May 19, 2004
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2004 NCAA Championships
May 22-31 * University of Tulsa * Tulsa, Okla.
Michael D. Case Tennis Center
#16 TCU (18-6) vs. #33 Clemson (24-11) * 6 p.m. CDT, May 22
The 18-6 and No. 16-ranked TCU Horned Frogs defeated No. 67 East Tennessee State and No. 11 Kentucky in first- and second-round action at the 2004 NCAA Regionals to reach the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001. The Purple and White prevailed by a 4-1 score over the Buccaneers in round one and then took out the host Wildcats by a 4-2 count. Clemson, a team that ousted sixth-ranked and fifth-seeded Duke in Durham, N.C., awaits the Frogs in the round of 16 in Tulsa May 22 at 6 p.m. CDT.
THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The round of 16 and beyond for the 2004 NCAA Tournament is being hosted by the University of Tulsa at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center over May 22-25. The singles and doubles participants for the individual championships have been selected, however, the draw will not be determined until Tuesday, May 25, following the team championship match. The 64-player singles and 32-team doubles tournaments take place over May 26-31 at the Case Tennis Center. This is the first year that Tulsa has hosted the championship events.
LOOKING BACK AT CLEMSON'S SEASON
With a 24-11 record, Clemson has played more than its fair share of matches in 2004. The Tigers have 11 more matches under their belts as compared to TCU. Clemson had an up and down year, winning as many as seven matches in a row on two separate occasions and losing as many as four straight. The Tigers finished the campaign strong by knocking off teams such as Florida State, Wake Forest, Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Clemson was ranked as high as 24th during the early portions of the year but dropped out of the top-75 by late March. The team's seven-match unbeaten streak from March 31-April 17 catapulted it back into the national rankings, where it is now No. 33. Clemson reached the championship match of the ACC Tournament and narrowly missed winning the title over Virginia. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers beat Minnesota, 4-0, on Duke's home courts and then received the pleasure of facing the Blue Devils in round two. Unlike the regular season, Clemson pulled out the win by a 4-3 score and denied the nation's sixth-ranked team a trip to the NCAA Championships.
SCOUTING THE TIGERS' LINEUP
Clemson relies on the bottom half of its lineup for the majority of its points. The Nos. 4-6 singles positions are 77-30 (.720), compared to only a 58-47 (.552) mark at Nos. 1-3 singles. John Boetsch leads the team in overall and dual match victories with 24 and 15. He owns a 15-6 mark at No. 4 singles and is 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament this year. Damiisa Robinson holds down No. 5 singles, where he is 7-2, and Ryan Young has gone 12-6 at the bottom slot. Collectively, the group is 5-0 in NCAA play so far. Nathan Thompson, ranked No. 96, plays one singles and has posted an 11-15 record there. His most important victory came in the Tigers' 4-3 upset of Duke, as he notched the clinching point by stunning the nation's No. 5-rated player, Phillip King, in three sets, 4-6, 7-6, 7-5. Two singles belongs to Goran Sterjovski and he is just under .500 at the position with a 9-10 slate. Sterjovski won his match against No. 64 Aleksey Zharinov from Minnesota in the first round of NCAA competition, but he was defeated by Duke's Ludovic Walter, ranked 28th. Jarmaine Jenkins completes Clemson's lineup at three singles with an 11-8 mark. The top doubles team for Clemson is Jenkins and Thompson, who are ranked 37th together. The duo will also represent the Tigers in the NCAA Doubles Championship. They are 23-18 on the season and 14-12 at one doubles. Boetsch and Robinson fill the No. 2 hole in doubles, where they have gone 8-5. Young teams with doubles specialist Brett Twente for three doubles and the tandem owns a 7-3 record. Clemson won the doubles point against Minnesota with victories at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, but lost it to Duke by dropping matches at two and three.
THE SERIES HISTORY WITH CLEMSON
TCU has a lengthy history with the Clemson Tigers, but the two squads have not met since their 1999 match-up in Fort Worth. The Tigers own a 10-9 record against TCU in spring matches, while the Horned Frogs are 11-10 overall versus Clemson. TCU won a couple of fall matches against the Tigers in 1977 and 1978. The two teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament. TCU picked up the first three victories in the series and then lost six in a row from 1980-1986. The Frogs returned the favor from 1990-1996 by claiming six consecutive matches of their own. TCU won the last meeting by a 4-3 score March 3, 1999. Playing on a neutral court is nothing new for TCU and Clemson, as 13 of their 21 contests have come on neither team's home courts.
