Men’s tennis opens Sherwood Collegiate Cup

Junior Riley Smith will carry momentum into this weekend’s play after he and junior Daniel Cukierman emerged victorious in the doubles bracket in the Oracle Pro Series Tournament at Marks Stadium last weekend. (Daily Trojan file photo)

Following a successful campaign at the Oracle Pro Series Tournament, the USC men’s tennis team will look forward to continuing their dominance in the Sherwood Collegiate Cup this weekend.

Last week’s Oracle Pro Series Tournament saw Trojans thriving in both the singles and doubles brackets. Senior Brandon Holt had himself an impressive run into the semifinals of singles play before falling to Alexander Ritschard. The doubles final consisted of three Trojan players, with the all-USC pair of junior Daniel Cukierman and senior Riley Smith winning it all. 

Starting Friday, the Trojans will compete with other top players from Stanford, UCLA and Texas A&M in Thousand Oaks. Each school has eight players competing in the main draw, which consists of a total of 32 players during the four-day span. 

This tournament will be the last individual competition of the year before head coach Brett Masi’s squad begins team competition play. 

“It is kind of like just one more event to get some matches in before the start of our dual match season,” Masi said.

The Trojans kick off this year ranked No. 3 in the ITA preseason ranking, the highest ranking the team has seen since it sat at No. 1 and No. 2 in 2015 and a significant improvement from its 2019 final rank of No. 8. 

For the first time since 2013, the tennis team has seven players ranked nationally in singles as well as four nationally ranked doubles pairs. Besides that, Cukierman has become the first No. 1 ranked singles player in the nation since 2012. 

Masi said the team is confident with its position right now.

“This tournament doesn’t really have any bearing upon the pressure,” Masi said. “I think this shows the guys that they’re a good team and … just shows how competitive we can be this season but the goal of the end of the year is to have the No. 1 in front.”

The Sherwood Collegiate Classic will provide opportunities for Trojans to compete against other elite players at the collegiate level. The team hopes to build upon past successes and continue its player development throughout the tournament. 

The Trojans are setting their sights on both singles and doubles matches in Thousand Oaks, and Masi said his team will gain valuable experience by competing in plenty of matches — even if they lose in the first or second round.

“The biggest thing that I want to do is … working with the doubles pairings that maybe they haven’t played with this year and just see if they work and, you know, get them feeling comfortable with each other,” Masi said. “I think … that’s the biggest thing that we’re going to be using this tournament for.” 

Masi said that although it’s a great opportunity for singles players to gain experience by playing more matches in the tournament, the biggest things to watch for in Thousand Oaks are the chemistry and trust between doubles pairs going into the duo match season. 

“It’s more for them just to start feeling comfortable about their games, and to feel like things that we’ve worked on [in] the fall and just to get them kind of just match experience,” Masi said. 

The Trojans hope to build on their recent momentum as they compete in the Sherwood Collegiate Classic beginning Friday in Thousand Oaks.