Jan. 29, 2010
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The 25th-ranked men's tennis team (0-1) looks to bounce back from a tough season-opening loss when it plays host to No. 23 Arizona (1-0), No. 22 Auburn (0-0), and No. 18 Duke (1-0) as part of ITA Kick-Off Weekend Saturday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 31. The Crimson Tide faces the Wildcats on Saturday beginning at 1:00 p.m. (CST), and will also face either the Tigers or Blue Devils on Sunday at noon (CST).
"We have four national-caliber teams competing in this event, and we're looking forward to the challenge it presents," head coach Billy Pate said. "It will be a bit tricky with the weather, but we hope to get the match with Arizona completed outdoors on Saturday. They are a very talented team, and we'll need to be at our best in our home opener."
Tuscaloosa is serving as one of 15 regional sites playing host to first and second round matches. The winner of each regional, plus host school Virginia, will advance to compete in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships Feb. 12-15 at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.
Alabama dropped a 4-3 decision at then-No. 47 Northwestern last weekend to begin the season 0-1. The Tide claimed the doubles point and held a 3-1 lead before the Wildcats won the remaining three singles matches to complete the comeback, including winning three-set matches at the No. 2 and 5 positions. Overall, four of the six singles matches went the distance, with Northwestern notching victories in three of the four.
Arizona heads to Tuscaloosa with momentum, opening the season with a 7-0 sweep of Montana State at home. The Wildcats' head coach Tad Berkowitz will be very familiar with his surroundings this weekend, as he began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Alabama. He served as an assistant for three seasons under former head coach Adam Steinberg, helping guide the team to a berth in the NCAA Tournament in his final season at the Capstone. The Tide has faced Arizona four times previously, with each team collecting two wins. The last meeting was in 1993 in Tuscaloosa, which was a 4-3 victory for Alabama.
Auburn's dual match with Duke will be its first dual match of the season. Last weekend, the Tigers competed in the Virginia Tech Tournament. Tiger junior Tim Puetz led the way for Auburn, going undefeated in both singles and doubles. This will be the first of two trips to Tuscaloosa for the Tigers, as they will face the Tide on Saturday, April 17 in the last conference match of the regular season. Alabama leads the all-time series 54-29-1, including defeating Auburn 4-2 last year on the road for its sixth consecutive win in the series.
Duke enters the weekend with a 1-0 record after sweeping in-state foe Elon 7-0 at home. The Blue Devils won all three doubles matches and claimed all six singles matches in straight sets. Alabama has won two of the three previous matchups with Duke. The last meeting took place in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, which the Tide won to advance to the Round of 16.
Alabama will be at home next weekend as well, playing host to Tulane on Sunday, Feb. 7. The match is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. (CST).