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Arizona men’s tennis team gear up for ITA Kickoff coming off big weekend

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Mitch Stewart, volunteer coach, Igor Karpovets, Jett Middleton at the men’s tennis match against New Mexico at Lanelle Robson Tennis Center on March 1, 2021. (Courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics.)

Coming off a win over Grand Canyon to open the spring season, the Arizona men’s tennis team faced arguably the toughest two-game stretch they’ve seen so far in the regular season with a home match last Friday against No. 5  University of Texas followed by another top-30 match against Pepperdine University. 

In front of hundreds of loud fans at the Lanelle Robson Tennis Center, the Wildcats were able to defeat the Longhorns 4-3. 

“It was awesome,” head coach Clancy Shields said. “It was just what we needed to start the year and to get our guys energized about what this season could be. What it can be is [reaching] the highest point, which is to compete for a National Championship and win our conference.”

Despite the final score making the match look like it was close, Arizona clinched the win early, taking the first four points of the match. Carlos Hassey and Colton Smith clinched the doubles point for the Wildcats with a 6-4 win, followed by singles wins by Jonas Ziverts, Gustaf Strom and Filip Malbasic to earn the match victory for Arizona and a huge top-5 win over Texas. 

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After taking home Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season, Strom has picked up right where he left off with a couple of singles wins. He credited his game getting stronger this year in the serve department. 

“My first serve is maybe a little better than before,” Strom said. “I would also say that I am a little more flexible on the court. I’m moving smoother.”

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After Friday’s match, it was a quick turnaround for the Wildcats, as they traveled to play Pepperdine in the first road match. They lost 5-2, but did not go away easy after falling down 3-1.

“We had match point on two courts,” Shields said. “[Jonas] Ziverts had three match points on his court, which would have put it at 3-3. [Hassey] had match point on his court and we would have won 4-3, so two points and we would have been celebrating another big win on the road.”

Shields noted the scheduling issue for the team and took the blame in that regard. 

“I have to give the guy’s credit. I did a poor job of scheduling a home match on Friday and a road match on Sunday,” Shields said. “The amount of changes that you have to make in a short amount of time is massive, so our guys battled hard.”

“I think even more we may have gained more confidence losing to Pepperdine than beating Texas because we didn’t play our best in some areas, but we continued fighting and gave us a chance to win on the road,” Shields said.

The biggest takeaway from these two matches this weekend is that despite losing one of the team’s top leaders from last season, Alejandro Reguant, the Wildcats are still fighting just as hard for each other as a team. The atmosphere in Friday’s win is already leading to more people talking about coming to more matches in the future.

“Alejandro is such a big piece to the puzzle,” Shields said. “Just because he is not here physically. I mean if you saw him, he had all three of his screens out and he is watching the match from Spain. His spirit lives on in all of us and that is what good programs have is culture and culture means to care.”

It is safe to say that the connection that the team has shown on the court is rubbing off on the local community as much as it ever has.

“My wife was in the stands and she said she met a lot of people who came to their first match and they said they can’t wait to come to another one,” Shields said. “That is what our guys have inspired people to come out and see us and they have inspired me to coach harder.”

The Wildcats most recently swept a doubleheader against Prairie View A&M University on Thursday, taking both matches 7-0 which pushes their spring record to 4-1.

Up next for Arizona is the ITA Kickoff in College Station, Texas where they will take on Texas Tech University on Saturday, followed by Texas A&M University or UCLA on Sunday.

“The guys are refocused and hungry to try and punch our ticket to the final side of the National Indoors,” Shields said.


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