The No.40 Hurricane men’s tennis team (8-8) lost to state rival, No.34 University of South Florida (13-3) 4-3, on Saturday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center. The Hurricanes, who were ranked as high as No.18 in the season, are now at risk of being shunned from NCAA postseason tournament play.
“With as many losses as we have, every loss is crucial,” said head coach Jay Berger. “We are trying to fight to get into the tournament.”
Players from both teams were evenly matched, as each one had to grind it out in the brutal humid weather for every point. Emotions also ran high and referees had to hand out several point penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct because of players throwing their racquets in frustration and verbal taunting.
The winner of the match was decided by the No.2 singles game between Tomas Smid and USF’s Paco Antelo. The game was a fast-paced, grueling battle between two evenly talented players. In the end, it came down to who had the most energy left. Smid seemed a step slower as the match progressed into the third set and the energetic Paco Antelo quickly took advantage to seal the victory for USF. Antelo won the match 6-7, 6-3, 6-1.
“I thought we had the match under control, since we won the first four sets, but we couldn’t finish it. But give them (USF) credit, they played well and had a lot of spirit,” said Berger.
No.1 singles, Todd Widom, also had trouble closing out his game. After beating his opponent 6-1 in the first set, the freshman phenom, who is ranked No. 16 in the nation, could not win the second set in the same resounding manner. His opponent, Dan McCain, seemed to become more confident as the game progressed, answering Widom’s volleys with several baseline and crosscourt winners of his own. The two split the first six service points before Widom was able to break the set open. Widom won the game 6-1,6-3 and improved to 14-2 in singles play for the season.
“I didn’t play my best tennis but I found a way to get the job done. He was a good competitor,” said Widom.
USF’s No.4 Nadim Nasser beat Joel Berman 3-6,6-2,6-2 and No.3 Uli Kiendl beat UM’s Andrew Golub 6-2, 6-2. The only other singles victory for the Hurricanes came from No.5 Tarik El-Bassiouni, who beat his opponent 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
Despite the closely contested singles matches, Miami won all three doubles matches in resounding fashion. No.1 doubles, Widom and Smid, beat their opponent 8-5, while Berman and El Bassiouni won No.2 doubles 8-3, and Jose Lieberman and Golub won No.3 doubles 8-3.
“It’s very disappointing but hopefully we can get something positive out of this,” said Widom.