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Sept. 13, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina men’s tennis kicks off the 2011-12 season this weekend, traveling to Cary, N.C., for the Duke Fab Four Invitational. The Gamecocks are making their third appearance at the annual event, held this year at Cary Tennis Park. Sophomores Thiago Pinheiro and Kyle Koch will be among the three 16-player singles draws, which feature 14 nationally ranked players. The pair is also set to compete in one of the three eight-team doubles brackets.

“I’m excited for the fall tournaments this year because they will be great opportunities for our players to test themselves,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Our players put in the work to develop their games over the summer, and now it’s time to see if they can consolidate that into quality wins.”

This weekend, Pinheiro will play in the Blue Bracket, which features four nationally ranked players, including the nation’s No. 1. Pinheiro will face take on Duke’s Jason Tahir at 1 p.m. Friday and will play his second match on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. against either Jarryd Both of Alabama or No. 70 Sebastian Stiefelmayer of Louisville.

“We restructured Thiago’s backhand this summer, and I’m interested to see how he navigates through a match having both a forehand and backhand that can be weapons for him now,” Goffi said. “This will be an important test for him to figure out how to incorporate having equal strengths into his strategy in a match.”

Pinheiro joined the Gamecocks in January 2012 and found immediate success in the second half of the singles lineup. He went 12-7 in dual matches, including a 6-1 mark in the No. 5 spot in the order. Pinheiro was second on the team with four singles wins in SEC action.

Koch will face a stiff challenge right out of the gate in the White Bracket of the event, taking on No. 52 Alexis Heugas of VCU at 1 p.m. on Friday. At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Koch will square off with either James Coxe of North Carolina or Elon’s Cameron Silverman.

“Kyle is like a thoroughbred horse that is bucking in the gates,” Goffi said. “He’s that competitor that needs to get a lot of opportunities, and the earlier he gets them the better. This weekend will be a great opportunity for him to play some ranked players and try to break through. His game is where it needs to be for him to do that, so we’re looking forward to it.”

In doubles action, Pinheiro and Koch will face Mauricio Antun and Aaron Gomez of Virginia Tech at 10 am. Friday. Their second match follows immediately afterwards, with the Gamecock tandem going against either the nation’s 16th-ranked duo of Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeier from Duke or William and Mary’s Jamie Whiteford and Aaron Chaffee.