Arkansas On Tap For Husky Men's Tennis
Feb. 21, 2008
THIS WEEK: Fresh off a solid showing at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the Washington men's tennis team hosts 62nd-ranked Arkansas in its last home appearance for two weeks. The Huskies (5-4) climbed nine spots to a season-high No. 27 in the latest ITA Rankings, thanks in large part to their 4-1 upset of 10th-ranked Alabama last weekend. The Razorbacks come in confident after a 4-3 upset of 33rd-ranked Oklahoma in their last match. UW and Arkansas serve things up on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. at the Nordstrom Tennis Center.
SCOUTING ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks broke into the ITA Rankings for the first time this season in Wednesday's batch, jumping in at No. 62. Arkansas was boosted by a 4-3 upset of No. 33 Oklahoma on the road in its last match. The Razorbacks are now 6-3 on the season. The win over the Sooners was Arkansas' first win over a ranked opponent since 2006. Dmitry Lebedev clinched the win with a 6-2, 7-5 victory at No. 6 singles. Leading the way for Arkansas is junior Blake Strode, currently ranked 95th in singles. Strode is a two-time All-SEC team member and was ranked as high as 43rd in 2007 and made the NCAA Second Round. Prior to the Oklahoma breakthrough, Arkansas also put up a major fight against No. 23 Tulsa, falling 4-3 with wins at the four-six singles spots. Last season Arkansas struggled to a 7-22 record, missing out on the NCAA tournament. Robert Cox coaches the Razorbacks, now in his 21st season. The all-time series is at one win apiece between UW and Arkansas.
FOLLOW ALONG LIVE: Much the same as in years past, GoHuskies.com will provide live video and live scoring updates for those Husky fans unable to make the trip to the Nordstrom Tennis Center. The video streams will focus on the No. 1 singles and doubles matches and also cover the No. 3 singles and doubles matches when possible. Links to streaming video can be found by going to the men's tennis schedule on GoHuskies.com, and clicking on that day's match.
LAST TIME OUT: Last weekend was a busy one for the Huskies and their fans, as the ITA National Team Indoor Championships descended on Seattle and the Nordstrom Tennis Center and Seattle Tennis Club. Sixteen of the top teams in the nation were on hand, including the top 11 teams in the rankings at the time. No. 1 Virginia maneuvered its way through the draw, surviving two intense encounters with No. 8 UCLA and No. 5 Mississippi, then holding off No. 3 Ohio State, 4-1, in the final. As for the Huskies, they put a major scare into No. 2 Georgia in the first round, eventually falling, 4-2. UW had the doubles point on its racket but it slipped away and the Huskies could never quite overcome the loss. Freshman Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan upset 17th-ranked Nate Schnugg at second singles, and junior Ryo Sekiguchi took out Josh Varela at sixth singles for UW's two points against the defending NCAA Champs. The next day, the Huskies worked the late shift in a match with 10th-ranked Alabama that ended at 12:40 Sunday morning. The lights even went out for a moment at midnight, but it was the Huskies who saw the light in the end, upending the Crimson Tide, 4-1, for their biggest win of the season. Washington took doubles, then had wins from Patrik Fischer at No. 1, Derek Drabble at No. 4, and Sekiguchi at No. 6. In Sunday night's finale, the Huskies faced No. 11 Illinois. Doubles proved to be a missed opportunity, after UW took the lead when freshmen Tobi Obenaus and Martin Kildahl won at No. 3 doubles. Illinois, however, rallied for 9-7 wins at both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles to gain the 1-0 advantage. In singles, five matches went to three sets, but Illinois asserted itself in third sets at No. 2 and No. 4 singles, coupled with a straight-set win at third singles for the victory. The loss at four was tough for Drabble, as he served for the match up 5-4 in the second set against Marc Spicijaric, but Spicijaric broke and grabbed the set, 7-5, and the third set, 6-3. At No. 1 singles, Fischer led Ruben Gonzales, 4-2, in the third set when the match was halted, and Obenaus was just beginning his third set at No. 5 singles after trading tiebreak sets with Illinois' Waylon Chin. Obenaus went three sets in all three of his tourney matches, but did not get to finish any of them. He did, however, go 2-0 at No. 3 doubles with Kildahl. Sekiguchi was the all star for the Dawgs over the weekend, going 3-0 at No. 6 singles to improve to 8-1 in dual play.
The Huskies jumped nine spots in this week's ITA Rankings to a season-high of 27th. It's their highest ranking since March 20 of last season when they were also No. 27. UW ended the year ranked 35th, and began 2008 at No. 37.
The Huskies have already faced five Top-25 teams this season, and four Top-15 teams, and have three more Top-25 matches awaiting them based on the current schedule. The Huskies are 1-4 vs. Top-25 competition, defeating No. 10 Alabama. They will host No. 22 Pepperdine on March 7, and No. 6 UCLA and No. 7 USC on March 28th and 29th, respectively.
Washington's singles depth has been evidenced by its 13-2 combined record at Nos. 5 and 6 singles thus far. Ryo Sekiguchi leads the team with an 8-1 dual record, has won six in a row, and is 4-0 at No. 6 singles and 3-1 at No. 5. Derek Drabble also owns a 2-0 record at No. 5 singles. Despite playing there three times last weekend, Tobi Obenaus remains 0-0 at No. 5 singles as none of his matches reached a conclusion.
UP NEXT: Washington embarks on its second road trip of the season, facing Oregon in Eugene then staying an extra day for a neutral site match with 59th-ranked Denver. The Huskies and Ducks square off on Friday, Feb. 29 at 5 p.m. UW and Denver size each other up on Saturday, March 1 at 2 p.m. The dual match with Oregon will not count towards the Pac-10 standings. The conference match is set for April 19 in Seattle.