Men's Tennis Battles Bruins On Friday
March 5, 2003
This Week -- The No. 18 USC men's tennis team (4-2) travels to third-ranked UCLA (11-1) this Friday, March 7, for a 1:30 p.m. match at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The match will count against conference records and marks the official start of the conference season. Friday will also be the final regular season match-up for men's tennis Lexus Gauntlet points.
USC claimed the program's 16th national title in 2002. The Trojans did lose three seniors (Andrew Park, Ryan Moore and Nick Rainey), who made up the top of last year's lineup, but return NCAA Tournament MVP Prakash Amritraj and all-tournament selections Daniel Langre and Ruben Torres. This season, the three will also be aided by top transfers Johan Berg and Brian Wright.
ITA Ranking Updates -- The Trojans dropped to 18th in the latest ITA polls, released on Feb. 26. The first set of updated individual rankings were also released last week. In singles, Prakash Amritraj entered the charts at No. 36 and Johan Berg is ranked No. 59. Amritraj and Daniel Langre are ranked No. 12 in doubles.
USC vs. UCLA -- Friday's match will mark the 164th all-time meeting between USC and UCLA. The Bruins lead the series with an 86-77 record after defeating the Trojans earlier this season, 6-1, on Jan. 31 in Los Angeles.
Battle for the Lexus Gauntlet -- Friday's match against the Bruins will be the second of two regular season men's tennis meetings for the Lexus Gauntlet -- a season-long competition between USC and UCLA. This unique program awards points for the winner of each Bruin-Trojan head-to-head contest throughout the year and the Lexus Gauntlet trophy will be awarded to the school with the most points at year's end. Five total points are awarded in men's tennis and the Bruins gained the first 2.5 by beating USC on Jan. 31. USC won the inaugural trophy in 2002 and leads this season, 45-30.
Center Court Spotlight -- Sophomore Prakash Amritraj has proven that he belongs at the top of the lineup in only his second season. Last year's NCAA Tournament MVP, Amritraj made the jump from No. 3 to No. 1 this year and currently boasts an 8-1 record in dual matches this season. His only loss was a 6-3, 6-2 decision to 19th-ranked Jean Simon of Texas at the USTA/ITA Team Indoor Championships on Feb. 22. The loss broke his eight-match win streak. Amritraj has already earned upset victories over then-No. 55 Carlos Palencia of UCSB, Pepperdine's No. 81 Diego Acuna and UCLA's No. 12 Tobias Clemens.
AT USTA/ITA Team Championships -- USC ended the 2003 USTA/ITA Team Indoor Championships with a 4-0 loss to 22nd-ranked Texas (5-3) on Feb. 22 in consolation play. The Trojans finished the national tournament tied for 11th place with Harvard. In the opening round, USC fell to sixth-ranked Florida, 4-0, then bounced back to defeat No. 28 Arkansas, 4-2, in the first consolation match.
Get The Latest Info -- Updated team stats can always be found by logging on to www.usctrojans.com. They are located on the men's tennis page under 'Season Statistics.'
Head Coach Peter Smith Enters First Season -- Peter Smith, who guided the Pepperdine men's tennis team to conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances in each of his five years there, is in his first year at the helm of the USC men's tennis program. Smith's collegiate coaching career includes five years (1998-2002) at Pepperdine, six years at Fresno State (1992-1997) and four years at Long Beach State (1988-1991). He boasts a 277-139 (.666) overall record and has led his teams to nine NCAA appearances and seven top 20 finishes. Last season he earned his sixth conference Coach of the Year honor (WCC) and was named the ITA Region VIII Coach of the Year.