By T.J. Stricklin
AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn men’s tennis team continues fall competition this weekend, as five players travel to Tulsa, Okla., for the pre-qualifier round of the ITA All-American Tournament.
Junior Edward Nguyen, sophomores Olle Thestrup and Brandon Laubser, and freshmen Carles Sarrio and Michael Durham will compete as individuals in the singles pre-qualifiers, which begin Saturday. Draws will be announced Friday.
“As an individual tournament, this is pretty much the biggest tournament for the fall,” said Auburn coach Bobby Reynolds. “It’s about a 10-day-long tournament, so depending on where you’re ranked, you’re either coming in during the pre-qualifiers, qualifiers or main draw. We’re actually taking five of the guys to the pre-qualifiers.”
Coach Reynolds is optimistic about how his players will perform.
“I think they’re going to do well. During the fall, we’ve worked really hard and concentrated on conditioning,” said Reynolds. “One thing I said to them coming in was there are a couple of things we can control as tennis players - one being attitude and, as far as from a tennis standpoint, definitely conditioning. That’s definitely something we’ve worked really hard on.”
Players advance from the pre-qualifiers into the qualifying round, which begins Monday, October 3. Those winners advance into the main draw, where competition begins Thursday, October 6. All action is hosted by the University of Tulsa and the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.
Reynolds shared his thoughts on how the players have improved through their experience in fall tournaments.
“It’s really movement based right now. The guys out here have the strokes and know how to hit the ball, so it’s not a matter of changing different things with their mechanics. It’s more of how they move the ball, if they can save extra steps and if they can get to the balls quicker once they realize they’ve put somebody on the defense,” said Reynolds. “It’s a little bit more strategic along those lines, not just hitting four balls to the forehand side and four balls to the backhand side.
“They’re doing that, and they’re starting to see it a little bit more. Obviously, it helps when we have a little bit of video. Either Ryan (Lipman) or I can tell them what we’re seeing, but they can really understand what we’re saying when they see it firsthand.
“It was good to compete in the early tournaments against different opponents. When we play out here (in practice), they obviously know each other pretty well, so they kind of end up playing the same game. It’s nice to see how they match up against different guys.”
Reynolds believes the players will gain from the ITA All-American experience.
“Confidence is a big thing. With Carles (Sarrio) being a freshman, it was big for him to come into the Duke tournament and win four in a row. You could see him building and realizing each match that he can compete with anyone,” said Reynolds.
“You’ll definitely see, judging from years past, that the guys who start doing well get on a roll and don’t think that much about it anymore. They just go out and play tennis. This weekend really gives them a chance to see how many matches they can put under their belt and take into the spring.”
Auburn will host the ITA Southern Regional championship October 14-17 at the Yarbrough Tennis Center. Admission is free. The Southern Regional singles and doubles champions advance to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in New York in November.