Tennis adds to talented core
After boasting an impressive run in the Pacific 10 Conference — including a No. 24 ranking overall in the International Tennis Association and the ITA West Region Coach of the Year award for head coach Tad Berkowitz — the spring season for men's tennis ended on an intriguing note.
The team, retaining its core members and bolstered by four additional players, is ""extremely fired up,"" assistant coach Tom Lloyd said.
Upon the conclusion of last spring's season, the players dispersed to their respective hometowns, clubs and families. They have had no official practices yet, which is not to say that they have not competed.
Last year, standout sophomore Jason Zafiros and junior Geoff Embry each competed individually in summer ITA tournaments, Zafiros at the University of Florida and Embry at Ventura Community College. Both walked away with the singles titles for their respective tournaments.
""Zafiros and Embry did it all on their own,"" Lloyd said. ""They took their training, entered their own tournaments and did well with it.""
Zafiros entered the college tennis scene as a freshman and quickly became a formidable opponent in the Pac-10. Embry transferred from the University of Oregon last year and was forced to sit out a season due to Pac-10 eligibility rules.
Another former-foe-turned-Wildcat is sophomore Tom Wolff, who joined the Wildcats from the University of San Diego. Wolff, who is a Tucson native, defeated Arizona in singles last year.
Also added to the Arizona roster are freshmen Alex Johnson and Frank Chen. Chen, who attended the Weil Tennis Academy, is a native of Ojai, Calif. Johnson, a late addition out of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is expected to have an immediate impact.
""I'm looking for him to make a break in the lineup this year for sure,"" Lloyd said. ""We are looking for all (four new Wildcats) to produce right off the bat.""
Though official practices will not begin for another few weeks, it's not too early to evaluate the potential of the 2009 season.
""We had some young guys, some older role players last spring,"" Lloyd said. ""The guys know this year what they're capable of, what they're able to do. The bar has been raised higher. We finished in the Top 25, we have everyone returning. … The guys have to work that much harder.
""Everyone knows that Arizona men's tennis is a team where they have to bring their ‘A' game.""