By Keegan Hinsley, Contributing Writer
Alabama men’s tennis went 6-2 in its spring doubles debut against a young South Alabama team of three seniors and four freshmen on Friday night. The opening night of Spring Shootout, a weekend tournament, saw no singles play, which began Saturday.
Eight doubles matches were split into two rounds. Both head coaches rearranged their doubles teams between rounds, which is normal in pre-conference play.
Alabama has used 11 potential doubles teams in the 2019-2020 season so far. One of those teams, senior Alexey Nesterov and junior Patrick Kaukovalta, made its first season appearance on Friday. The pair suffered one of the team’s two losses from Friday night, a 4-6 defeat.
Another interesting squad is Edson Ortiz, a senior from Chihuahua, Mexico, and Marcelo Sepulveda Garza, an exciting freshman from Monterrey, Mexico. Sepulveda Garza, the former No. 1 junior player in Mexico, has an 8-6 singles record going into spring.
Another freshman, Avi Shugar out of Oregon, didn’t play on Friday. He had some decisive wins over established Alabama opponents in the fall season, going 7-10 in the fall. Shugar and Sepulveda Garza have played a combined 33 matches in the fall of 2019 alone, while the rest of the roster has averaged 10 sets played.
“I just wanna get guys as many matches as possible… especially freshmen,” coach George Husack said.
Fall was about acquainting these new players to the NCAA’s rules and play style, which is fast and high-impact. Service games finally come to your advantage. Quick return games and sharp reflexes, like Kaukovalta has, make the difference in close matches. Chemistry between doubles partners, like Ortiz and Sepulveda Garza have, becomes tangible. The pair won 6-3 in their first NCAA match together on Friday.
By Nick Robbins, Contributing Writer
Alabama picked up where it left off on Friday, going 2-2 in doubles play and 7-1 in singles against North Carolina and South Alabama on Saturday.
The teams played only one set in doubles but played best-of-three in singles. The doubles pairs were changed around compared to yesterday’s pairs.
Alabama dominated in singles with strong performances from both freshmen on the roster: Sepulveda Garza won 6-4, 6-3 and Shugar won an even more lopsided match 6-2, 6-0.
“I think [Shugar] was aggressive, offensive and in the end, he played really powerful and overtook his opponent,” Husack said.
Junior Riccardo Roberto fought back multiple times to win a tough match 7-6, 5-7, 6-3, after trailing 1-4 in one set and 2-5 in another.
Senior Zhe Zhou lost his opening set 6-7 but won the next two 6-3, 6-3 to earn a win.
Kaukovalta, Nesterov and junior Jeremy Gschwendtner also all won their singles matches.
The lone Alabama singles loss came from senior Ortiz, who lost a hard-fought 6-3, 3-6, 3-6 battle against North Carolina’s Josh Peck, who’s ranked No. 82 in the country.
Alabama dominated South Alabama, winning 12 out of 14 sets. Alabama faced a tougher test against North Carolina, winning three out of six sets.
In doubles play Alabama went 2-2 with an aggressive approach. Alabama played up on the net the whole night helping to secure some points.
“In doubles we are looking to get to the net all the time, always looking to attack,” Husack said.
Gschwendtner/Roberto won 6-2 and Sepulveda Garza/Zhou won 6-0. The Crimson Tide’s losses came from Nesterov and junior Sam Fischer, who lost 6-4, and Kaukovalta/Ortiz, who lost 6-2.
“I thought they competed well, a difference of a few points, I think Patrick and Edson jell pretty well,” Husack said.
By Nick Robbins, Contributing Writer
Alabama has yet another strong day finishing 3-1 in doubles play and 8-1 in singles play. The matches followed the same format as yesterday with doubles being one set and singles being best-of-three.
Singles was headlined by blow out victories from junior Fischer and freshman Shugar. Shugar recorded a 6-2, 6-1 win while Fischer won his match 6-1, 6-0.
Fischer, who didn’t play singles last night, came out and looked ready to play.
“He was outstanding, he really thumped his opponent, he really took it to him,” said Husack.
The other freshman on the team, Sepulveda Garza, won his match 6-1, 7-6 with a 7-3 in the tie breaker.
“[Shugar and Sepulveda Garza’s] games are growing, it’s important for them to play as many matches as possible,” Husack said.
Senior Ortiz won his match 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Ortiz had a tough second set losing 2-6. It looked as if he would lose the third set but three points in a row helped him secure the win.
“I feel like Edson did an outstanding job in his match,” Husack said. “He’s a competitor and prevailed against a good player from North Carolina.”
Seniors Zhou and Nesterov, along with juniors Gschwendtner and Kaukovalta, all picked up singles wins as well.
The lone Alabama singles was close 5-7, 4-6 loss for Roberto against North Carolina.
Alabama had strong doubles play with three wins against South Alabama and a loss against North Carolina.
The Crimson Tide came out strong against the Jaguars with Fischer/Sepulveda Garza dominating their match 6-1. Wins also came from Nesterov/Roberto and Gschwendtner/Zhou, both by the score of 6-2.
Alabama struggled against North Carolina with Ortiz/Kaukovalta losing 2-6 to a tough duo from the Tar Heels.
Overall Alabama had a strong weekend winning most of its matches in both singles and doubles play. The team finished 11-5 in doubles and 15-2 during the weekend.