The ETSU men’s tennis team fell to the nationally ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Jan. 17 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the final score being 7-2.
Wake Forest advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season and was always going to be a tough opponent and proved to be so.
Most of the players returned from their break from South America only a few days ahead of their match against Wake Forest.
“I believe we played somewhat decent,” head coach Yaser Zaatini said. “I think that with school starting so late, I didn’t factor in the travel and smashing together the match and the time. When we came in, we only had like four or five days to prepare.”
The Demon Deacons took three of the four doubles matches and claimed six singles spots to win the match. ETSU did not go down without a fight as Diego Nunez was narrowly defeated in both the first and second set 7-6, 7-5.
Ricardo Pabon also dropped his first set but went on to win his second set 6-4 and then secure his victory in the tiebreaker, 10-6. Sebastian Yllera also won in a third set tiebreaker. The scores for most of the matches stayed particularly close, only being within one or two points of winning the set.
This speaks highly of ETSU’s ability to fight hard in a tense situation against a very hard opponent who was ranked 20th in the nation.
It is also important to put into perspective the amount of talent ETSU had to face.
“I think that it’s a great opportunity to play a team like that … we actually played well for the quality of the team,” Zaatini said. “Their number one player was the junior Wimbledon champion.”
Although a loss is never satisfying, ETSU can take away some positives from this match. They were able to compete with Wake Forest at a level that is very high. This kind of performance bodes well for the future.
Tennis captain Rogerio Ribeiro competed well, losing in singles and doubles by only two match points.
“I think it was a really close game,” Ribeiro said. “The guy was a good player. I think I could have done better. I had a couple chances in the first set and I couldn’t take them. Which kind of didn’t go well in the second set.
The guy got a little bit more confident and started hitting the ball really well and didn’t give me much chance after that. I take it as a good opportunity to review my game and get better for the next ones.”
ETSU has just begun its spring season and Wake Forest is their second loss.
While watching them preform and practice it is very obvious that there is passion and a love for the sport and those two things are very important to build a winning team.
“I think that it’s just a matter of playing more matches … I’m hitting the ball pretty solid, moving well,” Ribeiro said. “I guess it’s just getting that game experience.”
With the spring season only in its early stages, maybe the ETSU men’s tennis team will need a few more matches and practice sessions under its belt to really build confidence and begin performing like the champions they can be.