COLUMBIA, S.C. – Three Razorback tennis players took home titles from their respective flights Sunday at the University of South Carolina Fall Invitational in Columbia, S.C., with a true freshman winning the tournament’s top flight.
Freshman Blake Strode claimed the championship in the event’s top flight, going 5-0 over the weekend and defeating three ranked players en route to his first collegiate title in only his second event.
Sophomores Michael Jung and Jimmy Khougassian won the titles in their flights as well, giving the Hogs a record of 21-4 over the weekend, counting both doubles and singles.
“We won three out of the five championships, and I’m proud of all our guys,” Arkansas Coach Robert Cox said, “It’s a feather in these guys’ hats for winning these championships.”
Strode, a freshman from St. Louis, Mo., moved into the finals by defeating Yale’s 51st-ranked Brandon Wai, seeded third in flight A-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals. Strode won the title by upsetting the tournament’s top-seed and the nation’s 15th-ranked player, South Carolina’s Tom Eklund, in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1. Following the weekend, Strode is 7-1.
“What a breath of fresh air Blake Strode is for our program,” Razorback Coach Robert Cox said, “He’s showing what he can do on a tennis court. It’s a sheer joy watching him play tennis. He’s going to be a great Razorback.”
Jung opened his day against Razorback teammate Taylor King in the semifinals of flight B-1. Jung, a sophomore from Atlanta, Ga., defeated the freshman King, 6-2, 7-5. The loss was King’s first loss as a collegiate, leaving the Rogers, Ark., native’s record at 6-1. Jung followed with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-4, triumph against Will Kieffer of Furman in the championship round. Jung is now 9-1 this fall.
Khougassian, a junior from Clamart, France, took home the title in flight B-3 by knocking off Glen Marshall of North Florida, 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals, then defeating Fhandi Irawan of South Carolina State, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, in the final round. The top seed in his flight, Khougassian is now 8-2 this fall.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Cox said, “But, I’m pleased with our guys, and now, we’ve got to get ready for the ITA Regional starting Thursday.”
The Razorbacks return to the courts Thursday, October, 20th, at the ITA Region V Championships. The regionals will be held at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the University of Tulsa campus in Tulsa, Okla.
— HOGS —