FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Following a two-year absence, Arkansas’ men’s tennis squad is returning to the NCAA Tournament and will play North Carolina in Dallas on May 12 at 2 p.m.
The Razorbacks are 15-9 and ranked No. 26 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, and are making their fifth appearance in the tournament in eight years. No. 8 Southern Methodist (20-2) is the host and top seed of the mini-regional in Dallas and will face fourth-seeded Oral Roberts. Arkansas is the No. 2 seed and UNC No. 3. The two winners meet May 13 with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 in Athens, Ga., May 19-28.
“Last year just wouldn’t end,” head coach Robert Cox said. “We went 6-15, so to turn it around this much in one year is just great. It’s exciting to play in the tournament. It’s also exciting and to our advantage to play someone we haven’t played recently.”
Arkansas’ last trip to the NCAAs came in 1998 when the Razorbacks beat Southwestern Louisiana, 4-1, before losing to Texas A&M, 4-3.
UA’s top players, seniors Oskar Johansson (28-9) and Henrik Tofft (13-12), were freshmen on that team. Johansson, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation most of the spring, is currently ranked fourth while Tofft is No. 86.
Johansson is one of five Hogs with 20 wins this year, joining juniors Oggie Kolev (24-13), Magnus Kullenberg (21-12) and Tiago Azevedo (21-13), and sophomore Aleksey Bubis (25-10).
Johansson also qualified for the NCAA individual singles championships while he and Tofft, ranked No. 26 in doubles, earned a slot in the doubles field. The individual singles competition begins May 23 while the doubles tournament begins May 24.
“It’s no surprise with Oskar, he has a chance to win it all,” Cox said. “In doubles, they were only 9-4, but they had nine quality wins. We’re happy for them, but all we’re worried about right now is North Carolina. Dallas is close, so we can drive down and we’ll have a few RazorRacket fans in the stands.”
The Hogs haven’t played since April 19 when they lost to Mississippi State, 4-0, in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, but Arkansas won three of its last five to climb the rankings and ensure an at-large bid.
The SEC placed all 12 members in the tournament field.
“The SEC is brutal,” Cox said. “No other conference can match it from top to bottom.”