Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer
After winning three straight Atlantic 10 championships, men’s tennis is using its fall preseason to prepare for a four-peat.
The Rams have picked up where they left off last year; the team has gone 32-18 in singles and 13-9 in doubles. It has not been an easy schedule, and VCU has traveled to three states and played two tournaments in Virginia.
Coach Anthony Rossi has been impressed by his quad this fall.
“We use the fall to get stronger physically,” Rossi said. “I think so far we can see the improvements … We’re going in the right direction.”
Sophomore Rayane Stable has shaken off his jet lag and is now feeling the best he’s ever felt on the court, he said. The France native was awarded most outstanding-rookie in the A-10 last season after going 12-10 in singles play and 9-10 in doubles. So far this season, Stable has gone 9-4 in singles and 8-5 in doubles.
“Already, the six of us are practicing on each other pretty hard,” Stable said. “We try to push each other as much as we can.”
At the River City Tennis Open in mid-October, VCU won all of its singles brackets. Stable won the flight A singles championship in the fall tournament over freshman Llyeton Cronje.
“It was the perfect tournament,” Stable said. “The final was hard because I played against my teammate. It’s not very easy playing against him.”
The fall season has provided opportunities for VCU’s newest additions: freshmen Cronje and Daniel Khin. The two picked up a doubles win against Notre Dame at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic. Khin also won the singles flight D championship at the River City Tennis Open.
“We hope to see them in the lineup,” Rossi said. “They have big potential … We know the talent is there, now they just need to get used to everything.”
As a former student-athlete himself at the University of Kentucky, Rossi understands how challenging it can be to perform well physically and in the classroom, especially while adjusting to a new country.
Rossi wants his players to focus more on winning big matches, not their rankings.
“We try to not talk numbers too much,” Rossi said. “What we’re gonna try and do is create upsets.”
In VCU’s most recent outing, Stable played doubles with former most outstanding rookie and A-10 first-team junior Inigo Torre Martin, who went 3-1 in singles play during the ITA Atlantic regionals at the University of Virginia. Stable and Torre Martin went 4-1 in doubles, making it to the semifinals before they were eliminated.
“I didn’t imagine that we could play at that level for our first time,” Stable said. “We just want to win as much as we can.”
In late September Torre Martin, traveled to Malibu to participate in the ITA Oracle Masters. The tournament is for the top returning players in all conferences. Torre Martin defeated Loic Cloes of South Alabama before he was defeated in the round of 16. The junior has gone 7-3 in singles and 5-4 in doubles.
Junior Timo Zgraggen has a strong start to the year, going 6-3 in singles and 6-3 in combined doubles. Zgraggen went 4-0 at the River City Tennis Open, where he won the flight C singles championship.
Stable will be focused on gaining an ITA ranking this season, along with getting good grades and helping improve his team. He said playing the No. 1 spot on the team as a freshman was difficult and often nerve-racking.
“Being No. 1 on a team is never easy,” Stable said. “But I just had to fight, I have to fight always.”