2006 Men's Tennis Preview

Following their first Pacific 10 title in men's tennis since the league began playing a fully integrated schedule in 1998, the 16th ranked Huskies look to build upon that success in 2006.

In 2005 Washington went 6-1 in league play and shared the conference title with the eventual NCAA champion UCLA Bruins. Overall the Huskies finished 20-5, advancing to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. They also finished with a final ranking of #14, the second best in school history, surpassed only by their #12 finish in 2003.

The Huskies face a great challenge in matching or bettering their 2005 mark, especially after losing three seniors, Alex Vlaski (16-5), Christoph Palmanshofer (17-6), and Peter Scharler (15-7), who accounted for 48 of 94 singles points. With the departure of Vlaski the Huskies also lose a three time All-American (2003,2004, and 2005) and their all-time career record holder in singles victories with 111.

Despite the losses, plenty of talent remains, headed by junior Alex Slovic, the 2004 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and currently ranked #32 in the country in singles. Juniors Daniel Chu and Mike Ricks also return, along with sophomore Andy Kuharszky. Newcomers Pierre Metenier, Jean-Noel Insausti, Klaus Jank, David Chu and Andy Gerst join the Huskies and get their first taste of college action this season.

The Huskies begin the season ranked #16 by the ITA. According to head coach Matt Anger, "Last year we finished in the computer ranking at #14. If we had been healthy the entire season, we might have been in the 8-12 range since we didn't lose a match outside the top five after the first weekend in March as Slovic got a little more healthy. This is not a computer ranking so putting us a little lower with our losses (in personnel) is fair. I don't know where we should be since we have so many new student/athletes. We have a lot of talent so we could be a very strong team - stronger than ever."

Asked about the returning players stepping up, Anger commented, "We will ask a lot of our returning players. We need each of them to jump up a notch. Kuharszky seems to have done that, and Ricks is improved as well. Kuharszky, one of our co-captains, will either play higher in the lineup or if he plays in the same range, will win at a far greater percentage. His doubles has improved and I think he can move up from third to second doubles this season. Over the summer Ricks was our most improved player and is in the mix this season in both singles and doubles. I also think that he will benefit from last year's experience of playing third doubles and be that much more comfortable with a greater role this season.

"Both Slovic and Daniel Chu were up and down in the fall, but look pretty sharp now. Slovic is our other co-captain and certainly a team leader and has proven himself as a winner. Through the Pac-10 season last year, he lost only one doubles match and didn't lose in singles. I think that he will be successful this season and play higher in the lineup. Daniel Chu is feeling more and more comfortable with his doubles. In the past, I think that he just followed Alex, but he is now taking on a greater role in their partnership. Also, I am hopeful that his singles will be more consistent this year."

As for the newcomers making an immediate contribution, Anger said, "The new guys that are eligible will have to get used to college tennis pretty quickly. I believe that Pierre Metenier and Jean-Noel Insausti will be starters. Pierre is very solid and has the ability to be successful high in the lineup right away. He is also a very gritty competitor. Jean-Noel is talented and will come up with some highlight shots this year. He and Pierre seem to be great team guys and are really looking forward to the team matches. Jean-Noel will contribute right away in singles and doubles."

"The other new guys will certainly be in the mix with Klaus Jank leading the way followed by David Chu and Andy Gerst. Jank is improving and used to playing on the hard courts. He is practicing better and should be a factor for us this season. David Chu is Daniel's younger brother, but the similarities stop there. He is right handed and more of a baseline player. He has been absolutely fantastic in practice with his work ethic and attitude. He will do well for us when he gets in the lineup. Andy Gerst is very talented and improving daily. He will play for us and we will see him right away in doubles."

This year the Huskies get the chance to see how they stack up against the best teams in the country when they host the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the fourth time. 15 teams will join the Huskies for the ITA's most prestigious event, held at the Nordstrom Tennis Center and Seattle Tennis Club from Friday, February 17 through Monday, February 20.

Usually the event provides a preview of the top contenders for the NCAA title in late May, and this year's field includes 2005 Indoor Champion Baylor (ITA rank #7), Duke (8), Florida (2), Florida State (11), Georgia (3), Illinois (4), LSU (10), Mississippi (6), Pennsylvania (49), Pepperdine (9), South Carolina (12), NCAA Champion UCLA (5), and Virginia (1). Two more teams will complete the field after the ITA Cental and Mountain regions hold play-in tournaments.

"The USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships are certainly a thrill to host," Anger said. "Obviously, the matches are exciting and fun to be a part of, but all of the matches are exciting. Over time, the teams in college tennis get more and more even and so these matches are incredibly close. Even if fans in Seattle aren't able to watch Washington, they see fantastic tennis. In 2004, the last time we hosted, it seemed that every match took at least four hours even if the score ended up 4-1 or 4-2. It really looks like we will see more of those types of matches this February. We have an agreement to host in 2008 as well."

The Huskies begin the rugged Pac-10 season at California on Friday, March 31. In addition to the Huskies, Pac-10 teams currently ranked in the ITA Top 20 include UCLA (5), Stanford (14), Cal (19), and USC (20).

"The Pac-10 is a long way off at this point," Anger said. "While UCLA and Washington finished at the top last year, we also will have the most new faces. The other teams will return a lot of experience and might be favored if we played today, but by spring, who knows?"

The Huskies begin the dual season when they host the Idaho Vandals on Friday, January 20 at 5 p.m. at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. Then they return to the court at 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 21 to face Eastern Washington

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