FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 56 University of Arkansas men’s tennis team opens the Southeastern Conference season this weekend at the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center against the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers.After weeks of illness that plagued the team and limited playing time for some players, the Razorbacks (6-3) look forward to having a full squad ready to go this weekend against two highly ranked and dangerous foes.
The weekend starts with a dual match with the No. 20 Crimson Tide (9-1) on Friday where the Hogs will come up against the No. 27-ranked doubles team in the nation in Billy Mertz and partner Saketh Myneni. The pair is 8-0 this season heading into Friday’s match. Myneni is also enjoying early success on the singles court, holding a 5-1 record.
Last season at Alabama, the then-No. 63 Hogs fell to No. 20 Alabama by the score of 4-2. The Crimson Tide took the doubles point behind wins on the No. 1 and No. 3 courts. The Razorbacks came back to take a 2-1 lead after Bradwin Williams and Dmitry Lebedev scored wins at No. 6 and No. 5 singles, respectively, but three straight wins by Alabama at No. 4, No. 1 and No. 2 clinched the win for the home team, giving Arkansas their second straight loss in conference play.
The weekend of conference matches continues on Sunday when the No. 26 Tigers (5-2) come to town after playing at LSU on Friday.
Auburn is led this year by senior No. 69 Alexey Tsyrenov, who holds a 3-2 singles dual record this spring. Behind Tsyrenov is sophomore No. 105 Tim Puetz, who is 6-1 in singles competition.
The duo is also Auburn’s top doubles team, ranked No. 11 nationally. Undefeated in six matches this season, Tsyrenov and Puetz are sure to push the Hogs with their consistently solid play.
The Tigers’ second doubles team, Lukas Marsoun and Alex Stamchev, are also highly regarded this season, ranked No. 50 and boasting a 5-0 record.
Playing in Auburn, Ala. last year, the then-No. 63 Razorbacks lost their first conference match of the season, 5-2, to the Tigers.
The Razorbacks and Tigers fought it out on the doubles court to start last season’s match, splitting wins at No. 2 (Arkansas) and No. 3 (Auburn) doubles. In the No. 1 position, Taylor King and Tyler Tarnasky took the No. 43 duo of Alexey Tsyrenov and Terence Nugent to a tiebreaker before falling, 9-8(5), giving Auburn the 1-0 lead going into singles.
In singles, Matt Hogan and Dmitry Lebedev picked up win for the Hogs at No. 3 and No. 5 singles respectively but their wins were not enough to earn Arkansas the win.
This year, the Hogs are ready for their rematches against their conference foes. Senior Blake Strode, ranked No. 15, is 6-2 in singles and doubles partner Matt Hogan is also having a strong start to his second dual season with the team, going 5-3 between the No. 2 and No. 3 singles positions.
Confidence and growth are obvious throughout Arkansas’ singles lineup, as the top four positions have posted an impressive combined record of 28-8 this spring.
The Razorbacks begin play on Friday against Alabama at 1:30 p.m. and close the weekend against Auburn at 1 p.m. on Sunday. For live results from both matches and for complete coverage of Arkansas men’s tennis, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.