Happy Thursday, boys and girls. Today is one of the most fun days of the fall, as the main draw of Small College begins this morning. The DIII men’s singles portion is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., while the doubles is slated for 3 p.m. Even though we already gave you our predictions, The Blog couldn’t let the start of this tournament go by without giving you a little more information about the competitors. This is the singles preview, and we’ll be back with a doubles preview in a few hours. Perhaps most importantly, there will be matches live streamed from Georgia…FOR FREE!!! I believe the DIII men’s singles matches supposed to be on the live stream are No. 4 Jonathan Jemison (Emory) vs JT Wynne (Skidmore) and No. 3 Chase Lipscomb (Redlands) vs Brian Grodecki (Williams). You can check out the links to those matches and four others BY CLICKING HERE.
No. 1 Mohanad Alhouni–NewD3Central
Why he’ll win: You don’t just happen upon the one seed – you earn it. This is Mohanad’s third successive trip to the tournament formally known as Small College Nationals. He’s been one of the premier players in the country for the past three years. When he’s feeling it and ready to battle on the court Mohanad is one of the best players in this tournament. In this tournament last year he beat the super freshman that could’ve been (Rozenvasser), the national runner up in Parodi, and lost to the eventual national champion: Lubomir Cuba. Alhouni will win this tournament because he’s proven time and again that he’s capable of playing some of the best tennis in d3, he has a ton of experience in this tournament, and he is a SENIOR.
Why he won’t: Jeremy Yuan.
No. 2 Daniel Levine–D3AS
Why he’ll win: The dude Daniel Levine has been making waves since he came in as a freshman 2 years ago, and that’s only going to keep getting better. Can he be upset? Yes. His game isn’t the most consistent in the world but he has the ability to beat anyone in the country. I’ve labeled him as potentially the greatest player in CMU history, and if he’s to live up to that promise, he will have to make his mark here at the very same tournament Alla won.
Why he won’t: This is Levine’s first time at this tournament, and while he has a lot of experience in big matches, you can’t discount it. Also, Levine is prone to off days and having a single off day against any of these players is a death sentence. He gets a tough draw in a four-time stud in Arthur Fagundes, who will absolutely challenge him. Levine needs to bring his A game all tournament.
No. 3 Chase Lipscomb–DIIIWest
Why he’ll win: Chase undoubtedly has the biggest forehand in the draw. We saw him play really great tennis in the regional, maneuvering around great players from both CMS and PP. His usual liability is his backhand and movement, however, watching him play a couple weeks ago, he was able to turn those weaknesses into strengths. Not only was he quick on his feet and driving his backhand, but his forehand was deadly per usual. With this combination, accompanied by a big serve and phenomenal touch at the net, Chase can go on a run and take the racket out of any of his opponent’s hands.
Why he won’t: If Chase isn’t “on” this weekend, he’ll have a tough time against the rest of the field. He has a tendency to over-hit and if the balls aren’t falling in on that particular day, a lot of these players can grind him out. We hope that Chase comes out and competes like how he did in the regional, as he sometimes has a propensity to be nonchalant and swing for the fences. Sometimes this works, however, it might be tough for him to beat the best players in the country with his style of play day in and day out.
No. 4 Jonathan Jemison–D3AS
Why he’ll win: Jemison sports the highest UTR of any of these players, and you can certainly count on him believing he’s the best player here. Jemison has a grinding but powerful style that keeps him in every match no matter what. He has a coach in Browning who will keep him focused and he’s been looking forward to this for about two years now. Fear Jemison.
Why he won’t: Everyone else is good. And while he’s had a successful career, Jemison has also suffered some head scratching losses, such as to Fojtasek last year and others. Jemison isn’t unbeatable, and these guys are the guys who could beat him.
Why he’ll win: He’ll win because it’s literally his name. Beyond that, JT could be taken lightly by others, considering he played #4 for a non-powerhouse team last year. I think it’s entirely possible that many players (and maybe even coaches) have never even heard of him before, much less know anything about his game. If JT can get out to some fast starts against opponents come out flat, he could surprise some people. AVZ also loves to remind us that Wynne was a high school state champion in Indiana, so it’s safe to assume Wynne gets up for the big tournaments, and this will be the biggest stage he’s ever played on. These kinds of events can help high energy guys like Wynne excel.
