Arizona men's tennis finishes week at ITA All-American tournament
Amongst 64 of NCAA’s top tennis athletes, Arizona brought two of their top players to take on the masses in the ITA All-American Tournament: Filip Malbasic and Jonas Ziverts.
Malbasic and Ziverts were also two of Arizona’s select tennis players to compete in the Gamecock Fall Invitational. There, in South Carolina, Malbasic and Ziverts dominated in singles play and together in doubles play. Their aggressive on-court action is what proved they were the two to travel to the national tournament.
The ITA All-American Tournament hosts the top collegiate players every year and has had notable past winners like John Isner, James Blake, Bob Bryan, MaliVali Washington and Al Parker. The competition is so consistently high at this national tournament that Al Parker is actually the only player to ever be a back-to-back singles champion. This showcases the type of competition Malbasic and Ziverts were up against this week.
In the main draw, Arizona’s Filip Malbasic first went up against TCU’s Jacob Fearnley, beating him by a whopping 6-0, 6-2. TCU really didn’t have much on him. The next match for Malbasic would be against Texas A&M’s Hady Habib. Malbasic and Habib battled it out for three sets. The first two were incredibly close at 6-7(3) and 7-5, but, unfortunately for Arizona, Habib finished off Malbasic in the last set 6-2.
As for Jonas Ziverts, his first match in the main draw was against TCU’s Alastair Gray and, in opposition to Malbasic’s match against TCU’s Fearnley, Ziverts lost to Gray 6-4, 6-1. Ziverts then, however, went on to dominate in a new bracket. He played Lukas Greif of Florida, beating him 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Shortly thereafter, Ziverts took on another win against BYU’s Sean Hill with a score of 6-0, 6-4.
In regards to the overall results of the ITA All-American Tournament, University of Florida’s Sam Riffice and Texas’s Yuya Ito have been killing it in the men’s singles main draw. Ito and Riffice will be competing for the championship title, and spectators will certainly leave having seen some great tennis.
Riffice seems to be extra determined in this particular tournament because he was dropped in the first round of the main draw at the ITA All-American Fall Tournament last year. This was very out of character for him, given that prior to attending a university, Riffice was looked at as the No. 2 recruit in the country, but equal in rankings to the then-No. 1 player during high school. In addition, Riffice had competed in the Junior Grand Slam Championships at Wimbledon, French Open and the US Open and was ranked as high as No. 756 on ATP World Tour.
Then, upon entering and competing for the university, Riffice was the 2019 SEC rookie of the year, became an ITA All-American in singles, and was awarded 2019 ITA Southeast Region Rookie of the Year. This was all despite his first-round defeat last year in this tournament, so the idea that he wants to prove himself certainly comes to mind.
As for Ito, he is a junior at the University of Texas, so he has a little more collegiate play experience than Riffice. Ito was also selected last year to play in the fall ITA All-American Tournament and he, like Riffice, was just pleased to have been selected into the tournament. To come back and make it to the championship round showcases a great deal of hard work and improvement.
The singles winner of the ITA All-American will certainly be a worthy example of how far tennis players can improve in a year. Arizona’s tennis players Ziverts and Malbasic are clearly amongst the top players in the country, and their being selected to play is an honor in and of itself. Hopefully, having seen the improvement of Riffice and Ito, Arizona will be more confident going into the tournament next year knowing that being dropped in the main draw first round doesn’t mean you can’t come back for a win the following.
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