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Tennis: Matalonga lone UA single at ITA meet

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA men's tennis junior Roger Matalonga opens his season today as the Wildcats' only representative at the Icy Hot/ITA Men's All-American Championships, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 7, 2004
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UA men's tennis junior Roger Matalonga will have no time to get his feet wet this season, as he jumps right into tough competition from his opening match at the Icy Hot/ITA Men's All-American Championship today through Sunday.

Matalonga will compete in both a singles draw and a doubles field with senior partner Colin O'Grady. The 64-player singles field and 32-team doubles event are the main draw of this Chattanooga, Tenn., tournament. The junior will face some of the toughest competition in the nation from more than 70 schools that competed from pre-qualifying to the main event.

Matalonga said he's glad to start his season against top competition.

"That's what's so important," he said. "It's my first tournament of the year and I'm playing with the top 30 guys in the nation. I think it's the best way to start a season. It doesn't matter to win or lose, it's playing good, hitting good and trying new things."

Matalonga, ranked No. 29 in the nation individually, will be the Wildcats' lone representative in the main draw of the singles tournament. O'Grady needed to reach the quarterfinal round of the qualifying event, but lost to Treat Huey of Virginia, 6-4, 6-4 Tuesday in the round of 64. O'Grady beat Middle Tennessee's Greg Pollack, 6-2, 7-6 (6) Monday in the round of 128.

In the pre-qualifying round, junior Paul Warkentin won his first two matches before losing to Matt Roberts of Arkansas 6-0, 6-4 and failing to advance.

With the field narrowed to 64, Matalonga said the singles event is wide open.

"Everybody's at the same level, so anyone can win the tournament," he said. "I'd put myself there, but I know I have to play really well. I have to play 100 percent, take it match by match, point by point and we'll see how far I can go."

The UA doubles team will be one of the favorites to advance deep by virtue of its fifth overall ranking in the country.

"It's so hard because the matches are first set to eight so we know to win we have to be very focused and can't make mistakes," Matalonga said. "We just have to keep our concentration up really high in all our matches, since when you're playing the top 20 teams in the nation, they all are very close matches."

UA hopes to upset the top-ranked Stanford duo of Sam Warburg and K.C. Corkery and Florida's Hamid Mirzadeh and Chris Brandi, ranked fourth, after falling to both of them last year.

"We definitely want to beat the Stanford guys because they beat us in the NCAAs and at the end of the Pac-10s too," Matalonga said. "We want to beat Florida because when we played against them in teams we lost. We just want to beat the teams we've lost to before."

After sending no singles or doubles players to the main draw of this tournament last year, the Wildcats are poised to make a strong run this season.

"We're already better than we were last year," head coach Bill Wright said.

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