Men’s tennis looks to build on up-and-down 2016

Photo by Tyler Meuter

Although Tech men’s tennis players has played in various tournaments, challenges, invitationals and championships since last fall, the crucial part of the season has just begun and the Jackets are off to a good start. Coming off of last year’s opening round loss in the NCAA tournament to Columbia, who lost in the Sweet 16 to UVA, the eventual champions, the 2016 Tech tennis team has already begun their journey back to the tourney. With their only significant blemish at the hands of the No. 12 UCLA Bruins, the Jackets have accomplished far more than their record thus far might suggest, with hope for future success.

Tech’s ability to accomplish far more than the record shows is encapsulated in its encouraging performance at the team’s own Martin Luther King, Jr. Invitational. Over the long weekend, Tech played Ole Miss, Oklahoma and UGA in a round robin tournament with no scores or winners. Since there were no scores kept, the results of the invitational don’t add towards the team’s season record, but Tech defeated No. 17 Ole Miss 4-3, lost to No. 2 Oklahoma 4-3, and was narrowly defeated by rival and No. 6
Georgia 4-3.

Despite having lost more matches than they won, the results were nonetheless impressive. Over the course of three days, the Jackets went to toe-to-toe with three of the best programs in the nation and held their ground. That experience will strengthen the group moving forward.

In Tech’s matches since that point, there are a few players who have stood out above the rest. Most notable is sophomore Jacket and top singles player Christopher Eubanks, who has not dropped a match all year. Not only is he the Jackets’ best player, but he is No. 6 nationally. Eubanks, who did not play against UGA during the MLK invitational, has won every single set this season, including those against Oklahoma and Ole Miss. Simply put, Eubanks has been consistently excellent at what he does.

In addition to Eubanks, the Kay brothers, senior Casey and sophomore Michael, have started the season off strong. They are Tech’s top doubles team and are ranked No. 36 in the nation. The siblings have not lost a match this season. Michael and Casey also occupy the third and sixth singles spots, respectively. Other key players include junior Carlos Benito in singles and senior Nathan Rakkit in doubles.

As the season presses onward, the schedule only gets tougher. After road trips to play against South Carolina and No. 6 UGA, the Jackets will proceed to the National Men’s Tennis Indoor Championships. Once the championships are over, Tech will have four more non-conference games before entering into conference play. Seven of Tech’s 12 conference opponents are ranked inside the top 35, but Tech’s returning talent provides it with the valuable advantage of experience.

Given their returning, talented players, countless matches played last fall and the experience they got against quality opponents during the Martin Luther King Invitational, the Tech men’s tennis team has a unique edge on many of their opponents that could prove to be a decisive factor in many of the upcoming matches this season.