Expectations are high for the Arizona menˇ?s tennis team as it heads into the 2008 season. Head Coach Tad Berkowitz will look to his corps of veteran players to improve on last seasonˇ?s record and compete in the always challenging Pac-10 conference. In a year where a majority of their competitors are losing two or three key players, the Wildcats return seven of their 10.
Playing in the No. 1 spot and leading the Cats will be senior Claudio Christen. Christen, currently ranked No. 75 in the Fila rankings, had a solid fall season and is prepared to lead his team into the NCAA tournament.
"This is the best fall season Claudio has had in his four years here," said Berkowitz. "He set the tone for our team and the upcoming year."
Another senior vital to the Wildcatsˇ? success will be Bruno Alcala. "I think both Bruno and Claudio, now that they are seniors, recognize that this is their year. Both have spent a lot of time in the weight room and on the courts to improve their game," said Berkowitz.
Christen and Alcala were able to team together to win the doubles title at the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational in October. "I think Claudio was able to establish himself as our leader in the number one spot, but after him, spots two through eight are up for grabs," said Berkowitz. "We have created a healthy competition that is sure to benefit our team."
Experience is key to the Wildcats success this year. "We are definitely a lot tougher and a lot deeper than we were a year ago," said Berkowitz. "Our returning guys are a little more confident and more aware of what is going on."
Nathan Cochrane, a 5ˇ?11 senior out of Glendale, Ariz., is the elder statesmen of the team and after red-shirting the 2006-07 season, he is ready to get after it again. "Nate really provides our team with a great amount of leadership," said assistant coach Tom Lloyd. "He will definitely be a key to our success."
Rounding out the group of veterans are Peter Zimmer and Ravid Hazi. Both players had excellent fall seasons with Zimmer going 5-3 and Hazi finishing 4-4. Hazi advanced to the finals of the Aggie Invitational in September but lost to New Mexico Stateˇ?s Jim Brouleau.
Recruiting was a big focus for Berkowitz and Lloyd in the off-season. Through their efforts, the Wildcats were able to land heralded freshman Jay Goldman. Goldman, a five-star recruit out of Worcester, Mass. is expected to have a big role this year for the Cats.
In the fall season, Goldman had a record of 8-4, proving he could compete on the collegiate level. Another newcomer who will be key is freshman Andres Carrasco. Carrasco, who redshirted last spring season and this fall, received the benefit of being able to see the type of competition heˇ?ll face in the Pac-10 and is primed for an excellent 2008 season. "We are looking for both Jay and Andres to come in and immediately contribute, said Berkowitz. "They are both very skilled players and we are expecting big things form each of them."
In addition to the three new players the Wildcats will add this year, they also are welcoming in a volunteer assistant coach. ATP Professional Taylor Dent will help the team while he undergoes injury rehabilitation. Dent, who was at one time ranked No. 21 in the world, is intrigued by the college tennis atmosphere and looking to provide the Cats with some of his knowledge.
"Weˇ?re excited to have him," said Lloyd. "Naturally, the top priority is his health. Weˇ?ll be working around his rehab and playing schedule, but heˇ?s happy to join the program."
Berkowitz and his staff will definitely have their work cut out for them this season after finishing 5-17 last year. "This year we will not be taking anyone lightly," said Lloyd. "Weˇ?re going to come prepared to battle and leave everything out on the court. If their play in the spring is up to par with what they showed over their fall schedule, the Cats will be turning some heads come May.