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Tennis Insider: TCU jumps into national spotlight

When TCU men’s tennis coach David Roditi arrived back on campus where he had starred as a player, he saw no reason tennis couldn’t become a national power as football and baseball were.

In his fifth year, Roditi appears to have the program well on its way after the Frogs qualified four players in three events for the biggest collegiate tournament of the fall season — the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships this weekend at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Leading the Frogs in New York will be the No. 5-ranked doubles team of Nick Chappell of Indianapolis and Will Stein of Argyle. The senior duo will be joined by talented freshmen Trevor Johnson of Las Vegas and Cameron Norrie of Great Britain.

Norrie came to TCU after an impressive junior career that included traveling the world and playing all four Grand Slam junior events. The tall lefty has also played at the pro level in Futures and Challenger events.

He lost to eventual champion and fellow Brit Liam Broady in the quarterfinals of the Futures of Mansfield two weeks ago, then headed to College Station to compete in the Texas Regional, where he defeated No. 5-ranked Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas to win the title.

Norrie also joined Johnson at the regional to defeat Baylor’s Tony Lupieri and Felipe Rios to claim the doubles title. Both victories came with spots in the National Indoor tournament.

Norrie is the first TCU player to win the Texas Regional singles title since Esteban Carril in 2000, and he and Johnson are only the second all-freshman doubles team from any school to capture the regional crown.

Norrie and Johnson are the first TCU doubles team to win the regional title since Rafael Abreu and Fabrizio Sestini defeated Benjamin Becker and Ivor Lovrak of Baylor 8-5 in 2003.

The four will be the first TCU players to compete in the national indoor championships since 2004,

Chappell and Stein, who just missed earning All-America honors last spring, earned their spot in New York by winning the consolation championship at the Saint Francis Health System/ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla.

“It’s exciting for Nick and Will,” Roditi said. “They’ve been waiting. They’ve been close to qualifying for New York. Last year, they got to the semifinals of the All-American.”

Chappell and Stein won the consolation final in Tulsa 6-1, 6-3 over No. 2-ranked Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski of Illinois. It was the third time Chappell and Stein have beaten a top-five-ranked opponent. The pair improved to 15-6 against nationally ranked opponents in their careers.

Roditi said he hasn’t been surprised by the early success, but he has been pleased.

“We knew we had some experienced guys on the team, some seniors at the top of our lineup,” Roditi said. “Nothing would surprise me coming from that group. Then we also knew we had a very good recruiting class.

“With that being said, it’s not easy to make it to New York, it is the hardest tournament to qualify for. For us to be in three events is great.”

The mix of talented young players and veterans is especially exciting for Roditi.

“Any coach is always looking to have that combination where you have experienced, good players with some of the fresh attitude, open mind and talent of younger players that the seniors can help mentor and lead,” he said. “That’s what we are expecting.”

Alumni Championships

TCU’s Bayard H. Friedman Tennis Center will host the first National Alumni Championships on Nov. 15-16. The tournament will feature teams representing top colleges that will have former players 30-and-over competing for the title.

The tournament is the brainchild of North Carolina-Asheville coach Tom Hand, a former LSU standout from Great Britain. Hand said that while most of the players aren’t household names to most fans, the majority are former All-Americans who have played professionally.

“It should be a fun event and some pretty good tennis,” Hand said. “It came to me one morning. I thought it would be fun to have the former players come back and put on the old uniforms and play for their schools. I couldn’t believe a tournament like this didn’t already exist. We’re hoping to have a good response and begin to grow the tournament year after year.”

In addition to TCU, teams from LSU, Georgia, Texas and Baylor are expected to be among the entries. TCU’s team will hold fan clinics Saturday.

Pro update

Aledo’s Mitchell Krueger and partner Jarmere Jenkins won the doubles title at the Futures event in Toowoomba, Australia, last month, and then reached the finals of the ATP Challenger event in Traralgon, Australia, earlier this week. Krueger has climbed to a career-high doubles ranking of No. 246.