By Noah Allison–
College tennis is a year round sport. However, come springtime, the individual athletes combine for the team season. A season where match by match an individual’s contribution can be the single difference between team victory and defeat.
Rex Ecarma’s men sit on an 8-2 record and are in the midst of a six-match win streak.
In many ways, the team tennis format is very much like a race.
Winning a team tennis competition means one school has won four points out of the seven possible.
The first point is earned by winning the doubles competition. There are then six singles matches in which each victory is a point. Thus, a team can win the doubles point and three of the six singles matches to get a win. Or they can suffer a loss in doubles and win four singles matches to get the four points required to win.
Despite the fact that a team can win the meet without winning the doubles point, doubles is still perhaps the most important point of the meet.
The meet starts with three doubles matches. Three pairs of players represent each school and whichever school wins two of the three doubles matches gets that first point of the day.
“You know, you would probably say its only 25 percent, because its one of the four points you need to win. But it’s a momentum changer. The doubles point is huge; it sets the tone for the rest of the day,” senior captain Sebastian Stiefelmeyer said. “Its hard to win a match against a good team without the doubles point.”
Louisville is undefeated when winning the doubles point. Louisville’s two losses on the season coincide with the only two meets in which U of L did not win the doubles point.
“That doubles point really, on paper, counts as one, but it feels like two. It’s a big momentum maker,” head coach Rex Ecarma added.
But quickly after the doubles competition, the two schools break up into singles competition. From that point on, the next six singles matches determine the outcome of the meet.
When you’ve got six different courts competing for the first three points, or four points depending on who wins doubles, there is a certain degree of urgency placed upon the players to win and win quickly. It’s one thing to have to win your match, it’s another to have to win your match faster than other guys are winning or losing their matches.
“Timing is really important; it adds to the pressure of the match. When, say you’re down one game to three, you’re trying to hang on and extend a match. When you’re up three games to one you are trying to speed up and put the match away,” Ecarma said.
Winning before your team loses adds to the urgency that one has to try and play with.
“Especially with the shortened format, you really have to be urgent from the first point and those first couple breaks. If you get one break, especially in doubles, the match can be over in 20 minutes,” senior Chris Simmich said.
To paint another picture, a single player can win his or her match. But if it takes them an hour and a half, the other team could have won the rest of the matches before that player got his or her team the point.
Regardless, at the end of the day, the most important thing to do is just win your match.
“The way that we prepare for it is they have to focus and put themselves in a bubble,” Ecarma said. “The guys on the side that aren’t playing are going to do the cheering, the encouraging, being loud. But the guys on the court, I want them to put a cocoon over their head and really not look around too much, and just focus on the court.”
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal