Life of a Tennis Player, Vol 5
By Nima Movassaghi
Editor’s Note: Weil Academy student answer three questions posed to him in regards to the recent Pac-12 Championships at the 116th annual Ojai Tennis Tournament and his forecast of the upcoming NCAA team championships in Tulsa, Okla.
What did you see at Ojai that most impressed you about the Pac-12 teams?
It was an odd year of sorts (on the men’s side) on the basis that (in my opinion) no team came into the tournament on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA tournament next month. I wasn’t surprised to see UCLA, USC, Stanford, and California as the top 4 seeds once again, but it was a fine line between the top four, and the bottom four really stood out to me. The quarterfinal matches were pretty lopsided; Oregon and Washington didn’t really pose as a threat during either match, especially after the Ducks dropped the doubles point. I was pulling for a second straight non-UCLA v. USC final, and I got my wish.
Cal really impressed me this, and I question why they didn’t crack the top 10 in ITA rankings released on Tuesday. From line one to line six, and all three doubles spots, the Golden Bears can play. I really thought they were points away from stealing the championship match from UCLA, but nonetheless they look to be in great shape heading into the NCAA’s.
Lastly, as always, the UCLA Bruins fail to disappoint. They played inspiring doubles in the championship match, and their grit when the going got tough in singles versus Cal demonstrated why the Bruins will be National Championship contenders once again.
Other thoughts about Ojai. What stood out? What was different? Better? Needs improving?
At Weil, The Ojai is one of our favorite weeks of the year. The energy around the tennis is special, and it’s surreal to see such a small, tight-knit town turn into a tennis paradise for a week in April every year.
“Ojai has such a special and rich tradition. It is always wonderful to compete in Ojai — all the friendly community members and being around hundreds of tennis people make Ojai unique and memorable,” said Washington State women’s Head Coach Lisa Hart.
The Pac-12 Networks televising the semifinals definitely brought a little more exposure to the tournament, although I will add that the quality of their presentation for college tennis is still sub-par for such a thrilling sport.
I thought the fan outcome for the Pac-12 men’s tournament championship match was better than 2015, and there were more opportunities for fan interaction at Libbey Park, something that attracted more fans to the site.
With the positives obvious, the possible improvements will also be critical for The Ojai to build its prominence.
Several Pac-12 women’s coaches are calling for a team tournament. At the moment, the Ojai tournament doesn’t affect the rankings for women’s teams; It’s simply an opportunity for more match experience.
The junior tournament is very well organized, as are men’s and women’s open events. On the men’s side, Washington State women’s assistant coach Robin Cambier, a former University of Oregon standout player, would like to see all 6 singles matches played on the same venue, rather than being separated between Upper Libbey and Lower Libbey. I noticed that there were multiple matches, including the championship match, that were clinched on court 5 or court 6. These courts are at Lower Libbey and are generally hosting a significantly lower quantity of fans.
The Ojai tournament was a great success in 2016, and everyone at the Weil Tennis Academy is looking forward to the prestigious week next year!
Give your picks for the NCAA men’s and women’s Final Four Nationals coming up, and why you think those teams will make it that far?
MEN: Virginia, UCLA, North Carolina, TCU
WOMEN: Florida, Cal, Duke, North Carolina
On the men’s side, I’ve been really impressed with Virginia all year. They’re hands down the best team right now, but anything can change in May. They’re bringing a lot of momentum into the tournament and that alone can’t be ignored.
UCLA has been hot as of late, and I don’t see them losing a match at Number 1 doubles (McDonald/Redlicki) or Number 1 singles (Mackie McDonald) in the early rounds. They seem to power through tough situations when their backs are against the wall, and I expect nothing less in the tournament.
North Carolina proved itself to be capable of playing at the top (they’ve achieved a #1 ranking this year). I expect them to make a Final Four run, and they don’t seem to be prone to a bad upset loss early.
TCU is my “dark horse.” They’ve produced some exceptional results at times; it’s only a matter of time before they break through in the tournament. A national powerhouse no doubt, look out for the Horned Frogs later in May.
Florida has posted a nearly perfect 21-2 record this season. Coming off of an SEC tournament championship, the Gators are red hot. 20 of their wins have come against ranked opponents, and they will carry a 16 match win streak into NCAAs.
Cal carried a No. 1 ranking at one point this season and actually handed Florida one of its two losses this year in a 4-3 instant classic in Berkeley. The Golden Bears won their first 19 matches of the dual season before dropping the final match of the regular season in a 3-4 decision to rival Stanford. Maegan Manasse captured the Pac-12 women’s singles title at The Ojai. The Bears are a major favorite in the NCAA tournament.
Duke and North Carolina are two pretty equal schools at this point and I see them rounding out the final two spots in the Final Four. Duke went 18-6 and lost 1-4 to North Carolina in their only meeting and have been inconsistent as of late, but I still expect the Blue Devils to make a deep run in May. Their in-state rival UNC is coming off of an ACC tournament championship and a 29-2 regular season. Depending on the draws, they could end up on the same side with Duke but if all goes well, the Blue Devils may have an opportunity for revenge in the NCAA tournament.