FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas heads to the state of Alabama this weekend for a pair of pivotal Southeastern Conference matches against No. 55 Auburn and No. 45 Alabama.
The Razorbacks (13-7, 4-4 SEC) are ranked 20th in this week’s FILA/ITA rankings, and Coach Robert Cox’s club currently sits alone in third in the SEC Western Division and sixth overall. Auburn (11-7, 3-5) is a game behind the Hogs and is in a tie for seventh overall, while Alabama (9-10, 2-6) is in fifth in the West and in a three-way tie for ninth overall.
In the series history with the two Alabama schools, Arkansas is 9-11 all-time against Auburn and 9-8 against Alabama. The Razorbacks lost to Auburn in Fayetteville a year ago, 4-3, but defeated the Tigers the last time the schools met in Auburn, 5-2, in 2004. Arkansas defeated Alabama, 4-3, last year in Fayetteville, but lost the last meeting in Tuscaloosa, 5-2, in 2004.
Auburn dropped a pair of SEC road matches last weekend at South Carolina and Florida. The Tigers are 9-2 at home this season. Senior Nick Lane and junior Robert Lathouwers lead AU. Lane leads the Tigers with 13 victories this season and is 4-4 in the SEC, while Lathouwers is 11-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. The Tigers are very solid in doubles, where Lathouwers and freshman Lukas Marsoun head the doubles lineup, sporting a 13-5 overall record and an 8-1 mark at No. 1.
Alabama features a familiar name to Razorback tennis fans. Junior Joseph Jung is the brother of Arkansas sophomore Michael Jung. The two actually met in doubles a year ago, with Michael getting of the better of Joseph en route to the Razorbacks win over the Crimson Tide. Joseph Jung leads the Tide this season with 16 wins and is ranked 114th nationally.
Arkansas features of one of the conference’s most potent singles attacks. The Hogs boast four of the nation’s top-125 players, three of whom have won 20 or more matches this season. Senior Rohan Gajjar and freshman Blake Strode each posted two wins for the Hogs last weekend against Mississippi St. and Ole Miss. Gajjar, ranked 93rd, is 17-6 this season, 5-2 in conference play and has won six of his last seven matches. Strode, ranked 124th, is 20-5 overall, 5-3 in the SEC and leads all SEC freshman in victories. Seniors Adrians Zguns and Matt Roberts, ranked 22nd and 57th, respectively, have each notched 20 or more wins this season and 12 or more wins in dual matches.
The Razorbacks open this weekend’s action Friday at 5 p.m. against Auburn at the Luther Young Tennis Complex. The Hogs meet Alabama Sunday at 1 p.m. in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama Tennis Complex. Fans can follow live stats of each match by logging on to www.hogwired.com.