Men’s tennis suffers weekend sweep against California foes
Last weekend, Oregon men’s tennis wrapped up a brutal stretch in Pacific-10 Conference play. One weekend after falling on the road to No. 2 USC and No. 14 UCLA, the team returned to Eugene to host No. 10 California (Friday) and No. 9 Stanford (Saturday). Despite many close matches, the 70th-ranked Ducks lost both matchups. Oregon (10-10, 1-4 Pac-10) fell to Cal by a score of 7-0 and Stanford by a mark of 6-1.
Friday afternoon, the Ducks welcomed the 10th-ranked Golden Bears (12-6, 3-2 Pac-10) to Eugene for dual competition. Despite collecting one victory in doubles play (via Baptiste Faynot and Jose Izquierdo) the Ducks got off on the wrong foot, dropping the doubles point to California, 2-1.
In singles, Cal continued to dominate, as its top player — No. 65 Carlos Cueto — easily defeated Oregon’s No. 1, freshman Alex Rovello, by a score of 6-2, 6-3. The Golden Bears made similarly easy work of Izquierdo, Aaron Clissold and Duncan MacDonald-Korth — all three were humbly dismissed from singles play in straight sets.
“It’s hard, but what’s been really encouraging is seeing the young ones, like Robin (Cambier) and (Alex) Rovello, and even Baptiste (Faynot),” says Oregon head coach, Nils Schyllander. “Those guys are the ones that are the future of the program. It’s encouraging to see the young ones at the top of the lineup be the ones that are most competitive.”
Despite their promise, the Ducks lost all six singles matches, resulting in the 7-0 blowout in favor of California.
“We’ve got to learn to close out, because we had opportunities throughout, we just didn’t close out,” Schyllander said. “They see they’re in the thick of things; they just have to win.”
Saturday afternoon, Oregon returned to the courts to battle another national power, No. 9 Stanford (14-5, 4-1 Pac-10). The Ducks got off to a slow start yet again, dropping all three doubles matches to give the Cardinal the point, 3-0.
Despite multiple singles matches going the full three sets, Oregon failed to capitalize versus the Cardinal. The Ducks nearly lost every singles match, but pulled out one point at the No. 6 spot, where Australian sophomore Aaron Clissold defeated Jamin Ball 2-6, 7-6, 1-0 (12-10).
Oregon came away from the weekend with one point (and a lot of frustration) to show for its effort. The Ducks are now mired in a five-match losing streak, with four defeats coming against conference teams ranked in the top 10 nationally.
“Obviously it’s tough, but that’s the level we want to get to,” Schyllander says of the stiff competition. “You need to learn that when you’re serving, or you’re in a third set, that you’ve got to expect to win. (Against Stanford) I think we didn’t believe as hard as they did.”
The losses have been hard to handle for everyone, but have been particularly tough on Oregon’s budding star, the freshman Rovello. Rovello isn’t accustomed to defeat after racking up four consecutive state singles titles (and a 65-match winning streak) as an amateur at Cleveland High School in Portland. Despite his track record, Schyllander knows the losses will only help him in his quest to rise to national prominence.
“This is a completely different level; he’s playing against world-class athletes now,” Schyllander says. “He’s playing against seniors that are 23 or 24 years old. But he’s been very competitive. All and all, if you go through the year with him, he’s got a big time winning record at that position.”
Schyllander also feels confident that physical maturity will aid Rovello as he grows into his role.
“In order to become one of the greatest players in the country himself, he needs to see what these guys do, and he needs to learn from it,” Schyllander says of his team’s 5-foot-9, 140-pound leader. “I also think he realizes that he needs to get physically bigger and stronger to sustain himself through a longer season.”
Oregon now has two weeks off before its last matchup of the season, a meeting with Washington in Eugene on Saturday, April 23. After that, the Ducks will prepare for the Pac-10 Championships, which take place in Ojai, Calif., between April 28 and May 1.
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