Oct. 2, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The home portion of the 2003-04 season for the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team begins this weekend, as the Irish play host to their lone home tournament of the fall, the Tom Fallon Invitational. Seven teams will take part in singles and doubles play from Friday through Sunday at the Courtney Tennis Center and, if necessary due to inclement weather, the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
TOM FALLON INVITATIONAL: For the 35th consecutive fall, a number of tradition-steeped men’s tennis programs will converge on the Courtney Tennis Center to take part in the Tom Fallon Invitational. The event was born in the fall of 1970 when legendary Irish head coach Tom Fallon prevailed upon the Notre Dame athletic department to add a fall season to the men’s tennis schedule. The first of 18 Irish Invitationals took place that fall. When Fallon retired in 1987 after 31 years guiding the Notre Dame program, the event was renamed the Tom Fallon Invitational in his honor. Fallon compiled a 514-194 (.726) record and helped the Irish to a share of the 1959 national championship. He was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame in ’88.
Initially conceived of as a dual-match tournament, the event was changed first to a series of singles and doubles flights and finally to a “hidden dual” format, in 2000. Teams play simulated matches against each other, but there are no team scores recorded. All individual results are counted for ranking purposes.
Of the seven teams participating in this year’s TFI, five finished last season ranked among the top 60 teams in the nation. In all, the field consists of Alabama, Army, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Notre Dame. The three Big Ten schools also are on the Irish dual-match schedule (2/8 vs. Purdue, 3/2 vs. Michigan State, 3/23 at Michigan) and each are traditional participants in the Tom Fallon. Maryland is in the field for the second straight season, while Army and Alabama are new to the TFI.
The participation of the Crimson Tide is particularly notable since it marks the return of former Irish assistant coach Billy Pate, who left Notre Dame prior to last season to become the head coach at Alabama. Pate’s Tide was 19-10 last season and finished 15th in the nation. It will be his first competitive trip back to the campus where he coached from 2000-02, helping the Irish to a 40-14 (.741) record and earning the National Assistant Coach of the Year award in his final season.
All matches are slated to be outdoors at the Courtney Tennis Center, but due to an uncertain forecast for the weekend, the Eck Tennis Pavilion and nearby South Bend Racket Club also are available. The schedule of play has been determined only for Friday. The Saturday and Sunday schedules will be available on the eve of play at www.und.com and will be subject to weather conditions. The Friday schedule was made based on the assumption that all action will be played indoors. Notre Dame will take on Michigan in the Eck Tennis Pavilion in singles at 10 a.m. (EST) and in doubles at 4 p.m. (EST). In addition, some Irish players will play at 2 p.m. (EST) and at other times throughout the day against various opponents.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: After opening the season with nine players in action at the Rice Crowne Plaza Invitational, Notre Dame sent three competitors to the adidas Invitational in Peachtree City, Ga. last weekend. Senior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) won four singles matches en route to the title match before falling to #38 Ludovic Walter of Duke. On his way, Scott upset 63rd-ranked Fabrizio Sestini of TCU for his third upset of a ranked player in the first five matches of the year. Scott teamed with classmate and fellow tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) to be the second seed in doubles, but the pair were only able to get in one victory due to rain limiting court time for doubles action. Haddock, the fifth seed in singles, won twice before losing in a third-set tiebreaker in the quarterfinals.
Freshman Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College), the reigning 18-and-under national champion of Ireland, made his collegiate debut after missing the season-opening tournament with tendinitis in his wrist. He won three of his four singles contests.
SUPER SCOTTY: Senior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) has been a giant killer in the opening month of the season. After two tournaments he stands 6-2 with three victories over players ranked in the national top 65. In the Rice Crowne Plaza Invitational, Scott dropped the opening set, but came back for a 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 triumph over Tulsa’s 58th-ranked Dustin Taylor. Then Rice’s #18 Richard Barker fell victim to the Irish senior on the final day of the tournament in a 6-2, 6-3 decision. Last weekend, Scott struck again with a 6-2, 6-2 win over the second seed, #63 Fabrizio Sestini of TCU, in the round of 16 in the adidas Invitational.
Prior to this season, Scott had just two wins over ranked opponents throughout his career, having gone winless in eight matches vs. ranked foes a year ago.
Scott’s two losses came to players listed amont the top 40 in college tennis. He lost a match tiebreaker to #21 William Barker of Rice in the first match of the season and then fell to 38th-ranked Ludovic Walter of Duke in the final of the adidas.
DOMINATING STREAK SNAPPED: In the quarterfinals of the adidas Invitational, TCU’s Rafael Abreu dropped the first set 6-3 against Irish senior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), but rallied to win both the second and third sets in tiebreakers to capture a victory. That match marked the first time in Haddock’s career he had ever lost after taking the opening set. Prior to that match, he was 56-0 when taking a one-set advantage.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame Sports Hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for all 26 varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website, www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org or Eileen Carroll at email@example.com, who also can provide any needed information about the Irish tennis program.