LSU men’s tennis hosted their first home event and LSU’s first Olympic sporting event since March yesterday.
Despite jumping out to a quick start in doubles, the players underperformed in singles, leaving not a single team member in the winner’s bracket.
With a strong recruiting class and returning cast, expectations for the team are as high as they’ve been in a while. However, expectations are only expectations, and you can’t speak them into existence.
The fall season isn’t where these players are going to fully prove themselves, but it’s a good time to show where a team is and how much they have improved over the offseason. It won’t be clear how this team is going to perform in spring until it’s upon us, but one thing is for sure: This team has a lot of work to do this fall.
The positives displayed in this tournament mostly came within the first hour in doubles. The duos of Ronald Hohmann and Rafael Wagner, Boris Kozlov and Nick Watson, and Malik Bhatnagar and freshman Ben Koch all advanced to the next round, with the victories of the Kozlov/Watson and Bhatnagar/Koch duos being particularly impressive.
Kozlov and Watson won in the blink of an eye, with a clean sweep. Bhatnagar and Koch upset last year’s No. 33 duo of Juan Carlos Aguilar and Barnaby Smith out of Texas A&M 8-6, especially impressive considering this was the first time Koch has suited up for the Tigers.
But this is normal for the Tigers, who have owned strong doubles teams over the past few years. What’s more important is their play in singles.
And singles started off great, with another freshman, Tom Pisane, demonstrating great potential with a 6-1, 6-3 victory. Koch also performed well but fizzled out in a hard-fought loss (6-2, 4-6, 4-6).
That’s where the majority of bright spots faded. One by one, the team suffered defeat, with Tomas Descarrega, Nick Watson, Malik Bhatnagar and Boris Kozlov all dropping matches.
Rafael Wagner and Ronald Hohmann both technically lost too, but could not finish their matches due to minor injury or cramping.
Pisane was the last to be struck down to the consolation bracket. Despite a solid effort, a neck-and-neck battle between freshmen went the other way, with Texas A&M freshman Stefan Storch defeating Pisane 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Despite each freshman suffering defeat in singles, they showed potential and room to grow. Coach Chris Brandi acknowledged this, stating that they’ll improve throughout the season.
“Tennis-wise they showed they can play at this level,” Brandi said. “It’s a new experience for them, and they still need to work on competing [for] every point and playing with the right mindset. Both have a lot of room to grow.”
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding this team, but for this team to meet expectations, they cannot continue to struggle in singles. But for now, there are still three doubles teams that can leave their mark on Saturday.