Steve Johnson, USC Men Start 2010 at No. 1
Jan. 6, 2010
The USC men's tennis team opens 2010 in the same spot it closed out 2009 - living large at the top of the pack. The defending national champions are No. 1 in the first Campbell/ITA national rankings of the year, with dual match play getting underway later in the month. Headlining the top-ranked Trojans is Steve Johnson, whose outstanding fall efforts have pushed the sophomore to rank No. 1 in the national singles rankings. He's joined by five other fellow Trojans in the opening singles rankings, while also standing at No. 13 in doubles with teammate Robert Farah.
Last season, USC charged to the 2009 NCAA Championship with a 4-1 victory over Ohio State to claim the Trojans' 17th NCAA team title. USC finished the 2009 season with a 25-5 overall record - the same mark it hit in 2002 when it won its last national championship, on the same George P. Mitchell Tennis Center courts as seven years prior. The 2009 NCAA Championship was the first for USC head coach Peter Smith, who had tallied his 400th career victory in USC's quarterfinal upset of top-seeded Virginia. The title match against the Buckeyes was also Smith's first visit to the NCAA final. Now with 17 NCAA team titles all-time, USC is tied with Stanford for the most men's tennis national championships pulling even with the Cardinal in the title count for the first time since 1997 when Stanford won its 15th championship.
Personnel-wise, the Trojan ladder is almost identical to last season. Abdullah Magdas - who played in the No. 4 slot in singles - has graduated, but USC's 2010 returners are numerous and talented. In the 2010 ITA singles rankings, top-ranked sophomore Steve Johnson is joined by No. 14 senior Robert Farah, No. 47 sophomore Matt Kecki, No. 65 freshman JT Sundling, No. 78 sophomore Daniel Nguyen and No. 116 junior Jaak Poldma. Johnson's No. 1 ranking comes after a dominating fall singles run for the sophomore, who went 8-1 with a semifinal appearance at the D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships and a championship run to the ITA National Indoor Championships title. USC also boasts senior Jason McNaughton, who was sidelined for the 2009 postseason with injury, as well as junior Daniel Gliner, sophomore Ben Lankenau and newcomer Joel Giger.
No. 14 Robert Farah holds a 5-2 singles mark entering 2010 after also reaching the semifinals of the D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships in October 2009. No. 47 Matt Kecki started his sophomore season at 5-2 as well, while No. 65 JT Sundling announced his place in the collegiate tennis scene by going 4-3 in reaching the SoCal Intercollegiates semifinals. No. 78 Daniel Nguyen reached the final of that fall tourney, and claimed the singles consolation championship at the Wilson/ITA Southwest Regionals in October to build a 12-3 mark entering 2010. And coming in at No. 116, Jaak Poldma went 5-2 in the fall to open his junior year with the Trojans.
Meanwhile, No. 13-ranked All-American doubles tandem of senior Farah and sophomore Johnson come into 2010 action as the Wilson/ITA Southwest Regionals doubles champions, holding a 6-2 record after a quarterfinal appearance at the ITA National Indoor Championships in November.
USC's first competition comes up Jan. 15-17 at the Sherwood Collegiate Cup in Westlake, Calif. The Trojans' first dual matches are set for Jan. 23 with a double-header against LMU and UC Santa Barbara at Marks Stadium.