Men's tennis warms up for breakout season
Last year, the Arizona men’s team ended its season with a loss against the Washington Huskies in the first round of the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif. Now, the Wildcats will be using their fall season to begin a bounce back into respectability after going 5-17 and winless in Pac-12 play.
“We were really young [last year]”, junior Mario Urquidi said. “I felt like our expectations were not as high as they could have been.”
Arizona returns with a lineup containing a core group of four juniors, Mario Urquidi, Kieren Thompson, Giacomo Miccini and Andre Vidaller, who are expected to carry the team this year.
The Wildcats will start the fall by participating in the Aggie Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M.
“Last year, even though we performed below expectations, the experience we gained was really good for our team,” Urquidi said. “This is the year that the core players I’ve had since I’ve been here as a freshman can really step it up and start competing, maybe even become a top 30 team.”
In addition to its group of juniors, the team boasts two sophomores, Sumeet Shinde and Carlos Bermudez, who are expected to have big breakout seasons this year.
“Sumeet and Carlos have a lot of potential to be great players for our team,” Urquidi said. “We are going to try to instill a lot of confidence in them and I expect a lot from them this season.”
Head Coach Tad Berkowitz has also brought in two freshmen to give the lineup even more depth and variety in preparation for success during the season ahead.
“Freshmen are expected to step up and challenge other returning teammates to try to snag a spot in the lineup,” Berkowitz said. “It’s really fair game at this point.”
After last season, the team yearned to improve. During the summer the Wildcats spent a lot of time in the gym getting stronger and better prepared for the season.
“I focused a lot in the gym this summer and tried to get a lot stronger and fitter,” Urquidi said. “The season is such a grind and you really have to be ready physically before you get on the court.”
When the fall season gets in full swing, players are expected to play two matches every weekend for the whole semester. After fall individual tournaments are finished, the spring brings NCAA conference play and playoffs.
“I would be really disappointed if we didn’t make the NCAA tournament this year,” Berkowitz said. “It’s a step-by-step process. This fall we are focusing on things we need to improve on, but in the spring I expect our team to compete.”
Arizona’s lineup, armed with experience, is expecting more out of itself this year after last season’s struggle.
“I think our expectations are a lot higher (this year) knowing we have a lot more to work with,” Berkowitz said. “I would love for us to compete and win some matches in the Pac-12 and make the NCAA Championships.”