No. 5 USC Men Turn To Pac-10 Championships

April 21, 2010

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With a share of the Pac-10 Team Championship tucked under their caps and NCAA action on the horizon, the No. 5 USC men first dig into singles and doubles competition at the 2010 Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif. Helping the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament celebrate its 110th year, the Pac-10 Championships are set to run April 22-25, offering up battles for the Pac-10 Singles and Doubles titles to be won this weekend.

The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings (released April 20) have defending NCAA champ USC ranked No. 5 in the nation after the Trojans' first loss slipped them out of the No. 1 spot at which they opened the year. The latest individual rankings also were released April 20. There, Steve Johnson remains ranked #2 in singles. Senior Robert Farah also stays in the top-10, now at #8, with two other Trojans settled in the rankings: #90 Jaak Poldma and #92 Daniel Nguyen. In doubles, four Trojan teams are in the rankings. With #5 Farah/Johnson in the lead, also ranked are the pairings of #56 Johnson/Nguyen, #63 McNaughton/Nguyen, and #82 Nguyen/Sundling.

The USC men earned a share of the 2010 Pac-10 Championship with its 5-1 finish in the conference standings. Co-champs with Stanford, the Trojans have a claim on the Pac-10's automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament thanks to USC's win over Stanford in the teams' conference clash on April 2. USC's last Pac-10 title was picked up in 2008, when the Trojans wound up as the 2008 conference champions after an ineligible UCLA player turned two Bruin wins to forfeits in that year. That gave USC a 7-0 mark in 2008 Pac-10 action to take the title. Besides the 2008 championship, USC last won the Pac-10 crown in 2004 with a 6-1 finish to share the title. USC last won the Pac-10 title outright in 1994 with a 9-1 mark. In total, USC is in the Pac-10 history books with 30 team championships -- shared and solo combined -- with this 2010 title standing as the Trojans' 31st conference crown dating back to 1934.

USC has four players lined up for the Pac-10 Singles Championship bracket and four playing on the Invitational side. In the mix for Thursday morning's first-round singles play are Robert Farah, Matt Kecki, Peter Lucassen and Daniel Nguyen on the Championship side and Joel Giger, Daniel Gliner, Ben Lankenau and JT Sundling in Invitational play. In the doubles realm, which kicks off on Friday morning, Farah/Johnson and Nguyen/Sundling and Lucassen/Poldma will compete in the Pac-10 Doubles Championship draw, and Gliner/Kecki and Giger/Lankenau 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. USC singles and doubles entries listed below. COMPLETE DRAWS AND RESULTS POSTED HERE

A look at the returning Trojans' runs at last year's Pac-10 Championships:
Steve Johnson -- reached singles championship (lost to Stanford's Bradley Klahn 7-6 (4), 6-4)
Robert Farah -- reached singles semifinals (lost to Klahn 6-2, 7-5)
Matt Kecki -- reached singles Round of 16
Jason McNaughton -- competed in first round
Daniel Nguyen -- won singles invitational championship (def. UCLA's Eugen Brazdil 6-3, 6-1)
Farah/Johnson -- reached doubles quarterfinals (lost to Stanford's Klahn/Thacher 8-6)

USC had its pursuit of an undefeated conference finish interrupted by No. 12 UCLA last week, as the Bruins eked out a 4-3 win over the host Trojans in their Pac-10 dual-match finale. UCLA claimed the doubles point in dramatic fashion, coming back to win two matches in tiebreakers to snag the first point. USC would even the score three times, but could not pull out the win. The match was decided on court six as UCLA's Maxime Tabatruong edged Jason McNaughton in a three-set battle to close out the win for the Bruins.

It's been a team effort for the Trojans in working their way to within reach of the 2010 Pac-10 Championship. The USC men have claimed five Pac-10 Player of the Week awards so far this season, giving the Trojans the lead for all-time selections with a grand total of 15. This year, four different Trojans have won the weekly honor -- two for Daniel Nguyen and one apiece for Jaak Poldma, Steve Johnson and Jason McNaughton. This season's selections have been the first of each Trojans' career. McNaughton's selection is the latest to go on the USC tally after the senior came through with a powerful straight-set win over #7 Stanford's Greg Hirshman -- handing the Cardinal player his first loss of the season at the No. 6 singles position - to take USC ahead 3-1 as the remaining three matches all went into tense three-setters last week. His win also helped secure him a spot in the lineup for the following day against #17 California. There, McNaughton was slotted at No. 5, and the senior captured another win by handing a rare dual-match loss to Riki McLachlan to round out USC's 6-1 win over the Bears. In limited time this season due to early-season injury, McNaughton won five straight singles matches in Pac-10 play before taking a loss vs. UCLA last week.

In spite of USC's Pac-10 loss to the Bruins last week, the Trojans can still boast their first back-to-back wins over crosstown rival UCLA since 1991 after the USC's 6-1 win over the Bruins on March 3 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. USC had claimed a 4-0 win over UCLA earlier this year at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, and the second look at UCLA was a similarly decisive victory for the Trojans. USC captured the doubles point and then worked ahead with the clincher coming from Matt Kecki to make it a 4-1 USC lead from his No. 6 singles slot.

