There are a lot of positives to unpack from last weekend's tennis invitational in Tuscaloosa. LSU men's tennis had a massive jump in singles wins compared to the previous invitationals, and senior Joey Thomas saw his first competitive action since March.
Through the first two invitationals, most of the positives came from doubles. It’s great that they have had success in doubles this fall, but doubles only account for a fourth of the points needed for a regular season win.
For LSU to be a winning tennis program, they need singles wins.
Their singles win percentages from the first two invitationals were low to say the least, clocking in at 37% (7/19) and 26% (6/23) respectively, with the first invitational’s percentages being boosted by consolation bracket wins. They barely reached double-digit victories despite playing a total of forty-two matches.
In the third invitational, they managed to do so in nearly half the matches, totaling ten singles wins and a win percentage of 45.5%. Ronald Hohmann, Rafael Wagner, Boris Kozlov and Ben Koch each finished with multiple wins, with Coach Chris Brandi citing them as positives from the tournament.
“A couple of guys really started to play well, Hohmann and Wagner I would say especially,” Brandi said. “Ben Koch got a little bit more momentum too.”
Others are still struggling to get things going and Brandi stated that there were a lot of different reasons for this, including loss of confidence and lack of practice during the summer because of COVID.
“Certain guys are at different stages for different reasons,” Brandi said. “Some didn’t do a lot over the summer unfortunately, mainly because some of them didn’t have great opportunities to do a whole lot.”
Overall, he was happy about what his team has shown him over the past few weeks, stating that they’ve done a great job and know what they need to improve during their break from competition. He was also happy because one of his senior leaders, Joey Thomas, was back on the courts.
Thomas has dealt with arm problems throughout most of his college career, and recently had a surgery for that delayed his attendance of fall events. Despite barely practicing, Coach Brandi wanted to see him play and placed him in a couple of doubles matches.
He didn’t win, but he exceeded the expectations of his players and coaches and positively impacted the team through his leadership. Brandi acknowledged this, believing that Thomas’s impact doesn’t just come from what he does on the court.
“For not playing at all for a couple months, he did great,” Brandi said. “Just having his leadership around is a reason we performed better.”
The team has gained momentum over the fall season. They are not quite at the level where they can beat the Southeastern Conference juggernauts like Florida, Georgia, and Texas A&M yet, but they have the ability to give them a challenge.
“This year, I don’t think we’re quite ready to compete at the top of the league,” Brandi said. But this is where we need to get a little more momentum and show that we can play with those kinds of teams.”
“It’s up to us to get it going and show that we can compete with the SEC when it matters most.”