M. Tennis Set to Open All-American Championships
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A trio of University of Miami men’s tennis student-athletes are set to open play at the 2019 Saint Francis Health System ITA All-American Championships on Monday, which is making its annual return to the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the University of Tulsa campus.
“The goal for this week is to be mentally engaged every single point and to embrace any adversity we are going to be dealt with on the court,” first-year assistant coach Beck Pennington said.
Making a return trip to the Sooner State, juniors Bojan Jankulovski and Adria Soriano Barrera enter the tournament field ranked No. 51 and No. 21, respectively, in the ITA singles rankings, while sophomore Francisco Bastias, ranked No. 113, is set to make his All-American debut.
Bastias will open play in qualifiers on Monday, while Soriano Barrera will earn an automatic bid into the main draw for the second consecutive season and will begin action on Wednesday.
Still awaiting his placement, Jankulovski is first on the main draw alternate list and will either open the week on Monday in the qualifying round or earn an automatic bid into Wednesday’s main draw. But no matter the situation, the Skopje, Macedonia, native is ready for the challenge.
“We don’t know yet which draw I will be in, since I am first out. Meaning, if someone withdrawals I will be in the main draw,” Jankulovski said. “But what I do know, is that either way it will be a tough matchup, so I will have to have a strong mindset going in and be prepared for anything.”
“And obviously, this is my third year [competing at the All-American Championship]. So, I have experience and I know how everything works. I am just trying to do better than last year,” Jankulovski continued. “Last year, I think I had a pretty good run in the qualifications. I beat three really good players and then lost a really tight match [in the main draw] against a player who is currently ranked among the top-20. This season I do not want to place too high of expectations on myself. I am just trying to show up, fight and be myself. And I know if I do that, my chances of getting good results are immediately better.”
Last season, Jankulovski collected three straight wins, including a ranked victory over then-No. 81 Laurens Verboven of USC, 6-4, 6-2, before coming up short against Wake Forest’s Bar Botzer, who currently ranks No. 16 in the 2019 preseason poll, 2-6, 7-5, 6-7 (3-7).
“I have been working way harder then I used to, especially on the mental side of my game, since my game is based a lot on my fight and mental toughness,” Jankulovski said. “…This season I set some goals with the coaches and I am trying to continue to work on them. And I know if I get better in certain areas, then my game will get better and I will have more opportunities to win big tournaments.”
Returning to the All-American championships main draw for the second straight season, Soriano Barrera gained a lot of tournament experience during his sophomore campaign and will look to implement everything he learned into this season.
Facing then-No. 50 Alex Brown of Illinois in the opening round of the 2018 All-American Championships, Soriano Barrera fell, 4-6, 4-6. Later that fall, the Barcelona, Spain, native came up just shy of the 2018 Southeast Regional title, dropping the championship match against then-No. 22 Jan Zielinski of Georgia. Then, following a successful spring season, Soriano Barrera became only the second Hurricane to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship over the past decade, joining Piotr Lomacki (2016).
At NCAAs, he faced the nation’s second-ranked singles player and highest-ranked collegian in the ATP, No. 268, JJ Wolf of Ohio State in the opening round, ultimately dropping a competitive match, 2-6, 3-6.
“They each have given me different perspectives of how I can improve my game. They were kind of a guideline to see where I was at and each one of them gave me little steps to work with,” Soriano Barrera said. “…Heading into All-Americans this year, I just have to put it all together and go from there. I am very excited about all the work I put in this summer and fall, and seeing which areas I can improve next.”
Set to make his debut in the Championships on Monday, Bastias is prepared for stiff competition and is hoping to make the most of his opportunities.
“I think it is a good opportunity to see where I am at,” Bastias said. “I know that all of the guys who go there are good players. So, I am excited for the opportunity and just want to see where I am at.”
Traveling with the Hurricanes’ trio, Beck is looking forward to what the week could bring.
“The most important thing our guys must do is to focus on what they control and let the rest take care of itself,” Pennington said. “If we do this consistently this week, I believe the results that we are hoping for will fall into place.”