When men’s tennis coach Don Barr found out his team’s top player made the NCAA individual tournament, the first thing he did was pick up the phone to make a long distance call.
He phoned that top player in Germany.
After a long season, Uli Kiendl, No. 62 in the nation, went back to his native country to start his usual summer regimen with the coach he trained under before he came to USF.
When he finished this season with a record similar to last year, when he failed to qualify for the tournament, Kiendl and Barr figured he wouldn’t make the March 26 NCAA tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“He wasn’t sure (if he wanted to stay or go to Germany),” Barr said. “We didn’t think he’d get into (the tournament), to be truthful. We made some decisions, number one about the team, and number two about him. He was almost in the same position last year and he didn’t get in and so he kind of felt he wouldn’t get in (this year). So he thought he would go and do his summer training program.”
Since Barr called Kiendl to tell him he had made the tournament, he has been busy training and making arrangements to come back to the U.S. for the tournament. Kiendl will most likely take a direct flight to the tournament and Barr will meet him there, Barr said.
“He is very excited,” Barr said. “To come back all the way from Germany, you know he really wants to do well. I think with the trip home he gets everything behind him, schooling and everything. He can get a couple of days of rest there and start training. I think that will be good and he’ll come with more of an open mind too. I think a break is always good.”
Kiendl is 13-12 on the season and is 10-8 in dual-match play at the No. 1 position. He has played seven of the 14 players who made the tournament in the Southeast division, going 3-4 against those opponents.
“He’s played players at that level, so definitely I think he’s capable of doing well,” Barr said.
Kiendl made the tournament thanks to some big wins he had over ranked players. He defeated Georgia’s No. 1 seeded player Bo Hodge on March 31 when Hodge was ranked No. 15 in the country. He also has wins over No. 40 Gabor Zoltan-Pelva of Auburn and No. 63 Stephen Mitchell of Alabama. He has defeated five top-100 opponents.
In addition to the recognition that goes with making the NCAA tournament, Conference USA recognized the junior for his good play this year by selecting him first-team All-Conference.
“He deserves it,” Barr said. “He’s been working hard.”
Fredy Barton also received first-team All-Conference honors as well as the C-USA sportsmanship award, given to players or coaches who conduct themselves with a high degree of sportsmanship. Barton played the No. 2 spot for USF most of the season and even filled in at the No. 1 seed early in the year for a few matches.
With two All-Conference players and an 11-9 record, the team had a chance at qualifying for the NCAA team tournament. Though they may have made the field, the team pulled out of the draw because they don’t have enough healthy players to field a squad, Barr said. The Bulls have made the tournament seven of the last ten seasons and hadn’t missed it since 2000.
The Bulls return their top three players (Kiendl, Barton and Renato Maroldt) next year, however, and have a few newcomers set to join the team, giving the squad a sense of optimism going into 2005. Juan Carlos Gomez Straffon will make his way to USF from Mexico City, and Barr said he has a verbal agreement from another player from Germany. Paco Antelo, Karim Benmansour and Renato Silveira are graduating this year.