After yet another historic season for the Oklahoma men’s tennis team in 2014-2015, four players find themselves ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s preseason poll to start the 2015-2016 campaign.
Head coach John Roddick has had two or more players ranked in singles in each of his seven seasons at the helm for Oklahoma. Despite his track record of putting players in the rankings, he doesn’t put too much stock into the list so early in the year.
“We don’t put a lot of emphasis into the college rankings, which is ironic because the No. 1 guy, but it’s not something we really focus on,” head coach John Roddick said. “It means we have a deep team and guys have done well consistently. Those things tend to take care of themselves when you do things right.”
Senior Axel Alvarez, who became the first Sooner ever ranked No. 1 in singles last season, now becomes the first OU player to start a season in the top spot. Alvarez is a three-time All-American and the reigning national and Big 12 Player of the Year. He finished 39-6 last season and at one point won 23 consecutive dual matches.
Junior Andrew Harris starts the year ranked No. 6, making Oklahoma one of just two schools with two student-athletes ranked in the top 10, joining defending national champion Virginia.
Harris earned All-America honors in singles last season after finishing with a 25-8 record while splitting time at the No. 1 line with Alvarez. He was also named the ITA National Player to Watch, given annually to a player expected to be one of the top returning players in the nation. Harris also had great success in doubles going 23-13 for the year, including an unbeaten run through conference play with partner Alex Ghilea.
Ghilea also find himself in the singles rankings to kick of the new season. The junior from Neamt, Romania sits at No. 50 in the ITA’s initial poll.
Ghilea played much of last season at No. 4 singles, compiling a record of 22-7 during the spring season. The highlight of his sophomore campaign came at the 2015 ITA National Indoor Championships. Ghilea went 4-0 at the tournament, helping lead Oklahoma to its first ever title, and was named Most Outstanding Player.
Making his first appearance in the ITA rankings is Florin Bragusi. The junior from Ramnicu Valcea, Romania went 13-4 last spring playing primarily at No. 6 singles.
Bragusi earned a reputation as the Sooners’ closer after going 4-0 in situations in which he was the last match on with the dual tied at 3-all. Not only was Bragusi perfect in those situations, they were also some of the Sooners’ biggest matches, including the Big 12 Championship final, matches with Ohio State and Virginia as well as the round of 16 meeting with UCLA at the NCAA Championships.
Oklahoma is also represented in the doubles rankings. The duo of Alvarez and Harris sit at No. 11 in the rankings despite having never paired together in their careers.
Oklahoma begins its fall schedule this weekend as Alvarez travels to Malibu, Calif., to headline the field at the inaugural Oracle/ITA Masters.