The USF men’s tennis team had plenty of time to reflect on its performance last week after early losses provided players with an extended weekend.
The team made an early exit from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American championships when both USF qualifiers lost Thursday, the tournament’s opening day.
Senior Paco Antelo, ranked No. 53 in the country entering the tournament, lost 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 in the first round and fell in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0, in the consolation round.
Junior Uli Kiendl, entering at No. 27, nearly pulled off an upset when he lost, 6-7, 7-6, 4-1 (ret.), to the No. 4 player in the nation, Alex Vlaski from the University of Washington. After taking the first set and losing a tiebreaker in the second, a pulled groin forced Kiendl to retire in the third.
“(Kiendl) played great, but he got hurt,” USF coach Don Barr said. “It was exciting, and he almost pulled off the win, but we have to learn from the experience.”
No. 66 Karim Benmansour, in singles competition, and the doubles team of Benmansour and Antelo, lost in the qualifying rounds of the tournament to open what would be a short week for the team.
However, Barr sees the positives behind the team’s losses.
“The tournament shows us that we are not invincible, and that any team can beat us on a given day,” Barr said. “We need to be able to take care of business and finish opponents off. Now the players know they’re not too good to lose and that we have to be ready for a tough match every time we play.”
The losses could hurt the team’s confidence, and Barr said he assumes the responsibility for keeping the team’s performance in context.
“(Coaches) need to be able to turn these things into a learning experience,” he said. “It will be important to realize that even getting to this tournament was a big deal. Only the best players in the country even get to play (in it).”
Some players will travel to Memphis this Thursday to compete in the Omni Regionals to close the fall schedule.