Sept. 19, 2006
The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team was among some pretty exclusive company after the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) released its pre-season rankings. The Irish and Georgia were the only schools in America to feature a pair of singles players in the top 25 and two doubles teams in the top 50.
Junior Sheeva Parbhu and senior Stephen Bass were ranked No. 20 and No. 21 in singles respectively. Parbhu and Bass were each ranked in the top 100 in the preseason rankings last year.
Parbhu and senior Ryan Keckley are the highest ranked Irish doubles team at No. 36. Bass and sophomore Brett Helgeson enter the season at No. 46.
Parbhu, the first Irish player to be named an ITA All-American since 2001-02, finished last year with a 33-8 record and was 28th in the final ITA national singles rankings. He was the first Notre Dame men’s player since 1959 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship.
Parbhu posted the most singles wins by an Irish player in a season since current Irish assistant coach Ryan Sachire was 37-9 in 1998-99. Parbhu was 14-3 in tournament action and shared the team lead in singles victories in dual matches with a 19-5 record (39-8 career). Among the biggest of those victories was a three-set triumph against Ohio State’s Bryan Koniecko that handed a 5-2 defeat to the Buckeyes, their lone loss of the regular season. He posted an 11-4 record against nationally ranked players, including 5-3 vs. higher-ranked foes. After not cracking the national rankings as a rookie, he started his sophomore season with 10 consecutive victories, was the runner-up in the ITA Midwest Championships (having his 17-match winning streak ended by a teammate in the final), and reached the round of 16 in the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships to soar to a career high of 14th in the rankings on Jan. 10. He was listed among the top 35 all spring.
Parbhu, now 65-15 overall in his career, was particularly impressive in tight contests with a record of 9-3 in three-set affairs (14-5 career), 32-14 in close sets (6-4, 7-5, or 7-6) and 18-5 in close matches (28-7 career). He was virtually unbeatable in tiebreakers, going 11-2 in traditional ones (15-4 career) and winning his only match tiebreaker. He went 12-0 at home (25-3 career) and also excelled outdoors, finishing with a 16-3 mark (35-7 career). Parbhu was a perfect 26-0 when winning the opening set of a singles match and has now won 33 in a row in that situation, dating back to the 2004 Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic. He also won nearly half of the time when dropping the first frame, going 7-8 on the campaign.
Bass, who finished last season ranked No. 27, went 27-14 last year and 14-12 in dual action, mostly at No. 1 singles. He only dropped two of his 20 matches within the region. Bass climbed as high as No. 8 in the ITA rankings after eight consecutive victories over ranked opponents to open the season. He not only captured the ITA Midwest Championship, but reached the ITA National Indoor Championship quarterfinals before losing to No. 4 John Isner of Georgia.
Keckley went 21-7 in singles action and 19-6 in dual play, including 11-5 at No. 4 and 8-1 at No. 5. He and Parbhu only teamed up for six matches last season and the duo went 2-4.
Helgeson went 23-11 overall and 16-10 in dual action. He split time last season at No. 3 (1-0), No. 4 (11-8) and No. 5 (8-1). He and Bass did not play a match together in 2005-06, but Helgeson went 12-9 in his doubles matches, while Bass went 7-10.
Notre Dame was 19-9 in 2006 and reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the first time since 2002. The victories were the most for an Irish squad since that same season.
The Irish open the season this weekend with the 20th Annual Tom Fallon Invitational at the Courtney Tennis Center from Friday through Sunday. Action will begin each day around 8:30 a.m.
— ND —