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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hard work rings at tennis practice

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Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

It’s hard to label the sport of tennis with a definitive sound.

In baseball, there is the crack of the bat. Football has the sounds of shoulder pads or helmets colliding, and basketball knows the “”swish”” of the net. Tennis is a combination of many things — the squeak when shoes meet the court or that uncertain sound the hollow ball makes when it collides with the racket. 

One thing is for sure — those sounds are heard often at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center, where hard work in practice has put the Arizona men’s tennis program in a position to be a Pacific 10 Conference contender.

“”It seems like we’ve developed a good foundation of guys of all ages here,”” said head coach Tad Berkowitz. “”We’ve built this program from a few years ago when we were unranked to last season where we finished in the top 25.””

Among the team’s roster of 11 players — three of whom are seniors — the Wildcats’ combination of youth and experience bodes well for any rising program looking to maintain success.

“”I think we have a good base with a couple older guys, some guys who are returning and a couple of freshmen,”” Berkowitz said. “”The future looks bright for us.””

Both Berkowitz and assistant coach Tom Lloyd say the team’s position as a contender in the conference is due to the daily work ethic exhibited by the players in practice that translates into their matches.

“”All the credit goes to the guys,”” Lloyd said. “”In the end, it’s them who are putting in the hard work in the gym and on the courts.””

“”Our guys are a bunch of competitors,”” Berkowitz added. “”They do what it takes day in and day out at practice, and when we get to tournaments we just hop on their backs. They compete like animals.””

It never hurts to have a talented roster to complement hard work. The team features a strong core, with junior Jay Goldman coming into the year ranked 36th and senior Andres Arango ranked 122nd. 

The two are joined by junior Andres Carrasco, who last year tied for the team lead in singles victories, and senior Ravid Hazi, who competed in both the third and fourth position in singles for the team last year.

Rounding out the group is budding talent Jason Zafiros. The sophomore is coming off an impressive performance at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association West Regionals, where he made it to the semi-finals in a field of 128 of college’s top tennis players.

The Bradenton, Fla., native represents what the future has in store for the Wildcats, and although he appreciates what the team did last year, he is expecting more from the team this year.

“”I think last year finishing in the top 25 was great,”” Zafiros said. “”It’s exciting for sure, but at the same time, we’re not a group of guys who are going to sit back (and) expect it again.””

“”We’re playing at a high level in the fall and that will give us confidence for the spring,”” he added.

Zafiros cited the dedication up and down the roster and sees this year’s squad as potentially finishing in the top 10 in the country, reflecting the attitude he notices when he talks with other players on the team.

“”We definitely have higher goals this year,”” he said.

In a conference with defending national champion USC, that attitude will undoubtedly help Arizona as it looks to capture the conference title.

“”The sky is the limit with this team,”” Lloyd said.

For now, the sounds of hard work will continue to resonate from the Robson tennis center, as Berkowitz, the 2009 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, gears his team up for the last tournament of the fall this weekend.

With the combination of grit, talent and hunger, there are seemingly no boundaries for the Wildcats’ success this year and for years to come.

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