Why he won’t: Everyone else in this tournament is so freaking good! JT is obviously playing some ball right now, but he’s really stepping up in weight class from the Northeast ITA. He could play three great matches and still easily finish eighth. Playing #4 last year also means he will not have seen many guys of this level before, at least not in a match setting like this. At the end of the day, though, the biggest reason Wynne won’t win is that he’s just going up against guys that are, as of now, better than him. I don’t want that to sound so harsh, but that’s my honest evaluation.
Regional: New England
Why he’ll win: BG is one of only two seniors in the entire draw, and the other one could be out before the quarterfinals begin on Thursday. Grodecki is coming out of the toughest ITA in the country, so we know he’s battle-tested. He won multiple CRUCIAL matches for the Ephs last year en-route to their first NCAA Quarterfinal appearance since 2013, including multiple against rival Amherst. Grodecki has a great net game and can volley his way to closing out big points if need be. I wouldn’t classify him as a total power player or a total grinder, but his combination of the two gives him not only a chance to pull off the first-round upset, but the chance to win multiple matches this weekend.
Why he won’t: While he is a senior, Grodecki has never really played #1 singles. He’s been quite successful at whatever spot he’s played (#5 his freshman year, #3 his sophomore year, and #2 last year), but while the #2’s in the NE are as tough as they get, there is something to be said for playing “best” players in the country. While this field might not be as top-heavy as in years past, if you don’t think Alhouni, Levine, and Jemison are among the country’s best players you have another thing coming this weekend.
Why he’ll win: He’s been here before. He’s motivated after an 8th place finish in 2016. He’s already used to the conditions, having gotten through his match today in straight sets. He’s a grinder in a hot land, and his style of game, that high/heavy ball will frustrate even the most talented of opponents. Also, he flat out knows how to win. Fagundes was 12-1 last year going into NCAAs, with his only loss coming in a 3rd set against Alhouni. He has multiple ranked wins including De Quant (Midd) and Hewlin (Whitman), so we know he can beat the good players outside of Texas. It will be a grind, it always is with Arthur, but he’s more than capable of making a deep run this weekend.
Why he won’t: You can take every one of the points I just made and flip it on its head, but the main point is that he’ll just be too damn tired. Arthur is in both draws, and wasn’t spending today with a light hit and getting a lot of rest, he was out there grinding running down would-be winners from Watanabe all afternoon. He looked gassed at the end of the match, and I’m not sure he has it in him to go big tomorrow, let alone the rest of the weekend. Also, his grind it out style of play might not be enough against a guy like Levine, who has just a massive forehand and can overpower you in the blink of an eye. Tough draw, tired player, warm conditions, outlook not so good.
Why he’ll win: Jeremy hits it hard. He hits it deep. He hits it flat. And he can do it for a very long time. He ended his junior career ranked 48 in the country! The trajectory of his ball and the pace that it comes with forces his opponents to hit up on a bowling ball. That combined with the elements in Rome will help him be a tough out for anyone. Another element of Yuan, and more generally, Chicago’s fall success is that they have one of the latest Academic start times in the country. Jeremy Yuan has all everything at his disposal to follow in Chua’s footsteps and winning this tournament in his freshman year. A victory that would cause the Chicago Hype Train to slow down with the weight of all its new patrons.
Why he won’t: He is a freshman. We cannot forget about that. While his junior career and record are impressive, most of the players in this tournament have or have beaten players with impressive junior careers and records. In juniors, you’re generally playing people your own age, but in college you could be playing someone three or four years older than you (hell, you could be playing Wooton and he’ll double you up). There is a gap in college tennis experience between Yuan and his competitors, and if the occasion becomes too much for him or if the strain of playing both doubles and singles in the heat Yuan could find himself on the losing end of this bracket.
That’s all for the singles preview. Check back in a few hours and we’ll have something very similar for the doubles side of things. Enjoy the tennis!