SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After splitting its first two matches of the season last week at the ITA Kick-Off Classic, the UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team is not only back in action for two more games this week, but both will be played at home for the Gauchos first action in front of a Santa Barbara home crowd this season.
"Home openers are always great, SDSU is usually a tough match for us and Fresno State is a good team so this will be an interesting weekend for us to see where we stand," Head Coach Marty Davis said.
Santa Barbara hosts San Diego State to begin the weekend boasting a 1-1 overall record after a 4-0 sweep of SMU and a 6-1 loss to No. 5 USC. On the flip side, SDSU comes to town with a 0-2 start to the new season following home losses to LMU and BYU last week.
Hoping to have a bounce-back week will be No. 42 Nicolas Moreno de Alboran who is 0-1 on the season following a loss to No. 13 Brandon Holt of USC last week. Despite the loss, the junior actually played really well having many opportunities to beat one of the top players in the country while also pushing him to a three-set match.
"The nature of playing No. 1 is that everybody is really good and that these matches will continue being close and competitive," Davis said. "I am hoping to see a little more strength and some really good tennis."
Senior Simon Freund will also be looking to net his first win of the year while junior Anders Holm will look for his second win of the year after earning a win last week against SMU before losing his singles match against USC's Logan Smith ranked No. 54 in the country.
Certainly, the most intriguing player to watch this week will be Victor Krustev. Krustev is the only Gaucho to earn a win in each of the teams first two matches including a win against USC's Jake DeVine who, at one point last season, was ranked as high as No. 63.
For the Canadian native, two wins last week were impressive but even more impressive was the fact that they came in his first weekend of collegiate tennis action. Now, the freshman will have his first opportunity to play at home.
"I am very anxious to see how he responds to playing in front of a home crowd, hopefully, all goes well," Davis said.
For the Aztecs, they finished last season 10-15 and they only return one of their top players from last year in senior Santiago Cevallos.
Cevallos plays in the number one position for both singles and doubles for SDSU but has struggled in both this season posting a 0-1 record in singles and a 0-2 mark in doubles alongside partner Arnaud Restifo.
Restifo, a transfer from Oklahoma, has only played sporadically at the collegiate level, and the pair has dropped both of their doubles sets thus far this season. So far, all of the Aztecs points have come by way of sophomores Joel Popov and Rafael Gonzalez Almazan. Both players earned experience last year in the five and six spot, respectively, and will be eager to build on their early season success.
After the Aztecs, the Gauchos will turn their attention to the Bulldogs on Saturday. Fresno State is very hot to start the new season as it is currently 6-0 on the season and has dominated allowing opponents to only earn, at most, one point during its matches.
The Bulldogs are led by senior leader Xander Veys, who finished last season with an overall record of 20-11 and was named to the All-Mountain West singles team. So far this season, Veys has posted a 3-1 record including winning his last two matches. Last season, UCSB defeated Fresno State 6-1, and Veys lost in straight sets to Moreno de Alboran, something he will look to change this Saturday.
Another key cog in Fresno State's strong start to the season has been sophomore Cagatay Soke, a transfer from Texas A &M Corpus Christi. He is currently unbeaten on the season with a 4-0 record, however, he and Veys have only put together a 1-1 record thus far in doubles.
With this being the opening weekend, the Gauchos will certainly look to impress their fans and keep showing the continued strength of this program. UCSB has proven in the short past that it can beat both of these teams, now it has to prove it this weekend.
UCSB hosts San Diego State at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1st at the Rec Cen Courts. The Gauchos will be back in action for a noon match against Fresno State at the same location.