Thursday, March 03, 2005
The University of Alabama men’s tennis team will open its Southeastern Conference schedule this weekend. The action begins Friday night at the UA Tennis Complex against No. 8 Georgia (6-2). The match is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday Alabama will travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to take on No. 18 Tennessee (4-2).
“We’re looking forward to getting started in conference play,” head coach Billy Pate said. “We’ve talked about this being a separate season now and I think our guys are excited about meeting the challenges we face.”
Alabama will enter this weekend’s SEC opener with a 5-4 record, having lost four of its last five matches after starting the season 4-0. But Pate feels that his team is ready for SEC play because of the tough non-conference schedule his team has already faced. Six of Alabama’s nine opponents this season have been ranked, including the last five. The Tide is 2-4 vs. ranked opponents this season and nearly pulled off an upset of No. 12 Ohio State last Sunday. Alabama has also won three of its last four SEC openers.
“We know we face a stiff challenge this weekend,” Pate said. “but we’ve had a good week of practice and I think we’re ready.”
Freshman Javier Bes has been a pleasant surprise for the Tide so far. Playing mainly at No. 4 singles, Bes (6-2) has won six of seven in dual match play while playing all matches indoors. As the weather warms up, matches will be moved outdoors where the Spaniard is more accustomed to playing.
Georgia will come into Tuscaloosa with perhaps the deepest line-up Alabama will see this year. The Bulldogs have five players ranked in the ITA top 100; Alabama has two. Sophomore John Isner (No. 23) has led the way for the UGA with an 18-6 record. Matic Omerzel (No.46) is UGA’s second highest ranked player and is no stranger to Alabama. Omerzel ended Billy Mertz’ nine-match winning streak in October at the ICYHOT ITA All-Americans. Other ranked players for UGA are Matias Ormaza (No. 76), Strahinja Bobusic (No. 67), and Ricardo Gonzalez (No. 82).
Alabama’s first SEC road match will be at Tennessee (4-2) this Sunday at 1 p.m. Tennessee jumped three places since last week in the ITA rankings despite not playing. The Vols have been off since Feb. 12 when they lost to No. 6 Duke. Tennessee is led by Senior Mark Dietrich, the nation’s 63rd ranked player. Dietrich hasn’t played much this season though and is just 5-3 on the year. Tennessee does have one of the top doubles teams in the nation, No. 5 Ben Rogers/Ockie Oosthuizen. The Vols lead the all-time series 29-10.