No. 13 Men's Tennis Seek Pac-10 Singles and Doubles Crowns
April 20, 2005
- THIS WEEK: Having clinched the program's first team Pac-10 title last weekend, the Washington men's tennis team is looking to add some more hardware to their mantle this weekend at the individual Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif. The 13th-ranked Huskies (18-4, 6-1 Pac-10) will enter several contenders in the prestigious tournament, which runs all day Thursday through Sunday, April 21-24. Washington will be represented in the main singles draw by Alex Vlaski, Alex Slovic, Christoph Palmanshofer and Daniel Chu and in the main doubles draw by the duos of Vlaski and Palmanshofer, and Slovic and Chu.
THE TOURNAMENT: The Pac-10 singles draw consists of 32 players, four from each conference member, in a single elimination format. The doubles field is comprised of 16 teams, two from each member. Singles matches begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, with two rounds of singles play on Thursday, then one round each day until the finals for each bracket on Sunday. Doubles play kicks off on Friday, with Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matches, then semifinals on Saturday and the final on Sunday. Thursday's first round match-ups for the Huskies are as follows: No. 37 Alex Slovic vs. Oregon's Thomas Bieri at 11 a.m., No. 61 Christoph Palmanshofer vs. Arizona State's Chris Biro at 8 a.m., No. 10 Alex Vlaski vs. Oregon's Arron Spencer at 9:30 a.m., and Daniel Chu vs. Cal's No. 9 Conor Niland at 12:30 p.m. In doubles action, 15th-ranked Slovic and Chu receive a bye in the first round, while Vlaski and Palmanshofer face Oregon's Spencer and Sven Swinnen, who beat the Husky pair in the season-ending dual match.
PAC-10 INVITATIONAL: Outside of the main singles and doubles draws, additional players will compete in singles and doubles Invitational draws. Participating in the Pac-10 Invitational singles draw for the Huskies will be senior Peter Scharler, sophomores Chris Floyd and Mike Ricks, and freshman Andy Kuharszky. Kuharszky and Ricks will team up and compete in the Invitational doubles draw as well. The Invitational brackets will follow the same schedules as the main singles and doubles draws.
PAC-10 EXPERIENCE: All four of Washington's main draw entrants also competed in 2004. Alex Slovic and Daniel Chu fell in the first round, while Christoph Palmanshofer reached the second round with an upset of Stanford's KC Corkery. Senior Alex Vlaski has always enjoyed outstanding success at the Pac-10 Championships, yet has fallen just short of the title in all three of his previous tourney runs. Vlaski made it all the way to the final as a freshman, losing to UCLA's Rodrigo Grilli in the title match. As a sophomore, Vlaski returned to the championship match for a second time, but settled for runner-up status again, as UCLA's Marcin Matkowski took the crown. Last year, Vlaski fell one match short of his standard finals appearance, losing a third-set tiebreak to USC's Adriano Biasella in the semifinals.
PAC-10 TITLE: By completing their Pac-10 slate with a 6-1 mark, the 2005 Washington men's tennis team earned a share of its first Pac-10 title and secured their place in Husky history. Since the Pac-10 north and south divisions merged in 1998, the Huskies had never finished higher than fourth in the conference, and no school other than Stanford, USC or UCLA had taken the conference crown. The Huskies finished in a first-place tie with the Bruins at 6-1. Washington made their move early on, sweeping Stanford and California in the first week of Pac-10 play to announce themselves as a legitimate contender. The Huskies handled the Cardinal, 5-2, in the conference opener, for only their third series win over Stanford. A dramatic 4-3 win over Cal was one of the year's turning points, as seniors Alex Vlaski and Christoph Palmanshofer both won third-set tiebreaks within seconds of each other to pull out the win. A disappointing 5-0 loss to UCLA was followed by a thrilling 4-3 upset of USC. Again, just the win itself was historic in that it was only Washington's second win over the Trojans in 22 tries. The Huskies then took care of business in their final three matches, holding off Arizona, 4-2, then downing Arizona State and Oregon by 6-1 scores. Against Stanford, Cal, USC, and Arizona State, prior to this season the Huskies were a combined 14-89.
LAST TIME OUT: Washington clinched a share of the Pac-10 title with a 6-1 victory on the road over the Oregon Ducks last weekend. Oregon surprised the Huskies in doubles play, winning the second and third positions to take the doubles point. However, sophomores Alex Slovic and Daniel Chu continued to roll at No. 1 doubles, winning 8-2 over Markus Schiller and Vlad Pino. In singles play the Huskies squashed any upset notions, sweeping the six matches, although several were close wins. Slovic notched the first win, pounding Schiller at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-2. Senior Christoph Palmanshofer then took down Manuel Kost, 6-2, 6-2 at the third singles position. Senior Alex Vlaski earned the next Husky point, beating 14th-ranked Sven Swinnen, 6-3 in the third set, to push the lead to 3-1. Freshman Andy Kuharszky provided the clincher as he's done with regularity this season. Kuharszky downed Pino, 7-6, 7-5 at No. 6 singles. Chu and senior Peter Scharler then padded the score with a pair of singles wins at fourth and fifth singles, respectively.
HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Despite being in the midst of a four-match win streak, and coming off their 6-1 win over Oregon, the Huskies still dropped two spots in the April 19 ITA Rankings to No. 13. Continuing to rise through the singles rankings is senior Alex Vlaski, who is back in the top-10 at No. 10 in the April 19 rankings. Vlaski has steadily risen through the rankings after being unranked at the start of dual play. His career high came last year when he achieved a No. 2 national rank. Sophomore Alex Vlaski dropped a few spots to No. 37, despite boasting a seven-match win streak. Senior Christoph Palmanshofer is the third ranked Husky, coming in at No. 61. In the new doubles rankings, Slovic and sophomore Daniel Chu earned a career-high No. 15 ranking after making a 6-1 run through the Pac-10 as UW's No. 1 tandem.
VLASKI ZEROES IN ON WINS RECORD: Senior All-American Alex Vlaski is on his way to cementing himself as the greatest player in Washington history. The Belgrade, Yugoslavia native currently needs three more wins to tie the career singles wins record currently shared by former Huskies Matt Hanlin and Chet Crile. Vlaski's career record of 105-30 is the second highest singles winning percentage in UW history at .777. In all likelihood, the career wins record would already be Vlaski's alone, except he took this year's fall season off to play professionally and raise his world ranking. Vlaski was unranked at the start of the spring season, yet has already climbed up to 10th. Based on the current rankings, Vlaski has wins over six top-20 players this year, including Cal's Conor Niland (No. 9), San Diego's Pierrick Ysern (No. 11), USC's Jamil Al-Agba (No. 12), Texas Tech's Radek Nijaki (No. 14), Oregon's Sven Swinnen (No. 16), and Pepperdine Pedro Rico (No. 18). Winner of the 2003 All-American Championships, Vlaski is the only Husky to earn All-American honors in two separate years: 2003 and 2004.
PALMANSHOFER BREAKS THROUGH: Key to the Huskies' success this year has been the stellar season turned in by senior Christoph Palmanshofer. After a preseason No. 61 ranking as a junior, Palmanshofer had an up and down season, finishing 12-10 in dual play and dropping from the rankings. This year, Palmanshofer began the season ranked 88th, and has maintained a solid presence in the rankings with his excellent performance in dual play. Palmanshofer, a native of St. Georgen, Austria, leads the Huskies with a 16-5 dual record and his 22 singles wins is a team high. He has five wins over ranked opponents this year. Palmanshofer has been ranked as high as 37th this season, a career high, and is currently No. 61. The senior started dual play with a 10-0 record, and recently provided the clinching wins in key conference duals against California and Arizona State.
SLOVIC RETURNS TO FORM: Sophomore Alex Slovic's freshman season was going to be tough to top. The native of Pancevo, Yugoslavia finished as the highest-ranked freshman in the country at No. 27, and was named ITA National Rookie of the Year. His sophomore campaign picked up where the previous season had finished, as Slovic beat four ranked opponents en route to claiming the consolation bracket at the All-American Championships in the fall. However, a rib injury sidelined Slovic at the start of the dual season, and then suffered some uncharacteristic losses upon his return, and was only 4-3 through his first seven dual matches. Since that point, however, Slovic has worked himself back into form, and has reeled off seven straight wins heading into the Pac-10 Championships. Slovic was a perfect 6-0 in conference play, dropping only one set. He also continues to excel on the doubles court in his young career. Already Slovic has appeared in the doubles rankings with four different partners over the past two years, including his current 15th-ranked pairing with Daniel Chu.
DOUBLES TAKES SHAPE: The Huskies seem to have found the right formula for doubles success recently, although the match against Oregon went against them. Their current line-up still has produced a 6-2 record in the doubles point. The No. 1 doubles team of sophomores Alex Slovic and Daniel Chu have quickly gelled into one of the hottest duos in the country, taking down four top-40 teams in their past seven matches, including an 8-1 rout of defending NCAA Champions KC Corkery and Sam Warburg of Stanford. They rocketed up to 15th in the April 19 doubles rankings, despite having played only ten matches together. Just as impressive has been the play of Alex Vlaski and Christoph Palmanshofer at No. 2 doubles. The senior pair are 6-1 at second doubles in the new line-up and 5-1 in Pac-10 duals. Their 10-4 mark is the most wins for any Husky tandem. Anchoring the No. 3 doubles spot over the past seven matches has been sophomore Mike Ricks and freshman Andy Kuharszky. Kuharszky and Ricks are 6-6 at third doubles, picking up big wins against Stanford and Arizona. Washington is now 15-7 in the doubles point.
UP NEXT: The men will have a week to rest and prepare for their run in the NCAA Tournament. Draws and locations will be announced next week. The NCAA Regional dates are set for May 14-15 with the Huskies standing a strong chance of hosting the first two rounds.