DOING IT THE HARD WAY
The NCAA Tournament has undergone a number of changes throughout the years in men's tennis. When the field was changed to a 64-team format in 1999 to emulate the basketball championships, the top 16 seeds typically hosted the first two rounds of the event. The first two rounds are referred to as NCAA Regionals. The same holds true today, making it difficult for teams that do not host to reach the round of 16, which is the NCAA Championship. In TCU's two prior trips to the championship during that time frame in 2000 and 2001, the Horned Frogs hosted one of the NCAA Regionals. In 1999, TCU had to play at SMU and was sent home with a 4-3 loss to the Mustangs in the second round. LSU bounced the Frogs in the first round in 2002 when Texas A&M served as the host institution and Baylor defeated TCU by a 4-0 count in the second round last year. The Horned Frogs had a shot at hosting this year by holding a top-16 ranking, but they were denied the opportunity. Being forced to once again take to the road, TCU reversed its past misfortunes and upended the host Kentucky Wildcats, seeded 12th, on their home courts to get back into the national limelight. Five other teams in this year's field managed to advance by knocking out the host school in the second round. 2003 runner-up Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss, 4-1, Texas A&M got the better of VCU, 4-0, Clemson snuck past Duke, 4-3, Rice blitzed LSU, 4-0, and Ohio State escaped with a 4-3 triumph at North Carolina. Host teams that survived first- and second-round play included Illinois, Harvard, Georgia, UCLA, Southern California, Arkansas, Stanford, Florida, Baylor and Rice. UCLA was the only team in TCU, Texas A&M and Clemson's quadrant that defended its home courts.
A RICH NCAA HISTORY
The Horned Frogs have a rich tradition of excellence in the NCAA Tournament. TCU is making its 19th appearance in the event since the current team format was adopted in 1977. In terms of the NCAA Championships, the Frogs have gone to the event 14 times. Before this year, the Purple and White had not gone since 2001 when it reached the national semifinals. TCU has been a part of the past 14 tournaments and made 17 showings during the past 18 seasons. The Purple and White owns a record of 25-18 (.581) in the tournament and has made three appearances (1989, 1996, 2001) in the national semifinals. TCU has also reached the NCAA Quarterfinals on seven occasions (1982, 1989, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001). In the individual championships, TCU had a string of 27 consecutive appearances from 1975-2001. During that span, TCU won one doubles title, coming in 1981 with Karl Richter and David Pate. In 1996, Ashley Fisher and Jason Weir-Smith finished as the runner-ups. Several Horned Frogs reached the round of 16 in singles, but Esteban Carril is the only one to advance to the quarterfinals. Carril made the run his sophomore year in 1999.
TCU is ranked 16th as a team. One Horned Frog, Alex Menichini, is ranked in the top-125 in singles in the ITA's poll at No. 48. Rafael Abreu and Fabrizio Sestini are ranked No. 36 in doubles. Clemson sports a No. 33 rating and boasts one ranked singles competitor in Nathan Thompson at No. 96. The Tigers' doubles team of Jarmaine Jenkins and Thompson is ranked 37th.
MENICHINI SELECTED FOR SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP
Senior Alex Menichini was chosen to participate in the 2004 NCAA Singles Championship. He is the first Horned Frog to compete in the event since 2001 when Trace Fielding played in the singles and doubles tournaments. Menichini is currently ranked No. 48 in the country. Esteban Carril is the only Frog to advance beyond the round of 16 in the singles championship, making a run into the quarterfinals in 1999. Should Menichini win two matches in the tournament, he would assure himself All-America honors. Nineteen Horned Frogs have achieved All-America status, the last three of which came in 2001 when Carril earned his third in a row in singles and Fielding and Jimmy Haney received their first in doubles.
2004 C-USA AWARDS
TCU tied a school record with five players earning postseason honors from Conference USA. Alex Menichini lead the way with his second straight C-USA First Team award. Hector Almada earned a spot on the second team, as did Fabrizio Sestini. For Sestini, it was his third consecutive appearance on the C-USA Second Team. He was named the Freshman of the Year in 2002 as well. Jacopo Tezza snagged a place on the third team, making the Horned Frogs the only squad in the league with players on all three all-conference teams. Jacob Martin and Menichini were tabbed the Doubles Team of the C-USA Championship by recording a 3-0 record during the event. Almada shared Singles Player of the C-USA Championship honors with Jacobo Hernandez from Tulane after going 2-0 and clinching two matches for TCU. Menichini also took home a C-USA Sportsmanship Award and the entire Horned Frog team received one as well. The award is meant for student-athletes, coaches or teams that perform an individual act of sporting behavior or generally conduct themselves with a high degree of good sportsmanship. TCU was the only squad in C-USA to pick up a Sportsmanship Award as a team.
