USC’s men’s tennis team took home its first big wins of the fall season on Tuesday, capturing the singles and doubles crowns at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southwest Regional Championships in Malibu, Calif.
In his first tournament of the season, junior Yannick Hanfmann rolled through each round with ease. The Karlsruhe, Germany native, who was seeded second in the tournament, took down two opponents from Grand Canyon University, two opponents from UCLA and a player from UC Santa Barbara on his way to the finals, where he faced off against Pepperdine’s Alex Sarkissian.
Last year when the Trojans hosted the Waves during the regular season, Hanfmann defeated Sarkissian, 6-4, 6-4. In the championship match on Tuesday, Hanfmann emerged victorious again by a score of 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Hanfmann’s success is impressive considering this is his first tournament after recovering from a knee injury, but not entirely surprising. From 2012 to 2013, Hanfmann put together a 31-7 record and advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Individual Championships in May.
“Yannick’s only had three or four full practices [this fall] but he’s been hitting a lot,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “So he played lights-out when he had to.”
Junior Eric Johnson also represented the Trojans well by advancing to the semifinals, where he fell to UCLA’s Mackenzie McDonald. Senior Michael Grant and junior Roberto Quiroz fell in the Round of 16, while senior Ray Sarmiento, who entered the tournament as the top seed, withdrew in the third round with a foot injury.
Though Sarmiento was forced to pull out from the singles draw, he continued to compete in doubles with junior Roberto Quiroz. Despite Sarmiento’s injury, the duo made its way into the finals, where they faced off against another Trojan pair, junior Eric Johnson and sophomore Max de Vroome, guaranteeing a doubles title for USC.
Johnson and de Vroome defeated duos from Loyola Marymount, Arizona and UCSB as well as a pair of teammates in senior Michael Grant and freshman Robbie Bellamy to reach the finals, while Sarmiento and Quiroz took down teams from Arizona, UCSB, Pepperdine and UCLA.
In the championship match, which was moved from Pepperdine to USC’s Marks Tennis Stadium on Tuesday, fifth-seeded Johnson and de Vroome knocked off Quiroz and Sarmiento, 8-4.
“I thought today was pretty fun,” Sarmiento said. “It’s not every day you get to play against your teammates. There was some trash talking before the match, so that was kind of fun — too bad I couldn’t back it up.”
In the lighthearted match, Quiroz and Sarmiento showed flashes of brilliance, but Johnson and de Vroome remained more consistent throughout, allowing them to upset their higher-ranked teammates.
“They definitely played well and they deserved to win today,” Sarmiento said. “They didn’t miss a volley.”
This title gives Johnson his second straight ITA Regionals doubles championship, after taking home the trophy along with Hanfmann last year.
Smith said he considered putting Hanfmann and Johnson back together this fall, but Johnson and de Vroome’s success in the past prompted him to keep the duo together. In last year’s loss to Ohio State in the NCAA quarterfinals, they were the only squad to put a doubles point on the board.
“Max and [Eric] are something special,” Smith said.
The Trojans jump right back into action at the Clay Court Invite on Friday in Orlando, Fla.
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