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Three Men's Tennis Players Look To Duplicate Last Year's Success At ITA All-American Championships

Oct. 8, 2001

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. – Three players from the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will travel to Stone Mountain, Ga. this week to take part in the ITA All-American Championships, the first of three national collegiate tennis championships of the 2001-02 season.

ITA ALL-AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: Seniors Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.), Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) and Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) will all play singles, while Smith and Taborga, the 34th-ranked doubles team in the country, will play doubles at the All-American Championships.

The main draw (Thurs.-Sun.) is preceded by two rounds of qualifying tournaments, combining to make the All-American Championships the largest collegiate tennis tournament in the country. The 256-player (128 doubles) prequalifying tournament was held Fri.-Mon. and eight players and doubles teams advanced from there to the 64-player (32 doubles) qualifying tournament (where 16 players and eight doubles teams will advance to the main draw), to be played Tuesday and Wednesday.

Smith, ranked 38th nationally, was one of 48 players receiving automatic entry into the main draw of singles. Talarico and 76th-ranked Taborga will take part in the singles qualifying tournament beginning Tuesday and Smith and Taborga will do the same in doubles. This will be Smith’s first appearance in the All-American Championships, while Taborga and Talarico both participated in singles and doubles a season ago.

The Irish had great success at the 2000 ITA All-American Championships in both the singles and doubles draws. Taborga won a pair of qualifying matches and then advanced to the third round of the main draw by knocking off third-ranked K.J. Hippensteel of Stanford 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. In all, unranked Taborga upset three ranked opponents before losing to Georgia’s Bo Hodge 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the third round. Taborga and Talarico won three matches to advance to the semifinals of the doubles draw before losing to eventual champions Olivier Levant and Nathan Overholser 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

In 1998, Notre Dame also was a factor at the All-American Championships. Junior Ryan Sachire was the top seed in the tournament and he knocked off four ranked players on his way to the final before losing to Harvard’s James Blake 6-3, 7-6.

The ITA All-American Championships, the Nov. 8-11 Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, and the year-end NCAA Championships are college tennis’ three national championship events during the season. From 1986 until last year there were four national events, but the ITA National Clay Court Championships is no longer played.

The premier hard court event of the fall collegiate season, the ITA All-American Championships feature the top players in NCAA Division I tennis. This year’s event is highlighted by 14 of the top 20 players in the country. Duke’s Phil King, an NCAA quarterfinalist and ITA National Rookie of the Year last season, is the top seed. The Irish will face King and the Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. on January 29. In doubles, Stanford’s David Martin and Scott Lipsky, NCAA semifinalists last season, are the No. 1 seeds.

The ITA Men’s All-American Championships date back to 1979 and will take place for the second straight year at the Lincoln Tennis Center at Stone Mountain. Recent champions include up-and-coming professionals Bob Bryan of Stanford and James Blake of Harvard. SMU’s Genius Chidzikwe and Florida’s Olivier Levant and Nathan Overholser won last year’s singles and doubles titles, respectively.

This year’s championships will include two new elements: using an experimental game scoring method and the doubles matches will consist of one, eight-game set (as is done in the dual match season). The experimental game scoring is called “Collegiate Game Scoring,” also known as CGS and One-Ad, and is a scoring method similar to No Ad scoring, but considered more traditional. CGS allows one deuce if the score goes to 3-3 (40-40). The game is won by reaching four points with at least a margin of two points (4-0, 4-1, 4-2) or a score of either 5-3 or 5-4 (the receiver has the choice of the left or right side for the 9th point). The benefits cited for this scoring method include adding a better flow to a match as well as more excitement. Collegiate Doubles, an eight-game set played instead of best two-out-of-three sets for doubles, will be used in all ITA-administered events — sanctioned, regional and national tournaments — this 2001-02 season. A tie-breaker is played at 8-all in Collegiate Doubles, which have been used in team dual matches during the spring since 1994 and also known as “pro sets”. Until this season doubles had still been played best two-out-of-three sets in ITA tournaments during the fall (tournament season). This change was made primarily for the welfare of the student-athlete, who in the past could play as many as four three-set singles and doubles matches in a single day during an ITA national tournament.

ITA RANKINGS: Notre Dame has three players and two doubles teams ranked in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. Casey Smith, who finished last season ranked 65th in singles, is the highest ranked Irish singles player at a career-high 38th. Javier Taborga is ranked 76th and sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) broke into the rankings for the first time, tied for 100th. In doubles, the team of Haddock-Morales and Aaron Talarico is ranked 30th, while Smith and Taborga are 30th. Taborga and Talarico were ranked as high as ninth in the country last season before finishing with a no. 20 ranking.

TOM FALLON RECAP: After the cancellation of the Rice Invitational, the Notre Dame men’s tennis team got its season underway at the 2001 Tom Fallon Invitational from Sept. 27-30 at the Courtney Tennis Center and Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish won 66 of 106 matches against the 11-team field. Nineteen players registered victories for Notre Dame in the four-day tournament, while ten Irish players notched five or more wins. A “hidden dual” format was used, but no team scores were kept. Sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales was 6-0 in singles play and 9-1 overall, bringing his career mark in the Tom Fallon Invitational to 17-1. Senior Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) was also 6-0 in singles play and posted a 7-1 overall mark. Freshmen Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill.) and James Bass (Bronxville, N.Y.) were impressive in their collegiate debuts. McNaughton was 6-1, including winning all three of his singles matches, while Bass won all four of this contests. Classmate Brent D’Amico (Centennial, Colo.) won three singles matches and two doubles contests in his first collegiate action. Junior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.) posted a 7-1 record in the tournament, while senior Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) was 6-1 and sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France) was 6-2. Jimmy Rogers (South Bend, Ind.) won two singles matches and two doubles matches, including his first career victory. Jake Cram (Littleton, Colo.) gained his first career singles win, while Chancey Martin (Sun Valley, Idaho) won in doubles for the first time.