TCU'S LAST TIME OUT
Despite the odds of facing the No. 11-ranked men's tennis team in the nation on its home turf in round two of the 2004 NCAA Regionals, the 16th-rated TCU Horned Frogs managed to upset the 12th-seeded Kentucky Wildcats by a 4-2 count Sunday at the Boone Tennis Complex. Kentucky ended the year at 19-10, while TCU improved to 18-6. The Frogs now head to Tulsa, Okla., for the NCAA Championships, an event it has been absent from the past two years. TCU will face No. 33 Clemson in the round of 16 May 22. A time for the match has not been set. The Tigers also recorded an upset victory Sunday, stunning No. 5-seeded and sixth-ranked Duke, 4-3, in Durham, N.C. The Purple and White took a 1-0 lead after another heated doubles point. UK won the first match at the top position, where the No. 14 duo of Rahim Esmail and Jesse Witten defeated TCU's 36th-ranked tandem of Rafael Abreu and Fabrizio Sestini, 8-5. TCU's Jacob Martin and Alex Menichini kept things alive with a come-from-behind victory at three over Nate Emge and Tigran Martirosyan, 9-8(3). Martin and Menichini trailed by a 6-3 score before winning six of the next eight games. Hector Almada and Jacopo Tezza clinched the point for the Frogs by downing Evan Austin and Alex Hume by a 9-7 tally at the No. 2 slot. In singles, Almada put TCU ahead 2-0 when he made short work of Austin at two, winning by scores of 6-3, 6-1. It was his sixth victory in a row and upped his record on the year to 13-5. The Horned Frogs thought they were leading 3-0 when No. 94-ranked Martirosyan was defaulted at the No. 3 spot for using excessive profanity. After Kentucky's coaching staff protested the official's ruling, the decision was reversed and Martirosyan and Sestini resumed their match after a delay of more than 20 minutes. Sestini won the first set, 6-3, and was leading 4-3 in the second when the default occurred. During the protest, the Wildcats were able to snag a couple of wins at one and five singles. Esmail ousted Abreu in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5, at the fifth position to give Kentucky its first point, and No. 6-rated Witten defeated No. 48 Menichini in three sets, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. With the match tied 2-2, Sestini rose to the occasion after wrestling with the frustration of continuing his match when he thought it was over. The Rome, Italy, native won by a 7-4 count in a second-set tiebreaker for his 22nd triumph of the season to put the Frogs back on top, 3-2. Sestini also improved to 16-4 in dual matches and 10-2 at No. 3 singles. The deciding match came at No. 6 singles between Martin and Hume. Martin claimed the first set easily, winning 6-2, but Hume turned the tables in the second and came out victorious by the same score. The third stanza was much closer and Martin prevailed by a 7-5 count to put the match in the books. Tezza and Emge's match at the No. 4 slot was suspended with Tezza up a set and 5-4 in the second.
BACK TO OUR OLD FORM
The TCU men's tennis team ascended back into the nation's top-10 Feb. 24 coming in tied for sixth with Stanford. The following week, TCU returned to the top-5 at fifth. The No. 5 rating was the highest for TCU since the 2001 campaign when the Horned Frogs spent the entire year ranked in the top-10 and were as high as No. 2. They reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship and finished 2001 rated fifth. Individually, senior Alex Menichini cracked the top-25 in singles at No. 22. He was the highest ranked player for TCU since Esteban Carril, who starred for the Purple and White from 1997-2001. Carril's best ranking was fourth during his senior year. Sophomore Rafael Abreu and junior Fabrizio Sestini came in at No. 10 in doubles, giving the Horned Frogs their first top-10 duo since Ashley Fisher and Jason Weir-Smith in 1997.
NO. 100 FOR THE HEAD MAN
TCU coach Joey Rivé won his 100th match as a head coach when TCU downed ETSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Currently, he is 101-76 in his seven years of head coaching between TCU and Alabama. Rivé has also guided his squads to six consecutive NCAA appearances and is 10-5 in the tournament.
TCU CLEANS UP ON C-USA MONTHLY & WEEKLY AWARDS
Last fall, TCU cleaned up on the Conference USA monthly tennis award. For September, the recognition was given to Alex Menichini for reaching the semifinals of the Baylor Intercollegiates. He won three matches during the tourney and defeated one ranked player in Baylor's Matija Zgaga. He fell in the semis to the nation's then-No. 1 Benedikt Dorsch, also from Baylor. Fabrizio Sestini was awarded the accolade for October after he reached the quarters of the Midland Open and the ITA South Central Regional Championships. He also teamed up with Rafael Abreu to win the doubles title at the ITA Regional, allowing them to become the first TCUers to qualify for the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships since 1997. Menichini took home some more praise from C-USA when he was tabbed Athlete of the Week after TCU upended UTA and Colorado. He went 2-0 at one singles and three doubles with Jacob Martin that week. One week after Menichini got the award, Rafael Abreu took home the prize for TCU after winning critical matches against Texas A&M and Florida State. Jacopo Tezza became TCU's third winner of the weekly accolade when he helped TCU defeat SMU, Washington and Pepperdine. Jacob Martin grabbed the honors for TCU for the fourth time of the spring after posting wins against Miami and Boise State. Hector Almada was recognized two weeks later after posting wins against Duke and Virginia.
