Jan. 24, 2002
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will try to continue its winning ways with three matches away from home. The Irish will travel to Minneapolis, Minn. this weekend to take on 32nd-ranked Minnesota Friday at 6:30 p.m. and then #68 William & Mary Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Notre Dame will head to Durham, N.C. to face #10 Duke Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.
LAST WEEK’S ACTION: Notre Dame, ranked seventh in the nation, opened its season last Saturday at home with 7-0 victories over UC-Irvine and Furman to open 2-0 for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Twelve different Irish players played against the Anteaters and all were winners. Highlighting the victory were two wins over ranked players. Senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia), ranked 95th, knocked off #74 Jonathan Endrikat 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles, while classmates James Malhame (Douglaston, N.Y.) and Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) upset Endrikat and Brian Morton, the 27th-ranked doubles team, 8-6 at No. 1 doubles.
The Irish victory was the first in three tries against UC-Irvine, making the Anteathers the 162nd opponent defeated by Notre Dame in the 80-year history of the program. The Anteaters were the 90th opponent faced by Bob Bayliss in his 15 years at Notre Dame and the 81st team the Irish have defeated under Bayliss.
Against Furman, Notre Dame won two doubles matches and swept the singles contests for the victory. After the teams split at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles, Malhame and freshman Brent D’Amico (Centennial, Colo.) clinched the doubles point with an 8-5 win at No. 3. In singles, 88th-ranked senior captain Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) downed John Chesworth 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the only three-set match.
Notre Dame has won both meetings against Furman. The Paladins are one of 101 schools that the Irish hold an undefeated record against, but the only one appearing on the 2002 schedule.
THIS WEEK FOR THE IRISH: On Friday, Notre Dame and Minnesota will square off. The match will be the season opener for the Gophers, who finished 13-11 a season ago and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Miami (Fla.). This season, the Gophers are ranked 32nd in the preseason poll. They are led by Harsh Mankad, who is ranked second in the nation in singles and won the Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships singles title. Mankad is a member of India’s Davis Cup team and lost to American Andy Roddick in a tie televised on ESPN2 this past summer. Thomas Haug, last year’s Region IV indoor singles champion, is ranked 62nd and Aleksey Zharinov is 78th. Taborga faced a pair of Golden Gophers in last fall’s Region IV Championships, knocking off Avery Ticer in the second round before losing in the quarterfinals to Mankad.
William & Mary, like the Irish, opened its season last weekend and registered a pair of 7-0 victories. The Tribe downed East Carolina and Richmond in home matches. William & Mary participated in the 2001 Tom Fallon Invitational at the Courtney Tennis Center. Irish and Tribe players squared off 18 times with Notre Dame coming out on top in eight of 14 singles matches, as well as all four doubles contests. The two teams played a “hidden dual” match on the first day of the tournament with the Irish winning six of eight singles matches and all four doubles matches.
A season ago, the Blue Devils finished 24-4 and fell 4-3 in the NCAA quarterfinals to eventual national champion Georgia. The Bulldogs won the doubles point and a pair of singles matches to take a 3-0 lead before Duke registered three straight three-set victories to knot the match at 3-3. Georgia’s Travis Parrott defeated Joel Spicher 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 at No. 5 singles to decide the match. The Blue Devils finished the season ranked eighth nationally. This year, Duke, which opens its season against the Irish, is ranked 10th. Philip King, who was second in the preseason singles ranking, is ranked 17th nationally, while Michael Yani is 24th and Alex Bose is 103rd. Yani defeated Taborga in qualifying at last fall’s ITA All-American championships.
IRISH vs. GOLDEN GOPHERS: The Irish and the Gophers will meet for the 26th time with Notre Dame having taken 14 of the previous encounters. After meeting initially in 1930, the teams have faced off in 12 of the past 13 seasons with Bob Bayliss recording a 9-6 record over Minnesota. The Irish beat Minnesota 7-0 last season, but the Gophers have taken four of the past six matches. The two teams had a recent heated postseason rivalry, meeting in the NCAA tournament five consecutive years from 1994-98 with the Gophers eliminating Notre Dame in 1996, ’97 and ’98. The last time the Irish visited Minneapolis was 1998 when they gained a 4-3 regular-season win. Notre Dame is 4-0 at Minnesota in the Bayliss era.
Last season, 33rd-ranked Notre Dame shut out #18 Minnesota 7-0 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion in the season-opener for both teams. The Irish took the doubles point and then swept all six singles matches to complete the win. Two matches were decided in three sets as Smith, ranked 95th at the time, defeated #53 Mankad 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 at No. 1 singles and 75th-ranked Taborga downed Jorge Duenas 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at No. 2.
IRISH vs. TRIBE: The Irish and the Tribe will meet for the just the fourth time and the first time since 1999. William & Mary took the first meeting between the schools (7-2 in 1978), while Notre Dame won by 6-1 scores in 1997 and 1999. Of current Irish players, senior Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) recorded a victory at No. 6 singles and classmate Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) notched a win at No. 3 doubles in the ’99 match.
