Fresh off a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the NCAA tournament last year, the Arizona men's tennis team kicked off the new season with a convincing sweep over Grand Canyon University. Despite the big win, head coach Clancy Shields still classified it as "shedding the rust and nerves."
"Getting rid of some of the jitters of the season starting," Shields said. "That is what was important, and I'm hoping we come out a little sharper this week, but a win is a win and we'll take a 7-0."
Freshman Colton Smith opened up his season with wins in his doubles and singles matches. After a 6-4 doubles win with Carlos Hassey, Smith cruised through the first set of his singles match by a score of 6-0. After falling in a tiebreaker in the second set to force a deciding third set, Smith was able to hold on with a tight 10-7 tiebreaker in the third set to win and clinch the sweep for the Wildcats. Despite the win, he was able to learn a lot through the adversity.
"You can't let up at all," Smith said. "You just have to put the pedal to the metal and stay on it. If you let up for a second, they'll get back in it and it can change in the blink of an eye."
Senior Filip Malbasic returned for his final season with the Wildcats, opening up his season as well with doubles and singles wins. Coming off a historic year last season for the program, Malbasic likes where the team is currently at.
"I think we are in a good spot," Malbasic said. "Obviously losing Alejandro [Reguant] is not easy, especially since he was one of the winningest players of all time here. He was such a great person and everyone on our team would call him as a brother. We are missing him on a personal note, but at the same time it is what we're dealing with every year."
Malbasic understands that players come and go, but noted how important the foundation is to a successful program.
"Led by good coaches, I think we're in a really good spot in general," Malbasic said.
Coming up on Friday, the Wildcats will be hosting No. 3 University of Texas, which might end up being the toughest match of the year for Arizona.
"They are really good," Shields said. "They're returning everyone from their Final Four team and added two really good pieces, so they're one of the favorites to win it this year. To have them on our home courts, we'll see where we match up and how good we really are."
Malbasic was not shy to talk up this men's tennis team and hopes to see as much support as possible from the community at the match this week.
"I think everyone should show up," Malbasic said. "For many years now, we have shown that we are one of the better programs here on campus and I think people that showed up last year can see how much we play for each other. We are family from top to bottom including with the coaches. If people want to see a successful team that really plays for each other, it is a must to come here and it is also right on campus."
The Wildcats' match against the University of Texas, Austin, on Friday starts at 2 p.m. MST at the Lanelle Robson Tennis Center.
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