Game on: Alabama Men’s Tennis set to take on new matchups

Robert Cortez, Staff Writer

With the focus on college football, sports like men’s tennis were put on the back burner as the SEC and NCAA scrambled to save one of their largest revenue streams. 

As the sports world returns to play, Alabama men’s tennis team will meet in Auburn, Alabama this weekend as it opens up its 2020 season on Oct. 2. Alabama will not only face rival Auburn, but is also scheduled to play against Florida, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. 

Alabama finished last year’s shortened season ranked 26th with an 11-5 record according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings. This record marked a .688 winning percentage, which was seventh best in the Southeastern conference. Seven of the 16 games were against opponents ranked in the top 50 and the Crimson Tide collected a 4-3 record in these games.

Graduate student Alexey Nesterov and senior Riccardo Roberto will return as Alabama’s No.1 doubles pair. Nesterov and Roberto collected a 10-4 record last year. 

Seniors Sam Fischer, (.785), and Patrick Kaukovalta, (.750), return with the highest win percentages in single’s matches from last season. Fischer and Kaukovalta each collected seven wins in their last 10 matches of last season. 

Previewing the opponents:

Auburn: In the spring season the Tigers collected a 9-10 overall record and an 0-4 record in conference play, which marked the team with a last place finish. Auburn has lost four of the last five matches against Alabama. As long as Alabama plays its game, it should walk away with a win. 

Prediction: Alabama wins

Florida: The Florida Gators ranked ninth at the point of last season’s cancellation, according to the ITA. Florida earned its top 10 ranking due to a 15-3 record and was ranked third in the conference. The program is rich in history as it has made 28 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament, one of the longest active streaks in the country. The last time Florida won a conference accolade was in 2016 when it won the conference tournament. The last five matches between Florida and Alabama have all resulted in a Gator win. Not only has Florida not lost to Alabama the past five matches, it has also managed to only allow Alabama to score one point out of the 30 points they competed for. If recent history repeats itself, the match can be a long one for Alabama.

Prediction: Florida wins

Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt finished its shortened season with a 7-6 ranking; allowing the program to collect a ranking of 42, according to the ITA. Despite the top 50 ranking, Vanderbilt still landed at the bottom half of the SEC standings at 11th. The program has made the NCAA tournament in each of its last two seasons. Both Vanderbilt’s and Alabama’s last match from last season was against each other, which ended in a 4-3 Alabama win. However, the Commodores have gotten the better of the Crimson Tide in the last five matches, winning three of the five. Not only have Alabama and Vanderbilt virtually split these last five matches, but each is also closely contested as three of these five matches had a differential of one point. As the matches between Vanderbilt and Alabama continuously prove to be close, the team that walks away with a win will be the one that is more locked in during each point. 

Prediction: Alabama wins

Ole Miss: Ole Miss found itself in the middle of the SEC last year, ranked eighth, due to a 10-4 record. According to the ITA, the Rebels were the 15th best team last season. Ole Miss has made 25 straight tournament appearances, which is the fifth longest active streak in the country. Ole Miss has won four of the last five against Alabama. However, the Rebels recent record against the Crimson Tide does not display how close each of these matches have been as three of the five matches were decided by one point. This match looks to be another close one as both Ole Miss and Alabama are ranked in the top 30, but either Alabama will find a way to get over the losing hump or Ole Miss will find a way to win. 

Prediction: Ole Miss wins

Alabama men’s tennis is set to begin its season on Friday, Oct. 2, and the time for these matches is to be determined.