Three members of the USC men’s tennis team participated in the Battle at the Bay Tournament in San Francisco, Calif. over the weekend.
Freshman Nick Crystal had a strong showing at the tournament, reaching the quarterfinals before falling to Cal freshman Andre Goransson, 6-3, 7-5.
Sophomore Max de Vroome and junior Eric Johnson were both ousted in the Round of 32 at the tournament.
USC head coach Peter Smith stayed positive about his players’ performance in the tournament, saying that the individual tournament was more of a tune-up for the rigors of the spring team schedule.
“You really just want to give kids a chance to be successful. We’ve got different tournaments coming up, and it’s just about getting them reps, really,” Smith said.
The importance of individual tournaments is also compounded for de Vroome, who suffered from a devastating wrist injury late last season and has had to rehabilitate during the offseason. This weekend was the sophomore’s second tournament since returning from the injury in which he was able to play at full speed. Smith said despite the loss, the signs were encouraging.
“He’s only been really hitting for two weeks, so he still has to get the rust out,” Smith said.
There were no such injury issues for Johnson, who has struggled since midway through last season. Johnson began the 2012 season ranked No. 61 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and finished the season ranked No. 85. It was a difficult tournament for the junior, who had a No. 2 seeding and a first round bye only to suffer a crushing exit in the second round at the hands of Stanford sophomore Anthony Tsodikov by a score of 6-0, 6-4.
The USC men’s tennis team is coming off a disappointing season in which they began the 2012 season as the ITA’s No. 2 ranked team and the defending NCAA Champions and ended the season bowing out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals to No. 5 Ohio State. Despite this, Smith denies that the players’ subpar performance in the individual tournaments has anything to do with an emotional letdown from last season.
“Neither [Johnson nor de Vroome] played much tennis since July, so that’s why they were out there — to get matches,” Smith said.
Johnson and de Vroome might have to shake off some rust between now and the beginning of the team season next spring, but one player has impressed Smith coming off the offseason — senior Michael Grant. Grant has shown great strides in improving areas of his game and, according to Smith, looks poised for a huge senior year. When asked whether Grant had undergone a special training regimen in the offseason to warrant such optimism, Smith was playful in response.
“I don’t know what the heck he did. He didn’t work with me over the summer — maybe that was the key,” Smith said, laughing.
Hopefully the Trojans have much more to laugh about in the coming weeks as the individual tournaments and “reps” yield more favorable results. Johnson, de Vroome, Grant and the rest of the USC men’s tennis team will participate in the ITA Southwest Regional Championships in Malibu from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22.
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