OXFORD, Miss. – With five of the top seven back from last year’s NCAA Sweet Sixteen team and the addition of some top newcomers, the Ole Miss men’s tennis team is excited for the start of the 2013 season, which begins this weekend at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic in Desert Springs, Calif.
The 34th annual tournament features some of the top college teams and individual players in the country as determined by the 2012 Final and 2013 preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings in singles and doubles.
On the men’s side, six of the top 15 teams are sending players including, No. 2 Southern Cal
, No. 3 UCLA
, No. 6 Georgia
, No. 7 Pepperdine
, No. 9 Kentucky
and the No. 13 Rebels.
“We are excited to get the season started,” said head coach Billy Chadwick, who embarks on his 30th campaign with the Rebel men. “We return a great nucleus, and with the addition of our outstanding newcomers, we are looking forward to a championship season.”
Rebel senior Jonas Lutjen, ranked No. 5 in the country, is the top-ranked player in the field. The Schessel, Germany native earned All-America honors last year and helped the Rebels reach the NCAA Sweet 16. Lutjen scored an impressive win over the current No. 1 ranked player, Peter Kobelt of Ohio State, at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in November in Flushing, NY.
“Jonas had an outstanding fall,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “He has positioned himself for a great senior year, and we expect big things from him this season.”
Joining Lutjen in California are junior Johan Backstrom, sophomore William Kallberg, senior Adrian Forberg Skogeng and freshmen Stefan Lindmark and Zach Wilder.
•The Rebels opened the spring at No. 13 in the first ITA team rankings. This marks the 26th consecutive year for the team to begin the season in the top 25.
•As noted above, five players return from the 2012 season, including All-American senior Jonas Lutjen and 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year Nik Scholtz. Lutjen’s No. 5 ranking is a career-high. In addition to being named the SECs top freshman in 2012, Scholtz earned All-America honors and was the second highest ranked freshman in the nation after reaching the NCAA Elite Eight in singles. William Kallberg is ranked No. 95 in singles. Ole Miss boasts two teams in the doubles rankings with Kallberg and senior Adrian Forberg Skogeng at No. 25. Lutjen and Scholtz begin the spring ranked at No. 43.
•The Rebels start dual-match play Jan. 25 when they host the ITA Kickoff Weekend at the Gillom Sports Center. Ole Miss plays Columbia Friday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. and then faces Louisville/N.C. State Saturday, Jan. 26 at TBA. This marks the third time for the Rebels to host the first and second rounds of the ITA National Indoor. The winner of this event will advance to the National Team Indoor Final 16 Feb. 15-18 in Seattle, Wash.
• There will be a new scoring system in doubles this season that will be in place until the ITA National Indoor Championships Feb. 15-18. Doubles matches in progress when the point is clinched will be abandoned, as long as both coaches agree to that prior to the start of the match. There will also be “no ad scoring,” meaning that when the game hits 40-40, the next point will win the game. Finally, a tiebreaker will take place if both teams are tied at 7-7.
• The Rebels’ schedule includes 14 teams ranked inside the preseason top 40. The home slate includes six SEC matches as well as a tough non-conference match against perennial power Baylor. The Rebels will also host the SEC Tournament April 17-21 at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.