The No. 1 USC men’s tennis team has already laid claim to two individual singles titles this year. Now USC coach Peter Smith hopes that one of the team’s younger players can capture another one as the fall tournament season nears its end.
Five USC underclassmen will have that chance as they travel to the 55th Southern California Intercollegiate Championships at the Los Angeles Tennis Center in Westwood, which begins today.
Sophomore No. 66 Emilio Gomez and freshmen Eric Johnson, Jonny Wang and Yannick Hanfmann will represent the Trojans in a 32-player singles main draw beginning Thursday, while sophomore Corey Smith will begin the competition in the singles qualifying draw today.
“I’d love to see one of them win this UCLA tournament,” Smith said. “Of all the tournaments we’ve played, winning a majority of those would be special.”
Following a run to the semifinals of the International Tennis Association Southwest Regionals in Malibu two weeks ago, Hanfmann holds the No. 1 seed in the competition. Gomez stands on the opposite side of the bracket with the No. 2 seed.
The players look to follow up the success of USC alumnus Jaak Poldma, who captured the singles title at the five-day competition last year.
Gomez boasts a 10-1 record in preseason singles along with a singles title from the Battle in the Bay Classic in San Francisco in October. He hopes to bounce back after his first loss in the round of 16 at the ITA Southwest Regionals.
“I’ve been practicing a lot with coaches, and I think we’ve been improving a lot the past couple of weeks,” Gomez said.
USC will also send two pairs to play in the doubles draw. Gomez and Hanfmann hold the tournament’s No. 1 seed, while Johnson and Wang will pair up together in the 16-team bracket.
“We played doubles a few times during [the Harvard Invitational], and we played pretty well,” Gomez said.
Along with Gomez’s success in the fall, the freshman trio of Hanfmann, Johnson and Wang has also shown its capability throughout multiple tournaments this year, and the rest of the team has noted the newcomers’ efforts.
“They’ve done a lot and done well at regionals,” senior Daniel Nguyen said. “I think they’re definitely maturing more and getting used to college tennis.”
With the younger core of USC men’s tennis attaining experience and success early in fall tournaments, the coaching staff believes the team has a lot of promise to succeed once the spring season begins.
“The team knows we got to keep working, and we got a long way to go,” Smith said. “But we have a great team, so I’d just love to see these guys have individual glory in the fall.”