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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Men’s tennis team starts with a bang

    It may be the middle of winter, but the Arizona men’s tennis team reflected temperatures as scorching-hot as an Arizona summer.

    The Wildcats kicked off their season on the right paw Friday and Saturday by tearing wins from the clutches of Gonzaga, NAU and Scottsdale Community College, winning each match 7-0. With a flawless record of 3-0, the Wildcats lapped up their first taste of victory.

    NAU seemed a bit intimidated going into Saturday morning’s match.

    It could have stemmed from the fact that the Lumberjacks haven’t beaten the Wildcats since 1980, or maybe ATP all-pro Taylor Dent’s appearance had something to do with it.

    Heads turned and the smiles of opponents quickly became blank stares when Dent came out to the match as Arizona’s volunteer assistant coach.

    Head coach Tad Berkowitz was grateful for his help and support.

    “”With his background and abilities he’s going to be a huge asset for the team,”” Berkowitz said. “”He’s a celebrity and one of the top players in the world. We’re lucky to have him.””

    The squad, equally as appreciative, felt like it may have added a little fear factor for opponents.

    “”It definitely gave us an edge,”” said freshman David Humphreys. “”To see him there, for the other team, would have been intimidating.””

    Dent was ranked No. 21 in the world prior to injuring his back. Having his assistance will greatly benefit the program when it comes to the coaching on distinct skills, like serving. Dent tied for the fastest serve on the 2005 tour, served at 155 mph.

    Despite their less-than-intimidating mascot, the SCC Fighting Artichokes offered the toughest match of the three this weekend.

    The twosome that stood out the most was Claudio Christen and Humphreys. Unable to tell based off his fine level of play on the number one court, Humphreys was pretty anxious.

    “”It was my first real match playing, and the fact that I got put in the number one spot made me really nervous,”” Humphreys said. “”But once we broke serve I got a little more settled and confident.””

    Because of the ineligibility of SCC player Alex Wieland, Christen and Humphreys won by default, but the match was played out as regular. The Cats won two of the three doubles matches, giving them one of seven points and a driving force into singles play.

    Sophomore Ravid Hazi set the pace in singles by smoking each opponent (6-0, 6-0); he was a large source of heat that fired up the team’s confidence.

    “”It’s the first time I didn’t lose a game all weekend,”” Hazi said. “”I’m happy because it means I was focused the whole match. It got the momentum going and the target of wanting to keep (my opponents at zero) was there.””

    The difference between a good team and a great team is its depth in the lineup. A mediocre team has good players in its first, second and third spots. What makes Arizona a potentially great team is their ability to have strong players in spots one through six, and beyond.

    “”We have a strong lineup this year, all eight (of them),”” said Hazi, who played in the No. 5 spot. “”So even if we’re injured, we’re still strong.””

    A prime example of depth was displayed in the final match when freshman Jay Goldman filled in for Christen at No. 1. After defeating an SCC opponent in the first set 6-0, Goldman seemed to have the match in the bag. But this wasn’t the case.

    “”I found rhythm early on, but I didn’t keep my focus,”” Goldman said.

    Goldman allowed his opponent to come back and take the second set, 7-6. The tiebreaker was “”a bit of a dogfight,”” Goldman said, but he was able to power through for the win, 7-6. The offseason training finally paid off. Goldman’s endurance was the key to success in the final set.

    Goldman was like the Energizer Bunny and his opponent’s battery was in desperate need of a recharge.

    “”I could have played a couple more sets,”” Goldman said with a grin.

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