Virginia men’s tennis faces a double threat this weekend

Cavaliers prepare to host Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky

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Junior Aswin Lizen is one of the only upperclassmen on the Virginia men's tennis team.

Callie Collins | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia men’s tennis team (2-2) is looking to end it’s two-loss drought this weekend with a pair of games against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (2-4) and the Kentucky Wildcats (3-2). 

While the Cavaliers started the season off strong with 4-3 wins over Richmond (1-3) and Temple (2-1), the fact that their recent losses set them back is unsurprising for such a young team. The Cavaliers are mostly freshmen this year, with only one senior, one junior and one sophomore in the line-up. This means that the majority of the doubles teams fielded by the Cavaliers have only been playing together for a few months, as opposed to the many years of some doubles teams from top programs such as Ole Miss and Columbia.

The rules of collegiate tennis, unfortunately for Virginia, are set in such a way that doubles matches are more important than single ones. Team matches consist of nine different individual doubles and singles matches, and are set up so that the first team to four wins will take the match. Doubles is played first, meaning that if Virginia loses all three of its doubles matches due to lack of experience, it can only lose one singles match before the match is over.

Coach Andres Pedroso, who returned to the program this year after a two year hiatus, understands these difficulties.

“We’ve just been chipping away at doubles, really chipping away at doubles,” Pedroso said. “As far as singles is concerned, I feel like everyone’s doing their best out there — we’re really close. We were up in most of the matches that were left out there against Ole Miss, and extremely close in the matches that we lost against Texas Tech.”

The men’s tennis team faces two more tough matches at home this weekend that will test just how much the Cavaliers have chipped away this week. Eastern Kentucky has dropped three games so far, but two of those have come against schools in Power 5 conferences. They are an experienced team, with several seniors, and could be problematic for the young Cavaliers — especially in doubles.

However, the true threat to Virginia this weekend comes from the Kentucky Wildcats. The veteran squad is comprised mostly seniors, with and is 3-2 so far this season — including a major win over Wisconsin. That win is the only one the Wildcats have over teams in Power 5 conferences, which means that the Cavaliers definitely have a chance to win. Assuming Virginia can pick up at least one doubles match, the Cavaliers’ adeptness at singles may win the day. If they cannot, they may have dug themselves too deep a hole.

One of the players that has been most impactful for the Cavaliers so far this season has been junior Aswin Lizen. Lizen is currently 12-1 in matches this year from the regular season and individual matches. As one of the only upperclassmen of the team, Aswin has demonstrated an incredible capacity to buoy the team though tough adversity.

“He sets the example,” Pedroso said about Lizen. “He’s been connecting all the dots on and off the court since he came back from summer vacation when he was here for summer school. He’s been leading individual workouts, and fitness workouts, and he has a level of discipline that really sets a great example for the rest of the team. He’s a big leader for us in that sense where he really sets a great example and he’s doing everything that he possibly can to maximize every day.”

Lizen’s performance will be critically important on Saturday, as he has been a constant source of Cavalier victories this season. Also important is the performance of redshirt freshman Ammar Alhaqbani, whose victories were essential in wins over Temple and Richmond. However, for the young Cavalier team to stand a chance, they must be prepared to play their best doubles matches yet.

The Cavaliers will face Eastern Kentucky Saturday at 2 p.m. and Kentucky Sunday at 12 p.m. Both matches will take place at the Boar’s Head in Charlottesville and are open to the public.

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