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No. 9 USC Men's Tennis Faces TCU, UCLA For Second Time in 2021

Feb 24, 2021


The No. 9 Trojans square off against two top-20 foes this week. On Friday (Feb. 26), USC (8-3) gets a rematch against No. 5 TCU (7-2) at 5 p.m. at Marks Stadium as the Trojans look to avenge a tight loss taken to the Horned Frogs weeks ago in Illinois. From there, USC will head over to Los Angeles Tennis Stadium for another bout with No. 17 UCLA. The Trojans and the Bruins will tangle at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 28) in a nonconference meeting. 


USC is ranked No. 9 in the latest set of Oracle/ITA National Team Rankings (released Feb. 24). Individual rankings were set back in January, with the Trojans boasting the #1 singles player in Daniel Cukierman and #1 doubles team of Cukierman and Riley Smith. In all, USC has five ranked singles players — #1 Cukierman, #19 Smith, #26 Mor Bulis, #79 Ryder Jackson and #104 Stefan Dostanic. In doubles, USC has two ranked pairs -- #1 Cukierman/R. Smith and #50 Bulis/Dostanic.

USC breezed to victory back on home turf last weekend, topping visiting No. 14 Oklahoma State 4-0 on a windy day in L.A. A swift doubles victory was following by a series of straight-set singles wins, with Bradley Frye claiming the clincher for the Trojans. USC hit the gas early in charging to the doubles point on wins from courts one and two. At the No. 2 spot, it was Stefan Dostanic and Bradley Frye who kept their slate clean with a 6-2 win that puts the pair at 5-0 on the year. On court one, USC's #1 Daniel Cukierman and Riley Smith broke back and held strong to win 6-3 and clinch the doubles point for the Trojans. Sprinting to the first singles win of the day for USC was #104 Stefan Dostanic, who snagged the first set of the day as well and pressed on to notch a 6-1, 6-3 win over #86 Henrik Korsgaard on court three. USC had wins in reach on courts five and six, with Lodewijk Weststrate finishing off his Cowboy opponent next with another 6-1, 6-3 decision to top Etienne Donnet and pin a 3-0 lead on the board for USC. At the No. 5 slot, Bradley Frye pounced on his opportunity to clinch, wrapping things up with his 6-2, 6-4 clincher over Mathieu Scaglia to put the win in USC's column and suspend the remaining action.

The No. 5 Horned Frogs are 7-2 overall after its 1-2 run at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships earlier this month, where TCU beat USC 4-3 in the final match of the event. TCU has four players ranked in singles -- #21 Alastair Gray, #47 Luc Fomba, #113 Sander Jong and #125 Jacob Fearnley. In doubles, TCU has #15 Fearnley/Gray, #24 Jong/Paroulek and #53 Fomba/Kruger. In a series dating back to 1980, USC is 6-4 all-time against TCU after the Trojans' loss at ITA Indoors. 

SCOUTING UCLA            
The No. 17 Bruins are 2-1 overall after a 4-1 win over LMU in their last action. UCLA has three players ranked in singles -- #10 Keegan Smith, #22 Govind Nanda and #109 Sam Felt. In doubles, UCLA has #13 Nanda/Smith. In a series dating back to 1929, USC is 97-114 all-time against UCLA after the Trojans tallied a 4-1 win over UCLA last month at the ITA Kickoff Weekend at Marks Stadium. 

STARTING ON TOP            
USC entered the new year with authority, boasting a sweep of the first ITA national rankings as the No. 1 team with the No. 1 singles player and No. 1 doubles pair. As the Trojans prepared to start up their 2021 campaign, USC head coach Brett Masi had his team at the top, while senior Daniel Cukierman stood tall as the nation's No. 1 singles player while also pairing up with returning senior Riley Smith for the No. 1 doubles rank. When 2020 competition was suspended back in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, USC was coming off a big victory at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Trojans were No. 1 in the nation, and Cukierman was the No. 1 singles player. 

Senior Daniel Cukierman picked up the first weekly prize of the year from the Pac-12 in securing his third career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 4. Cukierman was perfect in singles and doubles as the Trojans tallied two dual-match wins to improve to 3-0 on the year. Most notably, top-ranked Cukierman came through with a three-set comeback win in singles to beat UCLA's #10 Keegan Smith in the ITA Kickoff Weekend championship match, clinching victory for the Trojans to punch up USC's 13th straight title at the event and ensuring USC would make a 13th straight trip to ITA National Team Indoor Championship. USC won the national title at that event last year. Also against the Bruins, Cukierman paired with fellow senior Riley Smith — together ranked as the No. 1 doubles team in the nation — for a win on court one before coming through with the singles clincher later. Later in the week, USC took on LMU and served up a sweep of the Lions thanks in part to wins from Cukierman in doubles and singles again. Cukierman has now won 11 consecutive singles matches dating back to last season.

USC sophomore Stefan Dostanic snagged his first Pac-12 Player of the Week honors on February 23 after another smooth doubles win and a singles victory for the Trojans. He's the second USC player to win the award this season, joining Daniel Cukierman as an honoree. This week, Dostanic came up with the first doubles and singles wins of the day for the No. 8 Trojans in their 4-0 victory over visiting No. 14 Oklahoma State. Dostanic and doubles partner Bradley Frye stayed perfect in doubles action with their 6-2 win at the No. 2 spot to get USC off on a winning note against the Cowboys. Ranked No. 104 in the nation in singles, Dostanic later topped Oklahoma State's No. 86 Henrik Korsgaard in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 to make it a 2-0 Trojan lead en route to USC's sweep at Marks Stadium. Dostanic has lost just one doubles match and two singles matches this season.

BY THE NUMBERS            
USC's winningest player to date is newcomer Lodewijk Weststrate, who has churned out 12 singles wins in his freshman campaign as a Trojan so far. Next in line with 10 singles wins is Stefan Dostanic. In doubles, USC's top pairs have gone a combined 11-1 in dual-match play. Top-ranked Daniel Cukierman and Riley Smith are currently 6-1 at the No. 1 spot on the year, while Stefan Dostanic and Bradley Frye boast a 5-0 mark to date from court two.

The coronavirus pandemic put a stop to activities around the world, including all NCAA competition. When the 2020 season was suspended, the USC men's tennis team was standing tall as the top-ranked team in the nation for the fifth consecutive week — the Trojans' longest run at No. 1 since 2012. At 13-1 overall and recently crowned as the ITA National Indoor Champions, USC was looking like a solid frontrunner for the 2020 NCAA Championship under the direction of first-year head coach Brett Masi. Masi had taken over the reins of the Trojan tennis program in August 2019, leading a talented USC roster that featured a strong blend of veterans and youth. Senior All-Americans Brandon Holt and Riley Smith were joined by former team manager Rae Lan to round out USC's 2020 senior class. The savvy Daniel Cukierman stood tall as USC's lone junior on the roster, and he'd work his way to rank No. 1 in the nation in singles by the close of competition. USC's sophomore class featured Mor Bulis, Bradley Frye and Jake Sands, who were all coming off of solid first seasons as Trojans. Bulis shined particularly bright in the fall and cracked the top-10 singles rankings at No. 9 in the land at the same time that his fellow Israeli teammate Cukierman stepped to No. 1. USC's two newcomers were feisty freshmen Stefan Dostanic and Ryder Jackson. Both would show their mettle in the fall, and both became mainstays in the dual-match lineup that saw the Trojans take over the nation.