FAYETTEVILLE — The Razorback men’s tennis team returns to the Billingsley Tennis Center this weekend for key matches against 67th-ranked Purdue and Stetson as it hits the heart of its non-conference season. The Hogs have begun the year with a stellar 5-0 record, which included a win against then No. 73 DePaul last weekend. This weekend’s matches will be part of a big Razorback tennis weekend that will feature both men’s and women’s tennis matches on Friday and Sunday.
The men’s team is coming off a huge weekend in Iowa City, Iowa that saw the Razorbacks score a 6-1 win over Iowa and a 5-2 upset win over a ranked DePaul team. That win vaulted Arkansas in the team rankings for the first time this season and makes its matchup against Purdue their first test as the No. 72 team in the nation. Head coach Robert Cox knows how important these next two matches are for the team as it continues to prepare for conference play.
“I think Purdue is going to come in with a little chip on their shoulder,” Cox said. “They lost to DePaul a couple of weeks ago and they’re coming in with a good squad. They have a couple of leaders and a new coach. I just expect a real competitive match. We don’t know much about Stetson, but they have a few good players at the top, so we’ll have our hands full this weekend for sure.”
both matches this weekend, Arkansas will feature one of its best doubles teams this year in junior Hall Fess and senior Matt Walters. The duo has compiled an 11-1 record overall this year dating back to the fall season and have come out of dual play unscathed so far as they hold a perfect 4-0 record in dual matches.
One half of that strong team is Walters, who is coming in as the reigning SEC Player of the Week. The Jonesboro native has been one of the many bright spots for the Razorbacks this season as he has built up a 10-2 overall record and is also 4-0 in dual play. Walters has consistently played at the No. 3 position where he is 3-0, but has played one match at the two spot, earning the win there as well.
“We really didn’t have a number one doubles team coming out of practice in the fall,” Cox said. “When we started the dual match season we had to put somebody there. We didn’t know how they would react in dual matches, but they’re just playing well. Matt (Walters) has kept Hall (Fess) very even keeled and under control. Hall feels very comfortable playing with Matt. Matt has shown some good leadership in taking Hall under his wing.”
Walters isn’t the only Hog player with double-digit singles wins this year as senior Nikolas
Zogaj and sophomore Manfred Jeske both hold 10-5 overall records. Jeske is still undefeated in dual play with a 2-0 record while Zogaj only has one loss in the dual season at 3-1. This weekend’s matches will be Jeske’s second week as the No. 109 player in the country according to ITA. The newest rankings will come out next Tuesday.
The Boilermakers will be Arkansas’ first opponent of the big weekend and come in with a 3-2 overall record. With already three matches against ranked teams of DePaul, Texas A&M and Princeton, Purdue will face its fourth ranked team in six matches to start the season this Friday against the Hogs. Purdue is fresh off two straight shutouts over Southern Illinois and Butler last weekend and bring in the 105th-ranked player in singles in Mark Kovacs.
The Stetson Hatters will be Arkansas’ Sunday opponent. They come into Arkansas with a 2-0 record, but their match against Arkansas will actually be their second match of the weekend as they are set to play Oral Roberts on the Arkansas courts on Saturday.
The Razorbacks’ match against Purdue is slated to be played on Friday with first serve at 5:30 p.m. Sunday’s match with Stetson is set to be played at 2 p.m. after the women’s team’s match with Yale. All matches will be played at the Billingsley Tennis Center in Fayetteville, Ark.