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The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona men’s tennis first appearance at the ITA National Indoor Championships

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Amelia McAnear

Eric Padgham serves the ball in a doubles match at a game against Pepperdine University on Feb. 3 at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center. The Wildcats went on to win the match 6-1. 

In a historic moment for the No. 14 Arizona men’s tennis team, they ventured into uncharted territory at the 2024 ITA Division I Men’s National Team Indoor Championship, marking its first appearance in the prestigious event’s storied history. The tournament, held from Friday, Feb. 16, to Monday, Feb. 19, unfolded in the heart of tennis excellence—New York, New York. Hosted by Columbia University, the matches took place at the Philip & Cheryl Milstein Family Tennis Center and the iconic USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The format adhered to the traditional collegiate structure, employing a single-elimination framework where each team engaged in one match per day. The championship match, a culmination of skill and resilience, is scheduled for Monday, at 9 a.m. Arizona was amongst a distinguished field of universities, which included the University of Alabama, ASU, Duke University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, the University of South Carolina, TCU, the University of Tennessee, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, USC, the University of Virginia and Wake Forest University.

The top eight seeded teams in the tournament were as followed: Ohio State (1), TCU (2), Texas (3), Virginia (4), Tennessee (5), Wake Forest (6), South Carolina (7) and Columbia (8)

Day 1: No. 14 Arizona vs. No. 3 Texas — Friday, Feb. 16, at 1:30 p.m.

On day one of the tournament, No. 14 Arizona began its play against No. 3 Texas, and the Wildcats would come out victorious against the Longhorns, beating them 4-2. This allowed Arizona to advance to the next round and also marked its second top-25 win of the season.

The Wildcats secured the opening point in doubles, giving them an early 1-0 lead. The pair of Herman Hoeyeraal and Eric Padgham would go on to hold to win the set 6-4. Following suit, the No. 53 senior/freshmen duo, Gustaf Strom and Alexander Rozin, added to Arizona’s early lead by securing the doubles point with a 6-3 win.

Then in the singles lineup, Arizona had No. 5 Colton Smith, No. 43 Jay Friend, No. 47 Strom, Nick Lagaev and No. 116 Hoyeraal representing it. Captain Lagaev displayed impressive poise to win a straight-set over No. 53 Pierre-Yves Bailly, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 2-0.

In the following singles matches, both Smith and Friend extended into three sets, but ended in a 2-2 deadlock against No. 1 Eliot Spizzirri and No. 2 Micah Braswell.

Strom helped Arizona retake its lead with a three set match victory (6-4,3-6,6-2) over Gilles-Arnaud Bailly. Then Hoeyerall rounded out the day for the Wildcats by winning his tie-breaker over Cleeve Harper, with a tie-breaker score 7-6(5) clinching Arizona’s victory in the first day of the tournament.

Day 2: No. 14 Arizona vs. No. 6 Wake Forest — Saturday, Feb. 17, at 4:30 p.m.

On day two of the tournament, Arizona suffered its second defeat of the season in a hard-fought battle against No. 6 Wake Forest during the ITA National Indoor Championship quarterfinals. 

The Wildcats found themselves trailing as Wake Forest secured the doubles point. The No. 53 senior/freshman duo, Strom and Rozin, however were able to create an early lead by defeating Luca Pow and Luciano Tacchi with a solid 6-1 victory. The following matches leading to the doubles point were tightly contested, with Hoeyeraal and Padgham putting up a respectable fight but ultimately falling 7-6(5) to Filippo Moroni and Matthew Thomson. No. 6 Smith and Friend faced a tough battle as well going up against No. 7 Holden Koons and DK Suresh Ekambaram, resulting in a 7-6(9) loss, giving Wake Forest a 1-0 lead.

The singles competition featured seven players from both teams ranked in the ITA Top 125 singles players, showcasing the depth of talent on the court. In the fourth position for Arizona, Hoeyeraal showcased resilience, putting the Wildcats on the board with a straight-set victory of 6-3, 6-2, tying the score 1-1. However, Wake Forest quickly regained the lead, securing victories in subsequent matches.

Despite Smith’s performance, dominating No. 23 Filippo 6-1, 7-6(5) and adding to the score, Wake Forest extended their lead. Casper Christensen fought hard in a tie-breaker during the first set but eventually fell to Pow 7-6(4), followed by a 6-3 defeat in the second set.

Friend’s match faced an uncertain outcome as it headed into the third set before the overall result was decided, securing Wake Forest’s spot in the semi-finals. Arizona now had its sights set on a consolation match against No. 10 Texas A&M

Day 3: No. 14 Arizona vs. No. 12 Texas A&M — Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4:30 p.m.

On the third day of the 2024 ITA National Indoor Championships, the Wildcats and Aggies faced off in the consolation match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The No. 14 Arizona secured a decisive 4-1 victory against the No. 12 Texas A&M.

The doubles action unfolded with anticipation as Luke Casper and JC Roddick of Texas A&M faced off against Hoeyeraal and Padgham. The Wildcats claimed the opening set with a 6-3 win, setting an early tone. However, Texas A&M swiftly responded with Giulio Perego and Togan Tokac dominating No. 6 Friend and Smith, securing a commanding 6-3 victory and evening the score. The doubles point hung in the balance, with Raphael Perot and Tiago Pires clinching it for Texas A&M in a 7-6(4) battle against No. 53 Sasha Rozin and Strom.

Undeterred by the setback in doubles, Arizona regrouped for the singles competition, swiftly turning the tide with three consecutive wins. No. 43 Friend showcased his mettle, clinching a victory against No. 57 Perot in a three-set battle (6-4, 3-6, 1-1 WR), leveling the overall score at 1-1.

As the singles matches unfolded, the Wildcats continued to assert their dominance. No. 116 Hoeyeraal secured a straight-set win (7-5, 6-3) against No. 103 Perego, extending Arizona’s lead. Inaki Cabrera-Bello continued the momentum with a convincing 6-4, 6-3 win against Pires. The Wildcats’ depth shone as Christensen sealed the victory with an impressive performance, overcoming Casper in three sets (2-6, 6-2, 6-0).

Arizona’s win in the consolation round reflected not only individual prowess but also the team’s collective determination.

Looking ahead: 

Despite not making it to the championship game on Monday, the Wildcats put forth an incredibly valiant effort in their first-ever appearance at this tournament. They were able to leave New York, defeating two of the top-10 ranked teams in the country.

Now, Arizona returns home where they will face New Mexico State University on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.


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