Arizona men's tennis has strong showing in Wildcat Invitational behind Karpovets and Olsen
An Arizona tennis player keeps his eye on the opposing team while his teammate serves during the Arizona- UC Riverside match on Jan. 20, 2019.
Last year Clancy Shields, the head coach for the University of Arizona men’s tennis team, won the title of Pac-12 Coach of the Year, so anticipation was high heading into Arizona’s first invitational of the year.
It’s been a long time since national interest has been focused on Arizona’s tennis team, but results from the Wildcat Invitational showcased why the spotlight may be coming back to Tucson. Arizona won in both the single and doubles bracket. Igor Karpovets got the single title (6-2) (6-4) and (7-5) (6-1) against GCU. Karpovets and Stewart Block got the doubles title after battling a wild tiebreaker.
“When you play in a tournament, you always expect to win, but I was just playing one match at a time and focused on every point,” Karpovets said.
Karpovets' quote on what his mindset was entering the tournament embodies how he dominated at the Wildcat Invitational, especially on the second match of the first day. Karpovets first defeated NAU’s Facundo Tumosa 6-2 7-5, which brought him to his second match against BYU’s Matteo Vereau. BYU’s coach mentioned that Vereau played as No. 3 and No. 4 for them last year and Karpovets was UA's No. 3 player this year, so spectators knew going in that this was going to be a great match up. Karpovets' and Vereau's match came down to the third set, where Karpovets showcased how strong he was. He was down 0-4, but stayed focused on every point and brought the score up to 5-5 through untouchable approach shots, comical drop shots and frightening overheads. Then, as if 5-5 in the third set wasn’t enough of an edge-of-the-seat match, Karpovets and Vereau brought the score to 6-6 and settled the match in a tie breaker. The tie breaker got to 2-2, until Karpovets finally had enough of Vereau and closed the game by winning the next five points. Karpovets then had to play Freddie Grant from GCU the next day. On day two, Karpovets was again, not messing around and closed the game against Grant pretty quickly. On day two, Karpovets' serve was more powerful as he aced Grant multiple times and his line up of approach shot, drop shot, overhead was impressive. Moving on to to day three, Karpovets took down his opponent in a quick (6-2) (6-4) match.
Before his single title, Karpovets and his doubles’ partner Stewart Block battled together for the doubles title. They faced a nail biting, back-and-forth tie breaker, and Block’s quick volleys were an asset to the win.
Igor Karpovets, Stewart Block, Jared Horwood and Conner Olsen all previewed their strength for the season at the Wildcat Invitational. Assistant coach Alexander Free was really impressed with their performances so far in the fall season.
“My biggest surprises are Conner Olsen. He’s 8-0 in the year and had a (6-0) (6-0) victory in the finals. Also Jared Horwood, who was out all last season, redshirted with a medical redshirt, I think he’s really impressed us over the last two weeks and beating the number one guy from Northern Colorado is probably the best win of his college career so far,” Free said.
This is just the start of the season for Olsen and Horwood, and Wildcat tennis fans are eager to see where their wins are going to take them. For Olsen in particular, the crowd is pining to see the continuation of his winning streak, to which he humbly credits “all the work everyone has put in so far”.
Overall, it’s safe to say that Arizona is in huge preparation to be even more competitive for PAC-12 conference play this spring, and their fall season is nothing but a reflection of that.