NEW TEAM BUILDING DEDICATED
The new TCU Tennis Team Building was dedicated Jan. 30, 2004. It houses the men's and women's coaching staffs and provides locker rooms for the men and women. Other amenities in the complex include a spacious lounge area with a big screen television, a laundry and equipment room, a computer workstation for student-athletes and a racket stringing area. The building cost about $700,000 to construct and was finished last December after breaking ground in June.
SOME NEW FACES
The Horned Frogs snagged a couple of new faces for the spring with the additions of Hector Almada and Tobias Virdhage. Almada played two seasons at Fresno State and one at Fresno City College prior to coming to Cowtown. He entered last fall ranked No. 6 in doubles and was 76th in singles. Virdhage, a native of Sweden, is a three-time Swedish national champion and boasts victories over some of the top players in the world, such as Daniel Klemetz, formerly of Middle Tennessee State. Klemetz won the 2002 ITA All-American Championships.
RESTORING DOUBLES DOMINANCE
TCU has historically experienced a great deal of success in doubles, but the 2002 and 2003 seasons were a bit of a struggle. This season, the Horned Frogs have shown flashes of their old form and are 46-21 in dual matches. They have dropped only six doubles points this year and have won both points against East Tennessee State and Kentucky in this year's NCAA Regionals. Two years ago, TCU was a mere 25-40 in doubles and last season the Frogs went 37-31. One of the biggest wins this year came when Rafael Abreu and Fabrizio Sestini topped Texas A&M's tandem of Lester Cook and Ante Matijevic, 8-4. Cook and Matijevic were the No. 1-rated duo in the nation at the time and still hold the same billing. The win was critical, as it allowed TCU to win the doubles point, which proved to be the difference in the match. In the Frogs' NCAA Second Round match with Kentucky, Jacob Martin and Alex Menichini actually trailed 6-3 at three doubles, but the duo managed to come back and win the match in a tiebreaker. Their win was the first of two for the Horned Frogs and took some of the pressure off during the singles.
WHAT A START
By knocking off then-No. 18 Pepperdine March 8, the Horned Frogs moved their record to 11-0, tying the 1981 squad for the best start in school history. The school record for longest winning streak is 16 matches coming in 1989 when TCU made its first appearance in the NCAA National Semifinals.
REPRESENTING THE WORLD
TCU's roster this season has six different countries represented. Besides the United States, the Horned Frogs have players from Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden and Venezuela. The Frogs' Americans are senior Alex Menichini and freshmen Robert Gallman, Collin Hart, Craig Stopa, and Andrew Ulrich. Two Italians don the purple and white with juniors Fabrizio Sestini and Jacopo Tezza. The lone Mexican is senior Hector Almada and junior Jacob Martin hails from Spain. Freshman Tobias Virdhage is TCU's Swedish player and sophomore Rafael Abreu is Venezuelan.
BOTH ALMA MATERS GO DOWN
Assistant coach Cory Hubbard saw the TCUers down his alma mater Texas A&M Feb. 15 in Fort Worth, 4-3. Hubbard graduated from A&M in December 2000 with a degree in marketing after playing for the Aggies from 1996-2000. He was also a volunteer coach at A&M for a year. Head coach Joey Rivé escaped with a 4-3 victoy over Florida State Feb. 22, allowing the coaching staff to go undefeated this year against its alma maters. Rivé is a 1993 graduate of FSU with a Bachelor's degree in psychology. He is considered one of the great Seminoles in school history and was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame in 1999. He won 74 singles and 47 doubles matches during his time with FSU. His 33 singles victories in 1983 is still the second-most for a single season in school history. Rivé was also an assistant coach for the Seminoles for a year when he returned to finish his degree after playing on the ATP Tour.
ABOUT THE ITA RANKINGS
The team rankings were determined by a vote of the ITA National Rankings Committee until March 23. Rankings are now calculated using a computer formula. On April 6, the singles rankings expanded from a top-100 to a top-125 and the doubles went from a top-50 to a top-60. The singles and doubles are also determined by a computer ranking system. The final rankings will be released June 4.
TWO MATCHES CANCELLED IN 2004
TCU had a couple matches cancelled this year. The first was at Texas Tech March 22 due to a scheduling conflict with both teams. The second was the Horned Frogs' final home contest against Louisiana-Lafayette April 7. ULL did not have enough healthy players to field a team for the match.