FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas men’s tennis team produced one of its best fall seasons on record as the Razorbacks combined to win 64 total matches, five singles tournaments and one doubles title. In his 19th year as Arkansas’ head coach Robert Cox has put together a solid roster with experienced seniors and talented newcomers.
“We expected to have a good fall with our pretty good mix of seniors and underclassmen,” Cox said. “We’ve got three solid seniors who have proven themselves.”
The Hogs were led this fall by nationally ranked seniors Rohan Gajjar (No. 31), Adrians Zguns (No. 58) and Matt Roberts (No. 73). Together the trio won 22 matches in the fall playing in only three tournaments each.
Gajjar earned a bid to ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., where he opened his season with a win over No. 89 Eric Langenkamp of Notre Dame.
Zguns began his fall by winning four straight matches, breezing through the qualifying draw of the ITA All-American, before falling to Boise State’s No. 13 Luke Shields in the round of 32. The native of Liepaja, Latvia closed the fall with an 8-3 record, giving him 86 career victories and placing him seventh on UA’s all-time list.
Roberts defeated two ranked players, including Gajjar and Arizona State’s Chris Biro (No. 48), to win the ASU Invitational and finished the fall 9-3. Roberts is 3-1 against ranked opponents.
“We wound up the year with Matt Roberts and Rohan Gajjar doing such a great job of dominating the Arizona State tournament,” Cox said, “They fought through some tough matches out there, and that’s what seniors are supposed to do.”
Gajjar and Roberts also teamed to win doubles at the ASU Invitational, while Zguns and Gajjar make up the nation’s sixth-ranked doubles team.
The bright spot of the fall for the Razorbacks may have been true freshman Blake Strode. Strode went 8-2, including winning the top flight of the South Carolina Fall Invitational in just his second collegiate tournament. The product of St. Louis, Mo. defeated three ranked players in a row on his way to the championship, including No. 15 Tom Eklund of South Carolina in the final.
“Blake Strode had a phenomenal performance,” Cox said. “He’s a true freshman he beat three of the top 70 players in the country. For Blake to actually win that tournament was really an eye-opener for me. I knew Blake had talent, but I didn’t think he’d step in and have an impact on Division I tennis like he did in that tournament.”
Sophomore Michael Jung led the Hogs in wins this fall with 14. Jung was 14-2, winning his flight at the South Carolina Invitational, and then fighting off a first-round setback to win the consolation bracket of the ITA Central Region Championships.
True freshman Austin King provided another spark for Arkansas, winning his first six collegiate matches. King was perfect at the Navy Invitational, and finished the fall 7-3.
“Michael Jung had a great fall and he had more wins than anybody,” Cox said. “Austin King has proven he has the talent to play.”
Also for the Hogs, junior Andrei Nicoara went 4-5, while sophomore Jimmy Khougassian was 9-3, and captured his flight of the South Carolina Invitational as well.
“Overall, it was a very good fall, as far as winning titles and seeing those seniors step up,” Cox said. “We’ve got a real good mix and we got to see a lot of different players play this fall. We’re excited, and it should be a phenomenal spring.”
Arkansas opens its 2005 spring schedule with an Alumni Reunion on January 13-15, before hosting Sterling University of Scotland on Monday, Jan. 16 in an exhibition match.
The Hogs’ first match of the season is Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. against Oral Roberts at the Dills Indoor Tennis Center in Fayetteville.
2005 Fall Highlights
· Arkansas players won a combined 64 matches in six tournaments.
· The Razorbacks won five individual and one doubles title.
· Matt Roberts defeated Rohan Gajjar to win the Arizona State Invitational.
· Roberts and Gajjar teamed to win doubles at the ASU Invitational.
· Blake Strode defeated three top-55 players en route to winning the top flight of the South Carolina Invitational.
· Adrians Zguns’ eight wins moved him into seventh all-time at Arkansas with 86 career victories.
· Michael Jung and Jimmy Khougassian each won their flight at the South Carolina Invitational.