October 9, 2009

Chicago shows off talent, new and old

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As a team that lost zero seniors in its top eight and got four new players—two first-years and two transfer students—men’s tennis is in a great position for the upcoming year.

“We have a solid line-up, and are very talented numbers one to 12,” assistant coach Jeff White said.

“We have two seniors who have been in the line-up since they were freshmen, and they’re hungry, ready to take the next step that we need to take.”

“Will Zhang, our number one, an All-American last year, is going to be a force in his junior year,” White added.

Zhang finished in the final eight at last spring’s NCAA singles tournament, and reached the semifinals of the ITA Central Regional in Septembers

Plus, the four new players show some great potential.

First-year Dillon Klincke hails from southern California.

“Klincke is somebody that we saw play in some national tournaments before his senior year [of high school], so we knew the caliber of his tennis,” White said, “and we went after him pretty aggressively.”

Although he encountered touch competition at the ITA Central Regional in late-September, Klincke reached the second round, and even played well in the match he lost, battling his opponent to a third-set tiebreaker.

“Dillon was very impressive,” White said. “He has a ton of speed and hits the ball very cleanly on both sides. I look forward to being able to use his speed later on down the road.”

First-year Harrison Abrams, from Philadelphia, PA, was ranked in the top 300 in the nation before matriculating to Chicago.

“He showed interest in us very early on in the recruiting process,” White said.

“We’re lucky to have him—he’s a very well-rounded player and a smart kid,” White continued. “In our very limited amount of time together, I can say that he has all the tools to be a good player.”

In addition to these two first-years, the Maroons added two transfer students.

Second-year Jonathan Alexander, from Texas, was heavily recruited by Chicago before his first year, but chose to attend Emory.

“He played in the top 10 [on the team] at Emory, but couldn’t break into their top eight,” White said. “He has all the skills in the world to do it, it’s just that Emory is very tough.”

White was impressed with what he’s seen so far.

“Last weekend, he did very, very well. He lost to a player from Wash–U who is very good and doesn’t lose many matches,” White said. “Jonathan lost to him in the third set, but fought very hard.

“He’s really excited to be here and I think that’s going to make a big difference in his game,” White added.

The fourth addition to the team is third-year Kunal Pawa, who spent several years in the Singaporean army as part of his national service before matriculating to William & Mary. Although he played admirably there, he also couldn’t crack their top eight.

“He did very well [last weekend],” White said. “[Head coach Marty Perry and I are] very impressed with his doubles play and his potential—we’re especially interested to see him perform after he gets more match experience.”

The week of play and practice is just long enough to hit a few balls, and to allow coaches Perry and White the chance to give the team some direction on what they want for the upcoming year. Since setting their sights on beating rivals Wash U, Emory, or Carnegie at conference in the spring, the Maroons have had their work cut out for them.

White says the main focus of fall play, however, is giving the team the opportunity to log some court time together, in hopes that the team’s practice now will pay dividends when the Maroons play the bulk of their schedule this winter and spring. Matches resume in mid-January and run at least through the UAA Championship, held in late-April.