Two members of the Monmouth University Men’s Tennis team competed in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American Championships in Tulsa, OK. the weekend of Sept. 29, one of whom qualified for the Qualifying draw.
Senior Alejandro Gomez and junior Nicola Pipoli traveled to the University of Tulsa to compete in the Qualifying Doubles draw and the Pre-Qualifying Singles draw. This is the first time in program history that players have competed in the championships.
In the Pre-Qualifying Singles draw, there were 256 at-large wildcard selections and the final 16 players advanced into the Qualifying tournament. The Qualifying Doubles draw consisted of 64 automatic wild-card selections. Those who won at least three rounds advanced to the main draw.
In the Pre-Qualifying draw, which began on Saturday Sept. 30, Gomez lost a close match in the first round 6-4, 7-5 against Janik Opitz from Western Michigan. He then played Tom Moonen of Middle Tennessee State University in the consolation round, again losing 6-4 7-5.
Pipoli had a bye the first round of the pre-qualifiers and defeated Shakeel Manji from Memphis University 6-1, 6-3 in the second round Saturday morning. Sunday morning, in the third round, Pipoli defeated Luca Marquard of UC Irvine. The first set was close, Pipoli winning 7-5. He then lost the second set 3-6, but managed to regain the momentum to win the match in the third set 6-3.
The momentum that Pipoli had after the three set win did not translate into the round of 32 Sunday afternoon. Pipoli fell to Ferran Calvo of Oklahoma 6-3, 6-4. Calvo was the seven seed in the Pre-Qualifying draw.
Pipoli said that he enjoys playing in these individual tournaments because it offers a different atmosphere than a typical dual match. “Here, it is a different type of pressure, because you are not trying to win for your whole team,” said Pipoli. “You just have to win for yourself.”
Although Pipoli lost in the Pre-Qualifying draw, he earned a slot in the Qualifying bracket. “I guess you could say I was the lucky loser,” said Pipoli.
However, Pipoli was not as lucky as he thought. After Pipoli and Gomez ate dinner on Sunday night, they became sick causing them to withdraw from their matches scheduled for Monday. Pipoli lost his spot in the qualifying draw, and the pair gave up their chance of competing in the doubles qualifying draw.
Gomez and Pipoli were not doubles partners last year, but have had early success this fall. Men’s Tennis Head Coach Alex Kasarov is not surprised at the success the pair has had so far. “Their skill sets complement each other well on the court,” Kasarov said. “The guys all understand the importance of executing what we ask of them in practice and they have done just that.”
The doubles team had success at the Ivy Plus Invitational at Princeton University in September, winning two matches in the “Jadwin Doubles” draw over teams from Princeton, Buffalo. And, they are likely to have the same success in the regular season.
Despite having to withdraw from the tournament after two days, the experience was a success for Gomez and Pipoli. This individual tournament gave them more exposure to ranked players and will have prepared them for the ITA Northeast Regional Championships later this month.
Sophomore Sergio Martinez said, “The fact that Nicola [Pipoli] and Ale [Gomez] made it to this tournament just shows that they could be playing anywhere, but decided to come to Monmouth.”
“We are lucky have them, and hopefully they will lead us to another MAAC Championship in the spring,” said Martinez.
The Hawks competed in the Farnsworth Invitational at Princeton this past weekend and will end their fall season with the ITA Northeast Regional Championships on Oct. 18.
The team is looking to clinch a third consecutive MAAC Championships in May. “We are looking forward to getting better and seeing all of our student-athletes compete in our next event this fall,” Kasarov said.
PHOTOS COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics