Nov. 4, 2015
ORLANDO, Fla. — South Carolina men’s tennis is back on the courts this weekend, Nov. 5-8, at the USTA Clay Court Invitational, hosted by Florida State University at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort and the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress near Orlando, Fla. Seven Gamecocks will compete at the event, played entirely on clay. The tournament consists of two singles draws and two doubles draws with play beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
Now in its fourth year, the event will stream live on ESPN3 with eight hours of coverage on Nov. 5 and the finals on Nov. 8. The tennis complex at ESPN Wide World of Sports contains 10 world-class clay courts, including a stadium court, which can seat more than 1,000 spectators. The field includes Clemson, Baylor, UCF, Miami, Michigan, Penn State, TCU, Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia Tech, North Florida, Pepperdine, South Alabama, Stetson and Troy.
“It’s going to be a fun event,” head coach Josh Goffi said. “It’s televised by ESPN and commentated, so it feels like a professional event with credentials and the whole setup. We get to see a lot of competition from northern schools that we don’t normally see. But, we aren’t going there just for a great experience. We are going there to win some hardware. We have been focusing a lot on the hidden score during matches and the momentum side of things. It’s a great end-of-the-year event for our guys, and I’m excited to see how they handle the big moments.”
Sophomore Gabriel Friedrich received the No. 7 seed in the Gold Draw entering the event and is set to take on Penn State’s Marc Collado in the opening round. Friedrich picked up his sixth win of the season at the SEC Fall Classic last weekend in Auburn, Ala., defeating No. 116 Rhys Johnson of Vanderbilt. Florida State’s Michael Rinaldi, the No. 68 ranked player nationally, received the top seed in the Gold Draw.
“Friedrich has more experience on clay at this point than anyone on our team,” Goffi said. “When you grow up in South America, most courts are clay. His game is more natural to developing points on clay with the higher elevation on his ball flight. He’s gotten a lot better throughout the fall and is starting to understand who he is as a player. He is still learning the game of college tennis, but I can sense that he wants to have a good tournament, and he’s primed and ready for one.”
A pair of Gamecocks drew seeded opponents in the first round of the Gold Draw as sophomore Harrison O’Keefe meets No. 3 seed Mariano Porter of UCF, while junior Alex Fennell faces No. 6 seed Marco Nunez of Florida State. Also in the Gold Draw, Andrew Schafer squares off with Tuke Jacobs of South Alabama, and Wood Benton takes on Florida State’s Terrance Whitehurst. In the Garnet Draw, Sam Swank matches up with Pierre-Emmanuel Fossier of Stetson, while freshman Yancy Dennis goes up against Nika Dolidze of Penn State.
In doubles, Friedrich and O’Keefe received the No. 4 seed in the Gold Draw and will take on South Alabama’s Gerhard Gruindelingh and Tuki Jacobs. Fennell and Swank received the No. 2 seed in the Garnet Draw and take on Eduardo Alfonzo and Ricky Ventura of Florida Gulf Coast. Also in the Garnet Draw, Dennis and Benton are matched up with UCF’s Tyler Pate and Arjun Watane.
The Gamecocks are coming off a successful event at the SEC Fall Classic in which junior Andrew Schafer took home the Flight B singles title. O’Keefe pulled off perhaps the biggest win of the fall for South Carolina, knocking off No. 49 Danny Valent of Vanderbilt, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, in the Flight A Round of 16, adding to Friedrich’s ranked win, while sophomore Thomas Mayronne took his first three matches to reach the semifinals of Flight A. Mayronne and Schafer currently lead the team in wins this season with 13 and 12 respectively.
Singles — Gold
R32 (7) Gabriel Friedrich (SC) vs. Marc Collado (PSU)
R32 Harrison O’Keefe (SC) vs. (3) Mariano Porter (UCF)
R32 Alex Fennell (SC) vs. (6) Marco Nunez (FSU)
R32 Wood Benton (SC) vs. Terrance Whitehurst (FSU)
R32 Andrew Schafer (SC) vs. Tuki Jacobs (USA)
Singles — Garnet
R32 Yancy Dennis (SC) vs. Nika Dolidze (PSU)
R32 Sam Swank (SC) vs. Pierre-Emmanuel Fossier (SU)
Doubles – Gold
R16 (4) Friedrich/O’Keefe (SC) vs. Gruindelingh/Jacobs (USA)
Doubles — Garnet
R16 (2) Fennell/Swank (SC) vs. Alfonzo/Ventura (FGCU)
R16 Benton/Dennis (SC) vs. Pate/Watane (UCF)