No. 74 GW Men's Tennis Opens 2014 Season on Monday
Colonials Look to Reclaim A-10 Championship After Reaching Title Match for Fourth Straight Year
Jan. 19, 2014
WASHINGTON - The 74th-ranked George Washington men's tennis team opens its 2014 campaign on Monday as it prepares to embark on arguably its toughest schedule to date.
Under the direction of eighth-year Head Coach Greg Munoz, GW will face NCAA Championship qualifier No. 45 BYU on Monday, Jan. 20 indoors at Navy's Tose Family Tennis Center in Annapolis, Md.
On the heels of earning a No. 74 ITA national preseason ranking, GW was selected to finish second in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Coaches' Poll after reaching its fourth straight conference title match in 2013 where it was edged, 3-4, by league favorite No. 31 VCU. With the return of reigning Most Outstanding Rookie Performer Danil Zelenkov, as well as A-10 All-Conference First Team selections Francisco Dias and Nikita Fomin and the addition of highly touted newcomer Julius Tverijonas, Munoz's squad is poised to prove itself against its nationally ranked competition.
"It was nice to finish in the top 75 last year but we feel that we are stronger than that and we want to earn a spot at least in the top 60," said Coach Munoz. "This is by far the toughest schedule we have put together and I think we will be able to show how good we are as the year goes on if we stay disciplined and keep working hard."
The Colonials wrapped 2013 with a No. 73 national ranking for the first time in Coach Munoz's tenure after going 17-7 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Despite losing two players to graduation last spring, GW returns five players to this year's lineup in Fomin, Dias and Zelenkov, as well as seniors Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen, and has its sights set on its third A-10 crown in four years.
"This is a really talented team and I feel confident in every single position. We are very strong and we have every intention of doing as well as we have in the past and surpassing those points," Coach Munoz said. "We are prepared as we head into the season and we are excited to get back to the A-10 Championship in April."
Fomin, who was the top singles player for the Buff and Blue last season, enters 2014 as the No. 124 singles player in the country and the No. 11 player in the ITA Atlantic Region. Last spring he upset four nationally ranked opponents, highlighted by a three-set thriller over No. 28 Max Wennakoski of VCU in the conference championship to force doubles play, and produced a team-best overall record of 24-8 and a dual-match record of 17-6. This fall Fomin went 6-5 overall in singles and knocked off Virginia's No. 117 Justin Shane to earn a third-place finish in the Orange Singles draw at the Virginia Fall Classic.
Earning his second consecutive All-Conference First Team nod, Dias earned upset victories over five top-70 opponents and went 19-14 overall in singles and 11-11 throughout dual-match competition last season. After producing a team-best 6-3 singles record this fall and defeating nationally ranked foes in Virginia's No. 51 Harrison Richmond and Virginia Tech's No. 66 Andreas Bjerrehus, Dias has earned the No. 14 ranking in the ITA Atlantic Region heading into 2014.
The Most Outstanding Rookie Performer and All-Conference First Team selection one year ago, Zelenkov posted an overall singles record of 20-8 during his inaugural season as a Colonial. He went 17-4 throughout the spring at the No. 3 singles spot, including a perfect 4-0 against conference competition, and wrapped his freshman season on a 10-match winning streak while earning victories in 15 of his last 17 bouts. The Skopje, Macedonia product went 6-4 this fall, highlighted by upsets over Virginia's Richmond and No. 99 Alvaro Nazal of Gonzaga, and enters the season as the No. 15 singles player in the ITA Atlantic Region.
Tverijonas comes to GW as a rookie after spending the past few months competing on the professional circuit. He joins the Colonials' squad with a No. 1,226 world ranking from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and will compete for a top spot in the lineup.
The veteran duo of Svensson and Thomsen will round out the lineup for GW. At the UVA Ranked +1 Invitational this fall, Svensson earned his first career victory over a nationally ranked opponent with a three-set win over Binghamton's No. 122 Sidharta Hazarika. He went 10-8 overall as a junior and earned a perfect 4-0 mark against A-10 foes in sixth-flight action. Thomsen was named to A-10 All-Academic Team last season as he posted an overall singles record of 17-7 and a spring mark of 12-5 while competing at the Nos. 5 and 6 singles spots.
"The spring defines who we are as a program and we will take it one match at a time and maintain our focus the entire way through," Coach Munoz said. "With our strength and depth, our schedule allows us every opportunity to break into the top 60 by year's end. We are prepared and ready for the challenge."
Teaming up for doubles play will be the tandems of Dias/Tverijonas, Fomin/Zelenkov - who had success last season going 21-7 overall and 14-5 in the spring - and Svensson/Thomsen.
"We are playing a high level of competition and everyone needs to push each other. Our doubles teams are very competitive at all three positions," said Coach Munoz. "The level of play that Dias and Tverijonas are displaying has really set the tone for our doubles teams. Fomin and Zelenkov had a lot of success at the No. 2 spot last season and I am excited to see Svensson and Thomsen reunite from their freshmen season as they have had years of experience and success together."
The Colonials' season-opener indoors on Monday against No. 45 BYU is considered a home match. GW opens its outdoor home slate at the newly renovated GW Tennis Center on Saturday, March 22 with a double header against South Alabama and Morgan State. For a breakdown of the squad's demanding 2014 slate, click here.