No. 9 USC Men Open At Ojai For Pac-10 Championships

April 22, 2009

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THIS WEEK: USC takes the time to shift focus from dual match action to individual competition this week at the Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif. The Trojans set themselves up well for the coming NCAA Championships by finishing second in the Pac-10 and holding a 19-5 overall record as a team with NCAA play around the corner. But first, No. 9 USC sends its singles and doubles standouts to Ojai in pursuit of individual conference crowns. Pac-10 Championship action begins on Thursday (April 23) and runs through final bouts on Sunday (April 26).

CAMPBELL/ITA RANKING UPDATES: The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings have USC ranked No. 9 in the nation, as of April 21. Singles and doubles rankings also were released April 21, with Robert Farah ranked as the nation's #7 singles player. He is joined in the rankings by #67 Steve Johnson, #80 Jaak Poldma and #99 Abdullah Magdas. In doubles, Farah/Johnson are ranked #2.

PAC-10 PLAN: USC has five players lined up for the Pac-10 Singles Championship bracket and three playing on the Invitational side. In the mix for Thursday afternoon's first-round singles play are Robert Farah, Steve Johnson, Matt Kecki, Abdullah Magdas and Jason McNaughton on the Championship side and Daniel Gliner, Andrew Kells and Daniel Nguyen in Invitational play. In the doubles realm, which kicks off on Friday afternoon, Farah/Johnson and Magdas/Nguyen will compete in the Pac-10 Doubles Championship draw, and Kecki/Kells and Gliner/McNaughton are tabbed for Invitational doubles play. At the Pac-10 Championships, singles competition begins with a Round of 32, and doubles action starts up in the Round of 16. (Draws included at the end of this release). Last year, USC men dominated both sides, as Kaes Van't Hof beat teammate Robert Farah for the 2008 Pac-10 Singles Championship, and the pair teamed up later that day to claim the 2008 Pac-10 Doubles Championship.

RECENT ACTION: USC slipped up against crosstown rival UCLA last week, falling 5-2 in a regular-season finale that would determine this year's outright Pac-10 champion. The Bruins captured the doubles point and held off a comeback push by the Trojans to take the win and the conference crown away from USC. Singles winners on the day for USC were Robert Farah at No. 1 and Steve Johnson at No. 3. In doubles, that same pairing held strong at No. 1 for their fifth straight win and USC's lone doubles victory of the match.

TOP-TEN TAKEDOWNS: The Trojans have served up big wins against four top-10 teams so far this season. The first top-10 casualty was then-#9 Mississippi during the ITA National Indoor Championships. Two days later, USC took down #2 Texas 4-1. Since then, the Trojans have pinned up a 4-3 road win at #7 Baylor and a 4-3 upset of #4 host Stanford with top gun Robert Farah out of the lineup due to injury. The next top-10 showdown for the #7 Trojans is this week's regular-season finale match against current #9 UCLA for the rights to the Pac-10 title.

BACK ON THE ATTACK: USC junior Robert Farah returned to singles action after being sidelined for six straight matches, competing in his first Pac-10 singles match of the season last weekend and earning his second career honor as Pac-10 Player of the Week. Although it had been almost a month since his last singles match for USC, Farah managed to follow up a doubles win with a third-set tiebreak win in singles. Farah had teamed back up with Steve Johnson for doubles to start the day in USC's match against No. 18 Arizona, and the Trojan pair clinched the doubles point for USC with an 8-6 win over Arizona's ranked pair at the No. 1 position. In singles, #3 Farah got back to form with his 22nd singles win of the year, outlasting Arizona's #68 Jay Goldman in the third set's 10-point tiebreak. Ranked #7 in the nation, Farah is now 23-5 overall and 12-3 in dual match singles play. In doubles with Johnson, Farah ranks #2 with a 28-8 overall record and 15-5 mark in dual matches.

SENIOR SHINES: USC's lone senior Abdullah Magdas won in out in both doubles and singles for the Trojans when they opened Pac-10 play with two road wins. For his efforts, Magdas earned his second career selection as the Pac-10 Men's Tennis Player of the Week and the first by a Trojan this season. Magdas' biggest win of the weekend was a three-set battle at the No. 3 singles slot against Ryan Thacher -- a victory that clinched a 4-3 upset win for #8 USC over host #4 Stanford. It wrapped up a winning weekend in which Magdas combined forces with Daniel Nguyen for doubles wins that helped ensure important doubles points for the Trojans in both matches. In singles, Magdas pounded out a straight-set win at the No. 3 position that got USC ahead 3-0 against the Bears. The next day, with the match against #4 Stanford hanging in the balance tied up 3-3, Magdas pulled off a three-set nailbiter, working ahead late in the match to clinch the last win for USC 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 7-5 and secure the upset win. Now ranked #99 in singles, Magdas has improved his singles record to 22-11 overall and is 12-5 in dual match play.

GREATNESS RETURNING: Once again, USC has just one senior on its roster - team captain Abdullah Magdas - along with two strong juniors in Robert Farah and Jason McNaughton and sophomore standout Jaak Poldma. Those three Trojans lined up just behind USC's 1-2 punch of Farah and Van't Hof last year, and once again Farah has been tabbed as the headliner on USC's ladder. Although recently sidelined by injury, Farah has been cruising through singles play this season and is ranked #3 in the nation in singles. In the win count on the season so far, McNaughton actually leads the group in singles victories so far this season, holding a 29-13 record. Farah also is in the 20-win zone at 23-5, as is Magdas at 22-11.

THE NEW CLASS: Trojan newcomers Steve Johnson, Matt Kecki, Andrew Kells and Daniel Nguyen all boast a laundry list of junior-level accolades along with championships and strong rankings. Ben Lankenau also joins the crew as a freshman this year, rounding out a formidable group of newcomers who have proven themselves impact players already. Johnson and Kecki both picked up spring singles rankings at No. 58 and No. 54, respectively. USC's young doubles guns also got spring rankings nods, as Kells and Nguyen clocked in at No. 46 behind second-ranked Farah/Johnson. Now seasoned Trojans, Johnson, Kecki and Nguyen have all hit the 20-win mark in singles play. Johnson is now 27-10, with Kecki at 24-11 and Nguyen at 25-9.

JUST ADD FARAH: Robert Farah may well be an X-factor for doubles success. With Kaes Van't Hof last season, the Trojan pair captured USC's 21st NCAA Doubles Championship. After Van't Hof's graduation, Farah has teamed up with freshman Steve Johnson to form a new team in similar winning form as the nation's now-No. 2 ranked doubles pair. Farah/Johnson hold a 28-8 overall record and are 15-5 in dual match play so far.

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