By Steve Lansdale
AUSTIN, Texas — The No. 8 Texas men’s tennis team started the 2019 home schedule in impressive fashion Sunday, knocking off the SMU Mustangs at the Texas Tennis Center, 6-1.
The victory gave UT a 2-0 start to the season, and was the Longhorns’ 18th straight against the Mustangs.
Texas head coach Michael Center said he was glad to see the Longhorns pick up the win against an improved SMU team.
“(SMU) was improved and more aggressive then they have been,” Center said. “We were pretty good, but inconsistent today. We had moments where I thought we were emotionally and physically really engaged, and we also had some lapses where we can improve on and be more consistent.”
Texas started the match by claiming the doubles point, thanks to a pair of 6-1 victories: Yuya Ito and Chih Chi Huang topped Michael Smith and Andrew Buhelos, and Colin Markes and Leonardo Telles knocked off SMU’s Avery Pennywell and Tomas Vaise by the same score.
SMU won the top singles match, when No. 51 Carles Sarrio beat No. 4 Christian Sigsgaard, 6-4, 6-0, but after that, Texas swept the singles matches. Ito swept SMU’s Roberto Rosales, Telles knocked off Vaise, 6-4, 6-2, and UT’s Harrison Scott beat SMU’s Jan-Simon Vrbsky, 6-4, 6-4. In the only match that went to three sets, Huang edged SMU’s Gardiner Perotti, 4-6, 6-1, 1-0 (10-5). In the No. 6 singles spot UT’s Rodrigo Banzer finished off SMU’s Huntley Allen, 6-2, 6-0.
“We started well, especially with singles,” Ito said. “In double, my partner Chih Chi and I played well and were able to get the win. It carried over into singles, where I started well. My opponent was tough in the second set, but I was able to get over him.”
Center said the match offered a better view of the progress several players have made so far this season.
“Yuya (Ito) did a great job and got off the court first,” Center said. “Didn't see a lot of Rodrigo (Banzer), but he got off the court second and looked like he played well. We were strong in the middle today finishing at about the same time. Chih Chi (Huang) lost a first tough set, but he has been incredibly resilient. Christian (Sigsgaard) had a tough day — it happens sometimes. He got down on himself against a good player, so we talked about it and we are going to work on staying in there on the tough situations. Overall it was a great team effort.”
The Longhorns will be back on the courts next weekend when they host Washington, Miami and Utah State in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event at the Texas Tennis Center. UT will take on Washington and Miami will face Utah State, with both matches starting at 2 p.m. Friday. The consolation and championship matches will be at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Center said the victory over the Ponies was an important result, but said his team will have to raise its level of play as the season progresses.
“We still have to play with energy,” Center said. “This group is very talented, but can be quiet at times. We need to raise our energy level and come out swinging. We need to be more aggressive at the beginning of matches. It's something we've talked about and will continue to work on in practice. It's early in the year and there are a lot of things that can improve, but that is something we have control over.”