At its first tournament of the preseason, the USC men’s tennis team had an impressive showing at the D’Novo/ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., with two players reaching the semifinal round in singles competition.
“It was great,” coach Peter Smith said. “We had four people in the main draw, which was the most of any school, and we had two semifinalists — no one was even close to that.”
The Trojans entered the tournament with No. 3 senior Robert Farah, No. 18 sophomore Steve Johnson, No. 49 junior Jaak Poldma and No. 99 sophomore Matt Kecki in the singles draw. Farah and Johnson teamed up in the doubles draw as the No. 3 seed and No. 35 Poldma and Kecki took the courts for doubles as well.
Singles play opened up on Thursday with Farah defeating Alex Stamchev of Auburn 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 and Johnson eliminating No. 8 Jean-Yves Aubone of Florida State with a smooth 6-4, 6-1 victory. Kecki and Poldma were eliminated in the first round by their respective opponents.
In the second round of play, Farah captured another three-set victory over Marek Michalicka of Wisconsin. Johnson matched up with Wisconsin’s Mortiz Baumann, handing him a 7-6 (2), 6-3 decision.
In the round of 16, Farah defeated Oklahoma’s Ionut Beleleu 7-6 (3), 6-4 to push him into the quarterfinal round. Johnson faced off with No. 14 Bradley Klahn of Stanford, who defeated him last spring to capture the Pac-10 singles title. This time around, Johnson walked away with the victory 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
In the quarterfinals, Farah defeated Michigan’s Jason Jung in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, while Johnson took down Florida’s Alex Lacroix 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
In the semifinal round, Farah took the first set from No. 2 John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee 6-3, but Smith, the eventual tournament winner, rallied back to take the next two sets 6-2, 6-2 and end Farah’s run. Johnson’s run also ended in the semifinal round to Oklahoma’s Andrei Dauescu in a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (0) decision.
Coach Smith was pleased with Farah and Johnson’s performances this weekend.
“I think it shows that Steve and Robert are in really good form,” coach Smith said.
In doubles action, the Trojans did not see the same success; both Trojan pairs were eliminated in the first round. John-Patrick Smith and Boris Conkic of Tennessee, who eliminated Farah and Johnson, won the doubles crown.
“I know we had the potential to win the tournament, and I’m sad it had to end that way,” Farah said.
Overall, however, the senior was happy with his performance this weekend.
“I felt like I did well in singles, and the way I approached competition was good,” Farah said.
In all, the Trojans were satisfied considering it was their first tournament since winning the national championship.
“Let’s face it, the standards for this team are a little higher than for most teams, so doing better than everyone is great, but we have to do as well as we can,” coach Smith said.