a tall order, facing the top-ranked doubles team in the nation, Jan Krejci and Peter Madrassy, who defeated them 8-3. The Tritons secured a victory at No. 2, with the doubles pair of Wilson and Tomas Novak edging out Hong Tae Kim and Jong-Woong Yoon in a close one, 9-8. At No. 3, Nagel and Meyer saw defeat again, losing 8-3 to Daouda Ndiaye and Wen-Lung Chang.

    Singles proved to be difficult for the Tritons, losing five of the six matches. Chopra lost to their top-ranked singles player Krejci in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. Swatt played the No. 12 singles player and lost in three sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Meyer lost to Yoon 6-2, 6-4, and Wilson-Hayden lost 6-3, 7-5. Wilson also lost 6-3, 6-2 to Chang. Emil Novak tallied the only singles victory for UCSD, defeating Leon So’onalole 7-5, 6-4.

    “”We competed well for the most part [against West Florida and BYU Hawaii]. I think we were struggling a bit with our doubles play for some reason, and not really making enough service returns. Mentally, we were not able to continue to be as strong in the second set as we were in the first set in several matches against West Florida but that improved against BYU,”” Steidlmayer said.

    The losses to the No. 2 and No. 3 teams did not break the Tritons’ will because they came out in full force against Armstrong Atlantic on April 5, with a resounding 7-2 victory over the No.12 team.

    Doubles play proved to be stronger with the Tritons winning two of the three matches, taking an early 2-1 lead over the Pirates. Swatt and Chopra, this time facing the No. 3 doubles pair in the nation, defeated Dale White and Achim Roth 8-4. At No. 2, Wilson and Tomas Novak beat Roger Thiele and Tim Offermann 8-5. At No. 3, Meyer and Nagel dropped their match against Michael Jezt and David Secker 8-6.

    In singles, UCSD won five of their six matches in straight sets, securing their victory over Armstrong Atlantic. At No. 1, Chopra won 6-3, 6-4 over Thiele, while at No.2, Swatt was defeated by White 6-1, 6-0. At No. 3, Meyer defeated Secker 6-4, 7-6, and at No. 4, Emil Novak defeated Roth 6-3, 6-4. At No. 5, Wilson-Hayden defeated Jonas Askeland 6-3, 6-1. And at No. 6, Wilson defeated Neil Murray 6-3, 6-3.

    “”We were definitely happy with the score [7-2]. Our performance was better each day, and Saturday [April 5] we brought the best mix of overall competitiveness at all the matches. It was great,”” Steidlmayer said.

    Sophomore Emil Novak played especially well during the tournament, winning all of his singles matches in straight sets. Last year, he had a 20-2 singles record and a .909 single-season winning percentage (No.1 in UCSD’s record book). Novak currently holds a 17-1 singles record this season and is on pace to either equal or better last year’s performance.

    The Tritons will host Cal Poly Pomona in their last home match of the season on April 12 at noon in the Northview Tennis Courts.

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