FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Three members of the Arkansas men’s tennis team will compete at the 2007 Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis Championships hosted by the University of Tulsa at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center. Junior Blake Strode, senior Colin Mascall and sophomore Dmitry Lebedev will make their season debuts as they represent the Razorbacks at the prestigious event.
“This is the premier outdoor tournament that we’ll play in all fall (season),” head coach Robert Cox said. “It has a great history. It’s really nice to have the best collegiate players in the country competing only a couple hours away (in Tulsa).”
Ranked No.20 in the ITA preseason polls, Strode has earned a spot in the main draw which will be played Oct. 4-7. Cox is expecting a good showing from the junior who was an All-Southeastern Conference performer last season.
“When it comes to Blake, we’re looking to win the thing,” Cox said. “He’s prepared to win and he’ll accept the challenge of doing it. The only thing is he, and our other two guys, will be playing in their first tournament of the season.”
Strode will also compete in the doubles with Mascall. The duo will carry their No. 12 preseason ranking into the doubles main draw which will run concurrently with the main draw of singles. Cox is expecting his doubles team to show it is worthy of the position.
Mascall will compete in the qualifying rounds, too, in hopes of claiming a spot in the singles main draw. Qualifying action will begin Oct. 1.
“Toward the end of last season, (Colin) really came on, so you can’t really look at his record to see the type of year he had because he improved throughout,” Cox said. “The qualifying draw is going to feature guys playing in the top half of their schools’ line up, so for him to qualify, he’s going to have to play hard and win two or three matches.”
The Championships will start Saturday with the pre-qualifying rounds, where Lebedev will begin against Michael O’Shea, a sophomore from Florida State, at 9 a.m. CT. Cox is excited to see the sophomore step on the courts after getting his first taste of collegiate tennis last season.
“We’d like to see (Dmitry) breakthrough and advance as far as he can,” Cox said. “He’s going to have three very tough matches, especially his first match. We’d like to see him step up and make a significant run through the draw.”
In 1982, Peter Doohan became the only Razorback to win the ITA singles title when he defeated Paul Annacone, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Mike Brown was the last UA netter to advance to the singles final when he lost to MaliVai Washington in 1988. The Razorback doubles team of Marcus Hilpert and Bounce Williams were the ITA runners-up in 1993.
The brackets for the qualifying rounds and main draw will be available Sept. 30 and Oct. 3, respectively. Log on to www.hogwired.com for the posted draws and updated results from the ITA All-American Championships.