March 11, 2010
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 50 South Carolina men’s tennis hosts its first two SEC matches of the season as No. 32 Alabama and No. 68 Auburn come to town on Fri., March 12, and Sun., March 14, respectively. Weather permitting, both matches will be played at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center with Friday’s action starting at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s play beginning at 1 p.m.
The Gamecocks are 6-4 on the season after dropping their first two SEC matches of the season, falling at No. 73 LSU and No. 52 Arkansas last weekend. South Carolina swept all three doubles contests in both matches, but could not carry the momentum into singles play. The Gamecocks shook up the doubles lineup to open conference play with seniors Pedro Campos and Diego Cubas pairing for the first time since the fall of 2008. The duo scored an impressive 8-4 win over No. 26 Christopher Nott and Dmitry Lebedev of Arkansas. Cubas’ former partner Ivan Machado teamed with Johannes Pulsfort for a pair of victories in the No. 2 position, while senior Ivan Cressoni and Alexander Kostanov dominated the No. 3 position, including an 8-5 win over No. 56 Taylor King and Bradwin Williams of Arkansas.
Like the Gamecocks, the Crimson Tide dropped its first two SEC matches of the season, falling to Tennessee and Georgia at home last weekend. Alabama had won its last three heading into conference play, including a 4-2 decision over then-No. 16 Pepperdine. Playing in the No. 1 singles spot for the Crimson Tide is senior Saketh Myneni, who is ranked No. 38 in the country behind a 10-8 overall record, including a 6-4 mark in dual-match play. Sophomore Ricky Doverspike holds down the No. 2 singles position after collecting a team-high 16 victories, though he is just 3-4 in the second spot in dual matches. Senior Houssam Yassine was the only Alabama player to win both his matches last weekend, and he brings a 5-3 record in the No. 5 spot into the match.
After opening the season ranked in the top 25, Auburn has lost four of its last five matches, including a pair of SEC contests against Tennessee and Georgia last weekend. Still, the Tigers boast one of the top doubles teams in the nation and a pair of top-100 singles players in the lineup. Junior Tim Puetz headlines both the singles and doubles lineups for Auburn. Ranked No. 26 in singles, he is 17-7 this season, including a 4-3 mark in the No. 1 singles spot for the Tigers. He opened the spring with seven-straight victories, three of which were over nationally-ranked opponents, including then No.-17 Henrique Cunha of Duke and then-No. 4 Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech. In doubles, Puetz teams with sophomore Alex Stamchev to form the nation’s No. 7 tandem. The duo is 18-3 on the season with a 4-1 slate in the No. 1 slot in dual matches. Puetz and Stamchev have knocked off a pair of top-10 teams, including then-No. 2 Davey Sandgren nd John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee last weekend, but suffered their first loss of the season against Georgia’s top duo of Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg in a tiebreaker. Stamchev also boasts a national ranking in singles as he slots in at No. 89 behind a 9-9 overall record, including a 2-2 mark in the No. 3 position in dual matches.
Alabama leads the series 19-14 and has won four of the last five meetings. South Carolina’s most recent win in the series was a 4-3 decision in the 2008 SEC Tournament in Fayetteville, Ark. The Crimson Tide holds a 7-3 edge over the Gamecocks in games played in Columbia. Auburn is 15-10 all-time against South Carolina and has won six of the last seven meetings. The Gamecocks’ lone win during that stretch was a 4-3 tally at home on March 31, 2006. The Tigers hold a narrow 6-5 edge over the Gamecocks in Columbia.