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Sept. 18, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – University of South Carolina men’s tennis kicks off its 2013 fall schedule at the SEC Fall Classic at Vanderbilt University on Thursday. The Gamecocks join 12 of the other 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference for the four-day event that features a 96-entry singles draw and a 48-tandem doubles bracket. All seven of the Gamecocks competing in the singles bracket drew first-round byes and will open play in the late morning Thursday.

South Carolina senior Tsvetan Mihov enters the season ranked No. 14 in the nation and drew the No. 2 seed in the singles bracket. Coming off an All-America season in 2012-13 that saw him post a 17-12 overall record, he is one of 17 ranked players in the draw. Mihov will take on Georgia sophomore Nick Wood, who is coming off an injury-shortened season, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Junior Thiago Pinheiro will look to continue the outstanding play that earned him All-SEC honors last season, during which he went 20-6 in singles action. The Gamecocks’ emotional center is slated to face either senior Pete Thomason (Arkansas) or sophomore Tam Trinh (LSU) at 11 a.m. Thursday. Thomason anchored the lower third of the Razorbacks’ singles lineup last season, going 8-1 in dual-match play, while Trinh played in the middle of the LSU lineup last spring.

Senior Chip Cox kicks off the event with a tough matchup against No. 52 Florent Diep of Florida at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Cox closed last season with an 18-18 record, while the Gators’ senior went 25-19 overall, including a 9-13 record in the top two spots in the singles lineup.

Junior Ben Barnette is set to face the winner of a first-round match between Ole Miss’ Zach Wilder and LSU’s Harrison Kennedy. Barnette saw limited action for the Gamecocks in dual-match play last season, closing with a 7-6 record that included a 4-1 mark in the No. 6 spot. Wilder, a sophomore, similarly played sparingly for the Rebels last spring, finishing the season with an 8-7 record, while Kennedy went 8-8 in the lower half of the lineup for the Tigers.

After leading the team with 22 singles wins last season, including nine in SEC action, junior Kyle Koch is ready to continue his march up the Gamecock record books. He will take on Tennessee’s Jarryd Chaplin, who was an All-SEC selection last season behind a 12-12 record in the No. 4 spot in the Vols’ lineup, at noon Thursday.

South Carolina’s newcomers will get their first taste of SEC competition this weekend as Andrew Schafer and Sam Swank make their debut for the Garnet and Black. Schafer, a top-10 recruit in the 2013 class, opens his college career against No. 72 Hernus Pieters of Georgia at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The Bulldogs’ senior went 24-12 last season in singles and earned All-America status in doubles. Swank is set to face either freshman Hayes Brewer of Alabama or Auburn sophomore Joseph Van Dooren at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The Gamecocks have three doubles entries in the tournament this weekend. After winning an elite collegiate tournament this summer, Cox and Koch have earned a preseason ranking of No. 26 and a first-round bye as one of the top eight seeds in this event. The duo will look to add to their resume heading into October’s All-America Championships, taking on the winner of Trinh/Andrew Korinek (LSU) versus Lukas Ollert/Dante Saleh (Auburn) at 4 p.m. Thursday. Mihov and Pinheiro are teammed up for South Carolina, earning a No. 32 national rank and one of the tournament’s top eight seeds as well. The duo will debut against Tennessee’s Sean Karl and Brandon Fickey at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Schafer and Swank are in the doubles draw as well and are set to take on LSU’s Justin Butsch and Eric Perez at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Following two rounds of play in both singles and doubles play on Thursday, the tournament continues with two rounds of singles and one round of doubles on Friday. Saturday’s action features singles quarterfinals and doubles quarters and semis, and the event wraps up with the final two rounds of singles and the doubles final on Sunday. All doubles matches will be played as a pro set with a tiebreak at 8-8. There will be singles consolation rounds for players not advancing out of the first and second rounds.