Head coach F.D. Robbins
The University of Utah men's tennis program heads into the 2003-04 season striving to reach the same big goals it does every season. "The first goal this season is to beat BYU. Second, we want to win the conference and third, we want to develop our young team into better players over the course of the season," states head coach F.D. Robbins.
Robbins, a two-time All-American tennis player at Utah, enters his 18th season as the Utes' head coach. Robbins feels that he brings a lot of technical experience to the men's tennis program, as well as 32 years of playing and coaching experience. "I am knowledgeable in developing strategies over other players and figuring out individuals," says Robbins.
Assisting him is former Ute standout player Graeme Cox, who is in his seventh year as an assistant. "Graeme brings a lot to the table. He won more matches than anyone who has ever played for me. He knew how to gut out a match, and was willing to do whatever it took to win," proclaims Robbins.
Last year, the Utes placed fifth in the Mountain West Conference with a 1-4 record. Overall, Utah finished with a 12-14 mark.
The Utes began the 2003-04 fall season with two individual tournaments, the ITA Region VII Championships in Las Vegas and the BYU Invitational. Robbins feels the tournaments were a good opportunity for the team to develop confidence early in the year. It was also a chance for the coaches to get a feel for what strengths the incoming players have and what position they will play in.
The Utes have a challenging opener to the spring season when Northwestern comes to Salt Lake City. "We start out tough with Northwestern, but it will be a good schedule," states Robbins. Utah plays the majority of its non-conference matches at the beginning of the season and does not face conference competitors until April. "Hopefully we can take all of the experience from the non-conference games at the beginning with us when we play in our conference," explains Robbins.
Utah will match up against Stanford, California, Oklahoma State, Boston College, Minnesota and Dartmouth on the road. Utah State, Montana State, Idaho State, Boise State and Weber State will venture to Salt Lake to face the Utes.
The Utes will be on the road for conference matches against UNLV and San Diego State. Utah hosts BYU, New Mexico and Air Force. "The conference is close this season. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top," states Robbins. Conference play will conclude with the MWC Championships in San Diego, Calif.
Leading the team this year is senior captain Roeland Brateanu. "Roeland is our only senior and we are looking for him to play at the top of the lineup," states Robbins. Brateanu played mainly at the No. 1 and 2 spots last season and finished with a 14-21 record. "He has an aggressive type of game. Roeland will have a positive impact on the team this year from both a playing and a leadership standpoint," says Robbins.
Brateanu played his freshman and sophomore years at Arizona. He compiled a 19-15 singles record while playing mainly at the No. 5 and 6 positions. Before his time at Arizona, he was very successful in club play in the Netherlands. In four years, Brateanu posted a 29-7 singles record and was ranked as high as 86th in the Dutch National rankings.
Also returning are sophomores Michael Bullard, Nick Coutts and Tomasz Grzyb. Bullard, a Farmington, Utah, native, joined the team for the 2003 spring season after serving an LDS church mission. Bullard helped the Utes at the lower end of the lineup, compiling a 4-3 singles record, and was named Academic All-American for the 2003 season.
"Mike is one of the best academic guys on the team, and will hopefully be another Academic All-American this year. He possesses good team leadership qualities and will compete for a spot in our lineup," explains Robbins.
Coutts played at the middle of the lineup, posting a 15-11 overall singles record in 2003. "Nick is a serve and volley player, and one of the best doubles players on the team," proclaims Robbins. He came to Utah in 2002 from Victoria, British Columbia, having attained the top singles rank in his province and No. 8 in Canada. He was also ranked sixth in Canada in doubles.
"With his freshman year under his belt, Nick is going to have a big impact on the success of the team," promises Robbins. "He is one of those players who plays with heart and enthusiasm and leads with effort."
Grzyb finished the 2002-03 season with a 17-9 record, playing mainly at the bottom of the lineup. He will move to the upper end this season. "Tomasz will do well in the top part of the lineup this season," promises Robbins.
Grzyb joined the Utes after a highly successful high school career. He was the provincial champion for Ontario in Under-14, 16 and 18 singles play, and was awarded the 2001 National Capital Tennis Association Player of the Year Award. In Canadian Nationals play, Grzyb was a finalist in Under-16 and Under-18. "He has a really big serve and a forehand that goes along with his aggressive baseline type of game," states Robbins.
Ryan Scott, a Salt Lake native, rejoins the team after serving an LDS church mission. Scott redshirted during the 2000-01 season and begins as a freshman this year. Robbins strives to get Scott playing again and gaining confidence. "Ryan's game is coming along quite nicely," he explains. "Once he builds confidence he will contribute greatly to the success of the team."
Utah has added three new players to the roster this year. So far, Robbins is pleased with the recruits, and is confident they will be a great addition to the team this year and promising leaders of Utah tennis in the future. "The recruits have a lot of talent," proclaims Robbins.
Miron Mann, a freshman from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, joins the Utes this season. Robbins expects Mann to have a significant impact on Utah's doubles game. "Miron is a great doubles player. He is a big lefty and that is important in doubles," says Robbins. With a serve Robbins describes as "one of the best on the team," Mann is sure to be a big asset.
Freshman Jason Yap comes to Utah from Melbourne, Australia. Robbins views Yap as an "all court type of player," who should make an impact in our lineup. "He is a very good doubles player, as well as the fastest guy on the team," explains Robbins. "When Jason gets a little more confident, he will be an extremely tough player."
The Utes also welcome freshman and Utah native Dantley Young from West Jordan. Robbins describes Young as a "really good athlete" and feels that he has a bright future with Utah. "I expect to see a lot from Dantley in the future. He is an extremely hard worker and a real team guy. He will help us a lot," expresses Robbins.
With a lot of new faces, much of the season will be dedicated to developing the young talent. "The guys need match experience to develop the confidence to be successful," emphasizes Robbins. One of the main focuses for the new guys is improved consistency. "This is a sport where freshmen need to be ready because we are in a position to play them," says Robbins.
In preparation for the upcoming season, Robbins strives to find spots in the lineup where the guys can win and build esteem. "We will switch back and forth at the top to find the spots where they will win the most matches," states Robbins.
Robbins defines success at the top of the lineup as winning at least half of the matches, but believes the percentage of wins should be higher in the four, five and six positions. He feels the key to winning is discipline and hitting the right shots at the right times. "It is our job to teach them more about how to play than how to hit," he states.
The coaches encourage the team to fight hard and be competitive, but also aim to keep the guys healthy and develop a good camaraderie among the group. "This is important because they are competing with each other for the top playing spots," explains Robbins.
Robbins anticipates that hard work from the coaches and the team will improve weaknesses and make for a successful season. With a lot of preseason play, the Utes gained experience and built confidence in the fall. The combination of hard work and experience will show through when Utah takes the courts in January. Robbins is optimistic of the outcome of the season. "We have a good group of guys and a good solid team," he expresses.