Kilani and Hamed hold strong bond

A strong, almost decade-long friendship is what helps Mahmoud Hamed and Wael Kilani lead the South Florida men’s tennis team.

Sharing USF’s best dual-singles record (10-3), Hamed and Kilani lead the No. 40 Bulls to face No. 67 New Mexico State today at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts at 2 p.m. and No. 27 Notre Dame Saturday in Indiana at 1 p.m.

“This friendship can help because it’s good to have a good atmosphere on the team,” Kilani said.

Hamed and Kilani met almost nine years ago while competing in African and Arab championships.

“(Kilani) is a very good friend of mine,” Hamed said. “It’s really nice to have a close friend like this on the team.”

This is Kilani’s first year at USF, and he claimed a top spot early this season. The freshman has won his last six matches in the No. 1 and 2 positions and earned his first national ranking — No. 95 in singles — last week.

“I’m very happy for this achievement, because it’s my first year … I’m trying to practice 100 percent and work hard every day,” Kilani said. “That has made the difference.”

Kilani said Hamed influenced his decision to attend USF.

“He told me about this University and that life in Florida is good, and the level of the tennis team is good,” he said.

Hamed has won his last seven matches. As USF’s only senior, he defeated LSU’s James Cluskey Wednesday.

“Personally, I’ve been playing pretty well,” Hamed said. “I just want to keep on learning as much as I can. It’s great that (Kilani) is also having a good record. It helps the team.”

Kilani replaced No. 70 Lucas Jovita in two matches last week after Jovita suffered wrist injuries. The cause is not yet known — MRI reports were normal.

“My wrists are still hurting,” Jovita said. “It affects a little bit because I cannot practice properly. I’m just practicing two days before the matches … I’m trying to do my best. I know I can do better than what I’m doing right now.”

Freshman Romain Deridder strained his rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Deridder holds a 3-6 dual record. Freshman Yannick Yoshizawa replaced Deridder as Kilani’s doubles partner. Yoshizawa and Kilani hold a 3-1 record.

Coach Don Barr said he expects Jovita and Deridder to play this weekend.

“They’re going to have to fight through it,” he said. “These are big matches coming up.”

This is the first time the Bulls (9-5) have played New Mexico State (9-5). Notre Dame (8-7) is USF’s second conference match. The Fighting Irish are ranked second in the Big East, and the Bulls (9-5) are ranked third.

“The (New Mexico State) match is going to set the tone for the rest of the weekend,” Hamed said. “Notre Dame is a tough team. We want to beat them because it’s a conference match, and it’s going to matter for Big East rankings.”