April 9, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The 15th-ranked men’s tennis team (17-5, 5-3 SEC) returns home this weekend for its final conference home matches of the season. The Crimson Tide hosts the No. 10 Florida Gators (14-6, 5-3 SEC) on Friday, April 10 beginning at 3:00 p.m. (CST), and then welcomes in the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks (15-6, 3-5) on Sunday, April 12 at 1:00 p.m. (CST). Sunday’s contest will also serve as Senior Day recognizing five student-athletes at the final home match of their careers. All action will take place at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium.
"It will be an exciting weekend of tennis with two top teams visiting on Senior Weekend,” said head coach Billy Pate. “We hope to have a great atmosphere as we pay tribute to five outstanding student-athletes in their last regular-season home contests.”
Alabama enters the weekend having lost its last two matches, the first losing streak of the season for the Tide. Alabama dropped 4-2 decisions at both Tennessee and Georgia last weekend. Of the Tide’s five losses this season, four have come to teams currently ranked in the top 5 nationally. Alabama has only lost one home match this season, a 4-3 defeat at the hands of No. 2 Ole Miss. The Tide has two players ranked nationally in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, and both picked up marquee wins last Sunday at Georgia. Junior Saketh Myneni, ranked No. 34, defeated No. 10 Nate Schnugg 7-5, 7-5, while senior Mathieu Thibaudeau, ranked 87th, took down No. 66 Javier Garrapiz 6-3, 6-2. Alabama also has three doubles pairs in the national rankings. Thibaudeau and freshman Ricky Doverspike are No. 35, although they have not seen consistent action as a duo since the fall season. Thibaudeau teams up with fellow senior Dan Buikema to form the 41st-ranked doubles tandem nationally, while Myneni and senior Billy Mertz are No. 60.
“We had two close, hard-fought battles last weekend with Georgia and Tennessee,” added Pate. “We definitely need to get back on track this weekend."
Florida leads the all-time series with the Tide 28-17. However, Alabama has won the last two meetings with the Gators. Florida’s three conference losses have come to the same three teams that have defeated the Tide in conference action this season, and all six of the Gators’ losses have come to teams currently ranked inside the top 15. Florida enters the weekend with a three match winning streak, including a 7-0 sweep of Arkansas last Sunday. The Gators remained at No. 10 in the national rankings following its two wins last weekend. Florida has three players ranked in the national singles rankings, led by No. 27 freshman Carlos Cueto. Sophomore Alex Lacroix checks in one spot behind Cueto at No. 28, while another sophomore Tyler Hochwalt is currently No. 92. The doubles pair of junior Antoine Benneteau and freshman Joey Burkhardt is the only pair to appear in the national rankings for the Gators, checking in at No. 17.
The Tide holds a slim 17-14 advantage over South Carolina in the all-time series, including winning the last two meetings. The Gamecocks are currently on a three match losing streak, and saw their ranking drop from No. 17 to No. 24. South Carolina has only played four true road matches coming into the weekend, and all four of those matches resulted in a loss. The Gamecocks did have an eight match winning streak earlier in the season, but have found wins harder to come by in conference action. South Carolina has two players ranked nationally in singles, both of which are juniors. Diego Cubas is currently 52nd in the rankings, while Ivan Cressoni checks in at No. 123. Cubas has also been very successful in doubles play this season, as he and partner freshman Ivan Machado are currently 28th nationally.
Admission to all Alabama home tennis matches is free. In addition, live scoring will also be available for both matches. Live scoring can be found on Rolltide.com under the “MORE IN TENNIS” section of the men’s tennis homepage or by clicking here.