Now that the blog is official back up and running, I think it’s time to start talking about tennis that actually matters. In about four weeks, arguably the biggest individual tournament of the year will start up at nine regional sites around the country. The later tournaments start about 4 1/2 weeks from now, so I figure if I do two regions a week, I’ll have them all done in time. It looks like all but two tournaments (Central and Northwest) are starting in the last weekend of September, so I’ll start with the earlier ones to give everyone a chance to digest the enormity of what I have to say. I would rather not start off with the weakest region of the nine, so I’m gonna go with the Central first.
Since nobody has ever really done this, I’m just gonna fly by the seat of my pants, and see what I come up with. Picking a singles winner is obviously going to be very hard because of the depth in DIII. Picking a doubles winner is going to be even harder because I have no idea how the doubles teams will end up pairing up and because prosets can be so random, but I’m gonna give it a shot anyways. Here it goes:
Significant Teams Involved
Kenyon, Depauw, Case Western, Denison, Chicago, Wash U
Paul Burgin (Kenyon)
Burgin was playing about as well as anyone at the end of last year. He had wins over Wood, Meyer, Cawood, and Duke Miller at the end of the year, and appeared on his way to a victory over Dillon Pottish in the National Championship match before it was decided. Despite his performance in the individual tournament, he has to be among the favorites to win the singles tournament.
Michael Razumovsky (Kenyon)
Speaking of players that peaked at the end of the year, Razumovsky beat Goodwin and Lane in the team championships, and battled his way all the way to the semifinals of the individual nationals championships before falling to Ballou in the semifinals. Though he played #2 for the Lords all season, he will be the highest ranked player in this individual tournament.
C.J. Williams (Kenyon)
He may have played #3 singles for his team, but that is no reason to discount the senior and former Central region finalist. Williams entered last year’s tournament at the #16 seed, and fought all the way to the finals with wins over Drougas and the younger Putterman. Nonetheless, he’s going to need to pitch a tent in a tree to improve on his finals appearance from last year.
Sam Miles (Depauw)
Miles finished his singles season on a terrible note, losing his last 6 matches against DIII teams. Still, he qualified for the NCAA individual tournament, and is capable of beating just about anyone on the right day. He’s certainly not a favorite, but his play in the Summer designates him as a contender, and if he has a good weekend, he just might be on his way to Mobile (as a singles player this time).
Will Drougas (Case Western)
Drougas had an up-and-down season typical of a freshmen. Normally, I would say that sort of streakiness would prevent him from winning a tournament like this that requires sustained excellence. He finished last year strong, however, and with a year of experience under his belt, he might be ready to make the next step. Still, I expect no better than a semifinal appearance for the young Spartan.
Gary Parizher (Wash U)
Parizher may have lost in the quarterfinals last year to fellow-Bear Ross Putterman, but he was playing better than the freshman by the end of the year, and he was probably the most consistent performer on the inconsistent team throughout the year. Look for the senior to improve on his quarterfinal appearance from last year.
Ross Putterman (Wash U)
Last year, the younger Putterman got all the way to the semifinals before falling in three sets to Williams. As with the other sophomores, it stands to reason that he would improve on his result with a year of experience. Putterman had more success than the other freshmen last year, however, and with success comes expectation. He may also have to face senior Adam Putterman to win the title. That’s as tough a match up emotionally as it is physically. Ross’ time is coming, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bow out a round or two earlier than last year.
The Dark Horses
Ankur Bhargava (Chicago)
As a freshman, Bhargava showed steady improvement throughout the year. With a new coach, a new team culture, and plenty of good practice partners, he might be primed to make a run this year.
Kevin Chu (Wash U)
Chu is almost definitely not a title contender, but every year, it seems, a non-starter from one of the dominant programs comes into one of these tournaments and starts taking out the #1s from programs like Denison and Kalamazoo. Given his performance this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chu made a run, but I would expect him to fall by the wayside if and when he eventually comes across one of his upperclassman teammates.
Adam Putterman (Wash U)
You basically have to take the elder Putterman as the favorite in this one. Playing #1 singles all year, he only lost four matches against DIII players in the team season. That’s the sort of consistency that is necessary to win a tournament like this one. I think the only things that could possibly stop Putterman from repeating as champion are the pressure of being a senior and hungry Lord sophomore.
I’m not going to waste too much time on doubles because I won’t pick the doubles pairings correctly, prosets are unpredictable, and the winner will probably be a team I won’t even think of (like the Miles/Kopecsky team from last year), but I will throw a few names out.
Putt/Putt (Wash U)
Wash U’s #1 doubles team got to the semifinals of last year’s doubles tournament before falling to two teammates who didn’t even end up in the doubles lineup. They didn’t have the greatest season, but they finished strong with victories against the eventual national champs and a strong Kenyon #1 doubles team.
Farah/Chang (Wash U)
This combo ended up working well for Wash U later in the season, as they came up with wins against Amherst and Williams. They’re just as able as anyone else to win five prosets and serve their way to a championship.
These two are the defending champions, so you can’t discount them, but repeating as a doubles champion in a tough region like this one is damn near impossible. They will be a high seed, but that doesn’t mean an easy draw. Just ask last year’s #1 seeds, Cempre and McErlean.
However the teams end up falling, some combo of these four players is going to end up making a very good doubles team. I’m a big believer in serving your way through a doubles tournament, and I would not want to be the team that knows they have to break one of these guys in 8 games to avoid a tiebreaker for the match. Yikes.
Brunsting/Healy/Gerber (Case Western)
The Spartans went down in doubles relatively early last year, but some combo of their three doubles workhorses will make a formidable duo.
The Raz/Williams doubles team was the most consistent team from the central region last season. That’s the sort of consistency necessary to win this kind of tournament, and I see no reason Thielke would split them up. Though Raz and Williams only played #2 doubles, many teams don’t have that significant a drop between the two positions, and the fact that they were able to win so consistently speaks to their ability to win ugly. Putt/Putt might have a higher ceiling, but I think it’s about time the Lords get someone through to Alabama. Plus, Williams has cosmic good will and senior mojo on his side.