FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 45 University of Arkansas men’s tennis team will be in action on the east coast this weekend, playing at No. 17 South Carolina on Friday before facing No. 10 Florida Sunday in Gainesville, Fla.Entering the weekend, the Hogs (9-9, 1-5) are one of the teams on the bubble for the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships. Head Arkansas coach Robert Cox hopes this weekend will propel the Razorbacks upward in the rankings, giving them a better position heading into postseason next month.
“The teams that get into the tournament are usually about the top 40 ranked teams, or so,” Cox said. “We’re at 45 right now, so we just need to focus, play hard and pull out some wins.”
The top four spots in the singles lineup have proven solid for Arkansas this season, as, led by No. 13-ranked Blake Strode, they have gone a combined 44-24 in dual play. The No. 5 and No. 6 positions have been a weak spot for the Hogs though, only winning 11 of 36 matches.
“Our top four guys have been spectacular,” Cox said. “We’ve got to get the guys at the bottom of the order some wins and we’ll really be rolling.”
Another weak spot for the Razorbacks has been doubles but, after retooling all three teams last weekend against Tennessee and Georgia, Cox believes he may have found an answer to the doubles riddle.
Against No. 3 Georgia, Matt Hogan and new partner Dmitry Lebedev won their match at No. 2 doubles and Strode and Chris Nott, challenged the No. 7 duo in the country, Nate Schnugg and Jamie Hunt before falling, 9-7.
“We rearranged the teams last weekend and were competitive for the first time in a long time,” Cox said.
Arkansas will have to be competitive if it aims to defeat either the Gamecocks (15-4, 3-3) or Gators (12-6, 3-3).
Last season against South Carolina, the Hogs claimed the doubles point but the Gamecocks rebounded in singles and the teams battled it out, tied 3-3, with South Carolina winning the clinching match at No. 4 singles to take the 4-3 victory.
It was a marathon match in 2008 for the Gators and Razorbacks in Fayetteville, all six of the singles matches going three sets. Although each individual singles match was close, Florida edged Arkansas in five of them, winning the match, 6-1.
On Friday, the Razorbacks and Gamecocks are scheduled for a 1 p.m. (CT) first serve at the Sam Davis Tennis Center. Sunday, the Hogs’ match with the Gators is set for noon (CT) at Ring Tennis Center.
For live results and for complete coverage of Arkansas men’s tennis, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.