March 10, 2004
For the 14th consecutive season, the 43rd-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (9-5) will take part in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic, one of the nation’s most elite regular-season dual-match tournaments. The Irish will open play in the 16-team event on Thursday against #30 Fresno State at 5:30 p.m. (EST) at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center in Montgomery, Ala. in a rematch of the 2001 Blue/Gray final. Notre Dame holds an 18-10 record in the tournament, which this year features 14 ranked teams – highlighted by 10 in the top 50 – including titles in 1993 and 2001 and three runner-up finishes.
IRISH vs. BULLDOGS: Fresno State enters the Blue/Gray with a 7-4 record and ranked 30th in the nation, riding a five-match winning streak. After opening 2-0, Fresno State lost four in a row to teams currently ranked in the top 25 – #8 UCLA (7-0), #4 USC (5-2), #25 Arizona (4-3), and #6 Rice (5-2).
Notre Dame and Fresno State will meet for the third time, with every meeting coming on neutral courts. The 13th-ranked Bulldogs took the initial meeting over the 13th-ranked Irish by a 4-1 score in the 1996 National Team Indoor Championships in Louisville, Ky. The teams then met in the final of the 2001 Blue/Gray National Classic, with #22 Notre Dame prevailing 4-2 over #26 Fresno State. That win was the 10th in a row for the Irish, who proceeded to jump 12 spots to No. 10 in the ensuing national rankings, cracking the top 10 for the first time since 1993.
THE BLUE/GRAY FIELD: Fourteen of the 16 teams in this year’s Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic are currently nationally ranked, with four in the top 30 and 10 in the top 50. Leading the way is #11 Virginia Commonwealth, followed by #14 Harvard, #21 North Carolina, #27 Mississippi State, #30 Fresno State, #34 Alabama, #35 Boise State, #40 Tulane, #44 Notre Dame, #47 William and Mary, #52 Brown, #55 Louisville, #57 Middle Tennessee, and #67 Old Dominion. Only Colorado and North Carolina State are unranked.
A total of 12 singles players and 12 doubles teams in the tournament are in the national rankings, including three in the top 20 of each category. In singles, Tulane’s Michael Kogan is ninth, followed by #13 Romain Ambert of Mississippi State, #18 Izak van der Merwe of Old Dominion, #35 David Lingman of Harvard, #37 Nicholas Monroe of North Carolina, #48 Guillaume Bouvier of Boise State, #51 Greg Shearer of Fresno State, #60 Stephen Mitchell of Alabama, #72 Dmitriy Koch of Tulane, #84 Pedro Nieto of VCU, #90 Damar Johnson of Louisville, and #100 Jamie Cerretani of Brown. In doubles, van der Merwe and Zoltan Csanadi are sixth, while Cerretani and Adil Shamasdin are seventh, and Notre Dame senior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and freshman Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) are 14th. Other ranked doubles teams are Lingman and Jonathan Chu at 26th, Haddock and fellow senior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) tied for 29th with Louisville’s Matt Mayer and Jeremy Clark, Mitchell and Gostek at 32nd, Geoff Russell and Steven Kane of William & Mary at 38th, Florian Marquardt and Arnaud Lecloerec of VCU at 39th, Keckley and junior tri-captain Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) at 44th, Ambert and Florent Girod of Mississippi State at 49th, and Cerretani and Ben Brier tied for 50th.