The top men’s college tennis teams, and some of the best players in the country, are playing in Seattle this week in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men’s National Team Indoor Championship.
It figures to be great competition, and it will be a golden opportunity for the undefeated Huskies and their star, Clement Chidekh, to show what they can do.
Chidekh recently moved to the No. 2 ranked player in the country, tying a Husky record for the highest national ranking (Alex Vlaski, 2004). He has led unranked UW to an 8-0 record, but the competition soon gets much tougher, with the top 15 teams in the country joining Washington in the four-day national championship held Friday-Monday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center and the Seattle Tennis Club.
All teams are guaranteed to play three matches, and Washington opens play against No. 1 ranked Ohio State on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Nordstrom Tennis Center on campus.
There are four matches Friday through Sunday at each of the venues. The title match will be at noon Monday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center.
This is the ninth time UW has hosted the event, going back to 1999.
“It’s the best tennis in the Pacific Northwest, for sure, with there being no tour event here,” said Washington coach Matt Anger. “A lot of the American players on tour — and even a lot of the international players — played in college. They were on top teams and they played in this event. There are a lot of guys on the tour who came through Seattle to play in it. It’s like seeing the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.”
Chidekh has established himself as one of the best players in the nation. He was solid as a sophomore after transferring from his native France, and made huge strides this fall as a junior. He made the semifinals of both national individual tournaments in the fall — the ITA All-America Championships and the ITA National Fall Championships.
Chidekh said his rapid rise in the rankings surprised him.
“Really, the only ones who thought I was going to do this was my dad and coach Matt (Anger),” Chidekh said. “That trust in me and that confidence in me meant a lot. But I am surprised that I made the things that they said right.”
It is unlikely that Washington will play Stanford, seeded No. 6, in this event based on their positions in the bracket. That means a rematch between Chidekh and the Cardinal’s Arthur Fery will have to wait until April 8 when the two teams meet in a dual match.
Fery rallied to defeat Chidekh in three sets in October.
Anger said there are other players who could also challenge for the top ranking this spring, “and most of them are going to be here” this weekend.
Chidekh said his dream coming to Washington was to be one of the school’s highest-ranked players.
“I reached my dream after I came in and I wasn’t at that level,” he said. “It’s motivation to keep grinding, to keep practicing and to try to be No. 1, hopefully.”
Anger also coached Vlaski at UW.
Vlaski, who Anger calls “an all-time Husky,” was left-handed and played a different style than Chidekh, who is right-handed.
“But there are two things in which they are very alike,” Anger said. “One is both are begging me for more work — they are never shying away from the work — and second is they are both very tough competitors.”
This weekend’s matches will also be big for the Huskies as a team.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for our guys,” Anger said. “We’ve had a young team and we are building back up, and we’re off to a good start (at 8-0). It will be great for them to go against three top 15 teams in a row and see where they are. I don’t know what matches we are going to win or lose, but I know we are going to play tough.”
In addition to No. 1 seed Ohio State, No. 6 seed Stanford and No. 16 seed UW, the other teams in the field (by seed order) are Baylor, Tennessee, Florida, Texas Christian, Kentucky, Wake Forest, Georgia, USC, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Texas A&M and Mississippi.
Matches will be held at 9 a.m., noon, 3:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday at both sites. Admission to the Nordstrom Tennis Center is $10 per day and $25 for the tournament. All of UW’s matches will be held at the Nordstrom Tennis Center.
Admission is free at the Seattle Tennis Club, but seating is limited.
“If someone wants to see the best players, this is the place to be,” Anger said of the event.