As the first Grand Slam of the professional season winds to a close at the Australian Open, The No. 1 men’s tennis team will commence play during one of the “Grand Slams” of college tennis Saturday and Sunday in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Kick-Off Weekend.
The Trojans (2-0, 0-0) will host a four-team qualifying tournament Saturday and Sunday against No. 49 Vanderbilt University (3-1, 0-0), No. 70 Radford University (0-2, 0-0) and No. 73 Yale University (0-0, 0-0). The winner of this kick-off tournament will go on to compete in the 16-team ITA National Team Indoor Championships at Charlottesville, Va. from Feb. 12 to Feb. 15.
Radford faces off against Yale at 8:30 a.m. to begin the day’s play, and USC starts it Saturday match against Vanderbilt at 11:30 a.m. The winners of each match will compete for a bid to Charlottesville on Sunday at 1 p.m.
With all of the interruptions in the team’s schedule, USC coach Peter Smith believes this tournament is an excellent opportunity to pick up momentum against the best competition collegiate tennis has to offer.
“We look at it as the start of the season where you have the top-60 teams in the country all playing the same weekend,“ Smith said. “Kind of a cool way to start the season.“
The very competitive Vanderbilt squad, coming off a close (4-3) loss to No. 41 University of Michigan, will be the Trojans’ first opponents at the Kick-Off event. The Commodores have three singles players ranked in the top 75 and three ranked doubles duos.
Win or lose, the Trojans will play on Sunday against either Radford or Yale. Radford opened its season with two losses to ranked teams and boasts No. 66 singles player junior Ivan Salec.
USC opened the season with two wins against Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbra, where the Trojans were able to give all team members a chance to compete.
Now that the season is underway, Smith will change his approach in order to soldify his lineup.
“Time to lay the best guys out there and get some experience,“ Smith noted.
Freshman J.T. Sundling has been medically cleared to begin practice today after a bout with mononucleosis. Smith plans to ease him into playing shape, but Sundling’s presence will help in finalizing the lineup, especially in doubles. With some questions left to be answered, the Trojans hope to advance and prove themselves against the top teams in the nation at the ITAs.