With the top men’s tennis players converging today in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., two players from the No. 1 USC men’s tennis team hope to notch singles titles in the esteemed four-day tournament.
No. 16 senior Daniel Nguyen and No. 15 sophomore Ray Sarmiento will participate in a loaded 32-player singles draw that includes all of the top 10 players in the nation. The tournament will take place in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open.
Nguyen will begin his run against No. 1 seed freshman Mitchell Frank from Virginia, who, despite his age, captured the ITA Men’s All-Americans singles title in early October and has yet to lose a singles match in his collegiate career.
En route to his championship in the All-Americans, Frank defeated five seniors, including Nguyen, No. 5 Chase Buchanan of Ohio State and No. 7 Dennis Nevolo of Illinois. In the semifinals of the tournament, Frank upset Nguyen 4-6, 2-6.
“This is my last season, so I definitely want to try and do well, maybe even win it,” Nguyen said. “It’s definitely a special tournament for me.”
Nguyen hopes to exact his revenge on Frank on Thursday at 1 p.m., and Sarmiento will challenge No. 6 seed Buchanan on the same day at 3:30 p.m.
Sarmiento will play for the first time since his championship performance in the ITA Southwest Regionals in Malibu two weeks ago.
“It’s always great to win tournaments, so it’s definitely a confidence booster,” Sarmiento said. “Daniel and I have both been to New York, so we have a good feel of the courts in Flushing.”
For the past two years, USC senior Steve Johnson has represented the Trojans in the finals of the Indoor Championships, taking home the 2009 title and losing in 2010. With Johnson taking the fall semester off, Nguyen and Sarmiento hope to maintain USC’s presence at the tournament.
“I just talked to [Johnson] about the courts, and he told me that it’s really quick, and I need to try to transition a lot and come into the net,” Nguyen said. “I definitely feel like I prepared myself for New York.”
Nguyen gained entry to the Indoor Championships after advancing past the quarterfinals of the All-Americans, and Sarmiento earned his berth for winning the ITA Regionals.
“These guys both legitimately earned it,” USC coach Peter Smith said. “Daniel getting to the semis of the All-Americans and Ray winning the regionals without losing a set says a lot about how much our guys are improving.”
The National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships began in 1978 for men and 1984 for women, and past champions and finalists of the tournament include professionals Bob and Mike Bryan, James Blake, John Isner, Laura Granville and Lisa Raymond.
Despite the tournament’s prestige, Sarmiento is not fazed.
“It’s one of the biggest tournaments in the fall, but I’m also going to treat it like it’s any other tournament,” Sarmiento said. “We’re prepared to play and make a good run.”