Men's Tennis Fall Season Preview
Oct. 1, 2009
By Jeremy Cothran
A solid end to the season last year has the Washington men's tennis team thinking big this fall.
The Huskies return several key figures from last season's run to the NCAA tournament, which featured a comeback win about improbable as it gets in tennis. There is so much depth - as well as the infusion of some young talent - that coach Matt Anger is not quite sure how to structure his lineup yet, meaning the fall season should exhibit some competition for spots in the lineup.
It's certainly a luxury for Anger. Headlining the group is Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who put together a career season playing the No. 1 singles position. Overall, the junior from India went 20-9 in singles, and 17-11 in doubles, giving the Huskies a consistent presence at the top of their order. An all-court player with plenty of shot-making ability, Nedunchezhiyan steadily matured last year in the demanding role, where he earned recognition as a First Team All Pac-10 performer.
'He showed glimpses of greatness as a freshman,' Anger said. 'But he wasn't always there day-to-day. I felt last year he really improved on being much more consistent. This year, the task for him is to be as consistent as he was for the middle portion of last season, and stretch it out for the entire season.'
Another big component of 2009-10 will be the doubles tandem of Derek Drabble and Martin Kildahl, who are 11th in the preseason poll. Unfortunately, they won't be able to play together during the fall season due to a foot injury Kildahl suffered, which will sideline the Norwegian junior until the spring. Anger isn't worried, and said he would simply plug Nedunchezhiyan into the open doubles slot with Drabble for the time being.
Washington will also see the addition of three freshmen: Kyle McMorrow, Piriya Saengsuwarn, and Nick Tchernikov. McMorrow, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., sports a booming serve and was one of the most highly recruited junior players in the country. Anger noted he could see action right away as a freshman.
'He's the definition of blue chip,' said Anger.
The current players who remained in Seattle had the added benefit of being able to work with the coaching staff. But they were also encouraged to play in local and national tournaments, such as the ITA summer circuit. Others played abroad. But the coaches want the players to test themselves in match atmospheres.
'Most of our guys have really taken to that,' Anger said. 'They're out playing tournaments and doing really well.'
In fact, a doubles tandem of Alex Rosinski and Matt Stith, a junior and a sophomore respectively, captured an ITA summer circuit title in the West Region in Ventura, Calif. The improvements over the summer, along with the momentum from their NCAA tournament run, could catapult the Huskies to greater heights this season.
In last year's NCAA first round, it looked as if Washington's stay in Austin, Texas, would be one-and-done. Facing Texas Tech, the Huskies found themselves in an 0-3 hole in the match. But Tobi Obenhaus, now a junior, staved off several match points before taking a critical No. 6 singles point. This spurred a series of wins for UW, which also took points in the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 matches (all in three sets) to seal the dramatic victory over the Red Raiders. Both Kildahl and Drabble were instrumental in the comeback with singles victories.
Although the Huskies fell in the next round against host University of Texas, Anger believes the experience gleaned from the comeback scenario with young players will pay big dividends for the team.
'We did that with a core of underclassmen; most of those guys were sophomores,' Anger said. 'Now they have another year (of experience). I think we have a very exciting incoming class as well. I can't wait to get the season going.'
The fall season begins on Oct. 3 with the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla. Nedunchezhiyan has a ticket straight to he main singles draw, while he and Drabble will look to progress through doubles qualifying, and Drabble and Obenaus will try to qualify in singles as well.
From there Washington's full squad will head to the ITA Regional Championships in Berkeley, Calif. from Oct. 23-27, where players can then qualify for the ITA National Indoor Championships in early November at U. of Virginia. The men will host two fall tourneys as well, starting with the PNW Intercollegiates from Nov. 6-8, and then the Nordstrom Fall Open from Nov. 20-22.
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