The USC men’s tennis team was on the verge of a sweep but instead came away with nothing at the ITA Southwest Regional Championships in Irvine, Calif., on Tuesday, losing in both the singles and doubles finals.
USC’s No. 2-seeded doubles team, consisting of junior Steve Johnson and freshman Ray Sarmiento, lost to the No. 1-seeded UCLA team of Amit Inbar and Nick Meister 9-7. The teams stayed locked in a tight battle for much of the match, and although Johnson and Sarmiento held a 6-5 lead, they could not maintain their advantage, dropping the next two games to trail 6-7. The Trojans managed to tie the match at 7-7, but UCLA swept the following two games to take the tournament.
“This was our first tournament playing together,” Johnson said of Sarmiento. “Overall it was a good experience and Ray left a good impression.”
In singles, No. 1 seed junior Daniel Nguyen cruised to the final without dropping a set, where he clashed with No. 4 seed Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine. The first set went to a tiebreaker, but Fanselow managed to edge Nguyen 7-6, before taking the second set, and the title, 6-3.
“[Nguyen] walked in struggling,” USC coach Peter Smith said. “But he played some really good tennis and finished as a better player on Monday than when he entered on Thursday.”
Despite the disappointing finish, the tournament started out well for the Trojans, with five singles players winning their first match in straight sets to advance to the round of 32. Three singles players and three doubles pairs moved on to the round of 16, and all three singles players moved on to the quarterfinals, capped by Sarmiento defeating Inbar 7-6, 6-4.
Sarmiento and senior Jaak Poldma fell to Pepperdine in the quarterfinals, leaving only Nguyen representing the Trojans in singles.
After knocking off UC Irvine’s Chris Kearney in the semifinals, Nguyen fell to Fanselow in the finals.
Poldma said that, despite the late losses, there were silver linings to be found.
“Other than the final matches, it was a nice tournament,” Poldma said. “This was the competition we needed before the [team] season starts. The team is looking good and is ready to be a contender again.”’
Smith said that he felt the same way.
“It was a good weekend for us,” Smith said. “We would have loved to win both finals on Monday, but it was a good reminder that championships are special.”
The Trojans did manage to come away with one title in the tournament, as freshman Michael Grant took the consolation singles crown 6-4, 6-3 over Thibaut Visy of the University of San Diego.