Men’s tennis to open season in overseas tournament

Sophomore Daniel Cukierman chases down a ball during practice. (Emily Smith/Daily Trojan)

In what will be the first collegiate tennis dual matches played outside of the United States, the USC men’s tennis team will play exhibition and regular season matches while in the Australian open in Melbourne.

The Trojans are scheduled to play the Tennis Australia National Academy team in the exhibition match. Additionally, the Trojans will play the University of South Carolina, which will be the team’s first regular season match, counting to each team’s overall win-loss record and Oracle ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings.

Even though USC does not start conference play until Feb. 8, the Men of Troy have had their fair share of success so far. In the latest set of individual rankings, the ITA has ranked six Trojans in the top-60 in singles and one doubles team in the top-50.

These six Trojans are seniors Laurens Verboven, Logan Smith and Tanner Smith, sophomore Daniel Cukierman,, freshman Bradley Frye and redshirt junior Jake Devine, who are ranked No. 8, No. 19, No. 32, No. 34, No. 47, and No. 56, respectively. As for doubles, Cukierman and Tanner Smith are ranked 45th in the nation.

This will be the Trojans first team match since Nov. 11, 2018, when Cukierman lost in the championship match against senior Petros Chrysochos in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Paradise, Ariz. In that same tournament, Cukierman and Smith fell in the quarterfinals to senior Aziz Kijametovic and junior Francois Musitelli from Old Dominion University.

One player to keep an eye on in Australia is junior Brandon Holt. Over the holiday’s, Holt and Tanner Smith competed in the Blizzard Wild Card Challenge in Orlando, Fla., where both players had strong showings.

In a field of eight players, Holt won a string of seven consecutive sets before faltering in the semi-finals and giving up a set to freshman Sam Riffice from the University of Florida. However, Holt fought and won the match in a nail biter, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6. He made it all the way to the championship match where he lost to junior Alex Rybakov from Texas Christian University. On the other hand, after winning only one match in the first round, Smith ended up winning his consolation match against sophomore John McNally from Ohio State.

With two dual matches already under their belt, the South Carolina Gamecocks men’s tennis team will look to extend their record to 3-0 when they take on the Trojans. Ranked No. 25 in the nation, the Gamecocks have not lost a singles or doubles match yet, going 7-0 against The Citadel last weekend.

The Gamecocks only gave up a total of eight games between both doubles and singles in that match. Their number one doubles team, consisting of freshmen Jake Beasley and Joseph Brailovsky, is a threat that hasn’t given up a game this entire season. No. 1 singles freshman Daniel Rodrigues is another player for the Trojans to keep an eye on.

The Trojans have a tough set of matches in front of them, but look for players like Cukierman and Verboven to lead the Trojans in their first-ever overseas match. The Men of Troy are scheduled to play the Tennis Australia National Academy on Jan. 21  and the University of South Carolina on Jan. 22. The Trojans will return back home to start the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament next week.