Steve Johnson was ranked #1 from January until March 2 when he moved to #3 for one rankings cycle. During that stretch, the sophomore earned his first career Pac-10 Player of the Week honor, beating UCLA's Holden Seguso and Wake Forest's #20 Tripper Carleton. After doing so, Johnson moved back to #1 and remained there until last week's slip to #2. Johnson was displaced last week by Tennessee's JP Smith, whom Johnson beat in the fall. Johnson now holds a seven-match winning streak for a 26-4 overall singles record and a 15-3 mark in dual-match play.

The No. 1 singles slot has been shared by Steve Johnson and Robert Farah to the tune of a 20-2 combined record in that position. Robert Farah holds court with a 13-1 mark on top, falling only in a three-setter to then-#5 Dimitar Kutrovsky of Texas. Now ranked #8 in the nation, the 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year currently boasts a six-match win streak for a 25-5 overall singles record with a 17-2 mark in dual-match play.

Daniel Nguyen has built up a nice 12-match singles winning streak as he rolls into this week's action. Along the way, Nguyen snagged his first career Pac-10 Player of the Week honors -- two of them -- after bigtime singles and doubles play in USC's first win over Stanford and then later after a powerful road trip through Duke and Georgia. Nguyen is now ranked #92 in the nation in singles and holds a 30-5 overall record and 16-1 mark in dual-match play. He leads the team in singles wins, just ahead of Steve Johnson's 26 victories and Robert Farah's 25 to date. Jaak Poldma also recently joined the 20-win club that Nguyen has just busted out of with win number 30 in the books.

A new member of the 20-win club this season, Jaak Poldma was the first to start the trend of Trojan Pac-10 Player of the Week honorees. At the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Poldma tallied wins across the board, getting two singles and doubles wins and leading in both his suspended matches. Poldma stayed flawless in dual-match singles play from the No. 3 position, beating Kellen Damico of Texas and #118 Nick Meister of UCLA both in straight sets. His singles wins put him on a six-match overall win streak. Poldma also stretched to a six-match win streak in doubles with Peter Lucassen with that weekend's success, including an 8-6 upset of UCLA's #36 Brooklyn/Stewart. Poldma now ranks #90 in singles with a 21-7 overall record in singles with a 14-4 mark in dual-match play. Poldma and Lucassen are 14-4 together in doubles -- all in dual-match action.

USC's doubles strength has been key this season. Although pairings have been shuffling during dual-match play, the Trojans have won the doubles point in all but two matches this year. Those two lost doubles points both wound up as USC's only two losses to date -- vs. Texas and at Duke. With the majority of time at the top slot, the #8-ranked duo of Robert Farah and Steve Johnson hold an 11-1 record at No. 1, where USC is 16-5 overall. Daniel Nguyen has been a power partner at the No. 2 slot, most recently teaming up with JT Sundling there for a 5-1 mark, and also pairing with Jason McNaughton for a 3-2 mark, and with Johnson for a 4-0 record. The No. 3 spot has been largely comprised of Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma, who opened the year with a 10-0 record in that position and are now 14-4 together in dual-match doubles.

2010 Pac-10 Men's Tennis Championships - Ojai, Calif.

SINGLES - Championship Bracket
[1] Robert Farah
First Round (April 22): vs. Pat Metham (ARIZ) - 11 a.m.

Matt Kecki
First Round (April 22): vs. Martin Kildahl (WASH) - 8 a.m.

[8] Daniel Nyuyen
First Round (April 22): vs. Bozhidar Katsarov (CAL) - 9:30 a.m.

Peter Lucassen
First Round (April 22): vs. Bijan Hejazi (CAL) -12:30 p.m.

SINGLES - Invitational Bracket
JT Sundling
First Round: BYE
Round of 16 (April 22): vs. Doug Mayeda (ORE) / Jeff Gast (UCLA) - 2 p.m.

Joel Giger
First Round (April 22): vs. Evan Lee (UCLA) - 9:30 a.m.

Daniel Gliner
First Round (April 22): vs. Matt Stith (WASH) - 9:30 a.m.

Ben Lankenau
First Round (April 22): vs. Sho Higuchi (ORE) - 11 a.m.

DOUBLES - Championship Bracket
[1] Robert Farah/ Steve Johnson
First Round (April 23): vs. Kandath/Lin (STAN) - 10 a.m.

Daniel Nyuyen/ JT Sundling
First Round (April 23): vs. Hazi/Malo (ARIZ) - 9 a.m.

Peter Lucassen/ Jaak Poldma
First Round (April 23): vs. [2] Klahn/Thacher (STAN) - 10 a.m.

DOUBLES - Invitational Bracket
Joel Giger/ Ben Lankenau
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals (April 23): vs. Obenaus/Rosinski (WASH) - 4 p.m.

Daniel Gliner/ Matt Kecki
First Round: BYE
Quarterfinals (April 23): vs. Clissold/Mayeda (ORE) - 4 p.m.

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