IRISH vs. BLUE DEVILS: The Irish and Blue Devils will meet for the 16th time. Duke has won 12 of the previous meetings, including each of the past three and seven of the past nine. The two schools met for the first time in 1955 and the Blue Devils won all five matches prior to the arrival of Bayliss at Notre Dame. The Irish are 3-7 against Duke in the Bayliss era and 1-2 on the road. Notre Dame’s first win over the Blue Devils was in 1990 in Bayliss’ first encounter with Duke. The Irish also gained victories in 1997 and ’98.
In 2001, fifth-ranked Duke defeated #30 Notre Dame 6-1 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish gained victories from Taborga and Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.), ranked 38th at the time, at No. 1 doubles over the 25th-ranked team of Andres Pedroso and Ted Rueger 9-8 (10-8). Matthew Scott (Paris, France) gained the only point for the Irish with a win at No. 6 singles. The Blue Devils boasted three singles players ranked in the top 21 at the time of the match and two of the singles contests went three sets with Smith losing to 11th-ranked Ramsey Smith 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Talarico dropping a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 decision to #21 Pedroso.
GOING DEEP: The lower half of the singles lineup has been a strength for Notre Dame over the past two seasons. Last year, the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 spots compiled a combined 53-11 (.828) record in dual matches. Five of the six players responsible for that mark returned to the Irish fold this season and they figure to play in similar spots in the lineup since the top three players from last year’s lineup also returned. In 2002, the bottom half of the singles lineup is 6-0, making the spots a combined 59-11 (.843) over the past two seasons. Irish players are 23-2 (.920) at No. 4 singles over the past two seasons.
ND vs. TOP-10 FOES: Tuesday will mark the 15th time in school history and the first time since 1993 that the Irish will participate in a match between two teams ranked in the national top 10. Notre Dame is 7-7 when both squads are among the nation’s 10 best. Of the previous matches, all occurring in the 1992 and ’93 seasons, six occurred in NCAA tournament play and six were featured in the National Team Indoor Championships. The only two matches between top 10 teams occurring neither in the national indoors or the NCAAs both came in 1993 and one (#6 Notre Dame lost to #4 Pepperdine 6-1 in Tempe, Ariz.) was played at a neutral site. The other (#6 ND lost to #8 North Carolina 4-3) was played at Notre Dame, meaning Tuesday will be the first time in school history that Notre Dame, ranked in the top 10, will face another top 10 team in a road match. The Irish have lost 12 consecutive matches to top-10 opponents, dating back to 1997. The last time Notre Dame defeated a team ranked in the ITA top 10 was in the ’97 Blue-Gray National Classic when the #20 Irish downed 10th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth 4-3 in the second round.
FOR STARTERS: Notre Dame is 2-0 for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. The last time the Irish started 3-0 was 1999 when Notre Dame went on to finish 17-8. The last Irish squad to win its first four matches was the 1997 team, which started 6-0 en route to a 19-6 season.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Smith and Taborga had an outstanding fall in doubles play, recording a 15-4 record including four wins over top-30 teams. The pair defeated the top-seeded team in advancing to the semifinals of the Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. The Irish team registered an 8-6 victory over UCLA?s Marcin Matkowski and Jean-Julien Rojer in the quarterfinals, snapping the 14-match winning streak of the now-unanimously-top-ranked Bruin team that captured the title at the ITA All-American Championships in October. Smith and Taborga also played well at the All-Americans, winning two qualifying matches to gain entry into the main draw before losing 8-6 to the top-seeded team of Scott Lipsky and David Martin of Stanford in the first round. Smith and Taborga rebounded to beat three top-30 doubles teams on their way to winning the consolation title. The Irish pair reached the semifinals at the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships before losing 8-6 to the top-seeded team of Mike Calkins and Amer Delic of Illinois, who Smith and Taborga beat 9-7 in the consolation semis at the All-Americans.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2002 NCAA Championship will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 18 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 17 of them are in the top 75 of the ITA preseason rankings. Highlighting Notre Dame?s schedule are three matches with Top 10 foes ? at No. 10 Duke (Jan. 29), at sixth-ranked Illinois (March 7) and home against No. 9 SMU (April 6). The Irish will face 12 teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament a season ago. There are four round-of-16 participants on the slate, including national quarterfinalist Duke and SMU, which advanced to the 2001 final four.
LET’S TAKE THIS . . . INDOORS: The Irish will take part in the United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships taking place Feb. 7-10 at the Louisville Tennis Club in Louisville, Ky. The 16-team field for the nation?s premier national indoor tournament was announced in December by the ITA with the Irish earning a bid for the first time since 1996. Five teams on Notre Dame?s 2002 dual-match schedule are in the field: Duke, Illinois, Indiana State, host Kentucky and SMU. Also making the tournament is Southern California, which the Irish defeated 5-2 in an exhibition match in October. Rounding out the field are Brown, California, NCAA champion Georgia, Mississippi, Pepperdine, Stanford, NCAA finalist Tennessee and UCLA. One more team will be added in January.