May 6, 2005
Columbia, S.C. – Just 24 hours after learning that their team had earned its 12th straight NCAA Team Championship berth, USC juniors Tom Eklund, Gerlado Knorr, and sophomore Pedro Rodrigues found out that they will be included in their first career NCAA individual championships. Eklund, who picked up his second straight 20-win season this year, earned an at-large bid to the 64-player singles tournament. Knorr and Rodrigues earned an automatic bid from the Mideast Region to the doubles tournament, becoming just the sixth Gamecock pair to make the field of 32. Both tournaments will be held May 25-30, in College Station, Texas.
2005 marks the fifth time in school history, and the first since 1998, that USC has had at least one singles and doubles team in the NCAA Tournament. However, it is the first time that the Carolina doubles and singles participants have not overlapped and played in both championships.
Eklund, currently 35th in the ITA singles rankings, is the only remaining member of last season’s `Swedish Invasion’, and has performed well throughout the year at the No. 1 singles spot, recording upsets of then-No. 5 Ken Skupski of LSU, No. 13 John Isner of Georgia, and No. 22 Nathan Thompson of Clemson. The Hollviken, Sweden native sits just one singles or doubles win away from his 100th combined victory at USC, and is just two singles wins shy of his single season best of 23, set last year.
Rodrigues and Knorr, both natives of Brazil, have been impressive this season, despite never playing together as a team until January 29 of this season. While the 23rd-ranked pair struggled early on in the year, they have been hot as of late, reeling off five straight wins, including then-No. 7 Ockie Oosthuizen and Ben Rogers of Tennessee, the nations’ top doubles duo of John Isner and Antonio Ruiz (Georgia), and the 35th and 37th-ranked doubles teams of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, respectively.
The trend bodes well for Carolina, as the three previous times when USC has made the NCAA field as a team, as well as at least one singles and one doubles entry, they have made to the Sweet Sixteen or further, including the a team appearance in the Final Four in 1989.
The 19th-ranked Gamecocks will travel to Stillwater, Okla. later this week to take on 51st-ranked Oklahoma in NCAA first round action. The match is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (CT) on Saturday, May 14. The winner of that match will take on the winner of Southwest Missouri State and 13th-seeded Oklahoma State on Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m. (CT).