FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 63 Arkansas men’s tennis team will begin its Southeastern Conference schedule Friday at 1:30 p.m. CT against No. 35 Auburn before traveling to Tuscaloosa, Ala., Sunday to take on the No. 20 Crimson Tide at 12 p.m. CT. The Razorbacks (7-4) have matched their win total from last season and will be looking for their first conference win since April 20, 2006.
Home of the defending national champion Georgia, currently ranked No. 3, the SEC is one of the premier conferences in the country and offers an always-tough schedule. All 12 conference teams are ranked in the current ITA team poll, including six in the top 20. There are also seven players from the SEC positioned in the top 25 of the singles rankings.
“The SEC is fun to play in,” head coach Robert Cox said. “The depth of the conference from top to bottom speaks to the strength of competition you face every match and it makes us better because our guys are playing the best players in the country.”
The Razorbacks’ matchup with Auburn will be the 28th in the all-time series between the two teams. The Tigers hold a 14-13 lead after their 5-2 victory in Fayetteville last season. Arkansas last defeated Auburn during the 2006 season, 6-1, on the Tigers’ home courts. Since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992, the two teams have split 16 regular-season matchups.
Auburn (4-3) is led by Alexey Tsyrenov and Tim Puentz who are ranked No. 59 and 81, respectively. In doubles, the Tigers have two ranked teams with No. 31 Puentz and Lukas Marsoun and the No. 43 duo of Tsyrenov and Terence Nugent. This season, Auburn has lost the doubles point just once—at No. 8 North Carolina.
In 21 previous contests with Alabama, the Hogs trail in the all-time series by one match, 11-10. Alabama (8-3) has won the last two meetings, including a 6-1 triumph in Fayetteville last season. The Hogs’ last win against the Tide came in 2005 and their last win in Tuscaloosa was a 4-3 victory in 2001.
The Crimson Tide’s doubles team of Daniel Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau has claimed a 10-1 record this season and is ranked No. 37 in the country.
Heading in to conference play, freshman Chris Nott leads the team with 17 wins in singles play, followed by a trio of Razorbacks— No. 95 Blake Strode, Bradwin Williams and Dmitry Lebedev—tied at 13 wins each. In doubles, Strode has 13 wins. Nott and Colin Mascall are tied for second on the team with 11 doubles victories.
The conference home opener for the Razorbacks will be March 7 against Vanderbilt at the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center. Log on to www.hogwired.com to follow the action via live stats and for complete results of Arkansas’ conference opening weekend.