After a span of early exits, members of BYU men’s tennis team advanced to higher rounds of the main draw in the All-American Championships than they have in nine years.
Georgy Batrakov, a senior from Yaroslavl, Russia, finished his run in the All-American Championships this past weekend, falling to Alexis Klegou from Texas A&M (7-5, 4-6, 4-6). Despite failing to advance to the final 8, Batrakov reached a round no BYU player has advanced to since 2002.
“It was pretty cool for me to come to this kind of tournament and do my best and play with all the best players in college,” Batrakov said in a news release. “I’m playing for BYU so I’m playing my best. I want to win.”
At the beginning of the tournament, five members of the BYU men’s tennis team appeared in various rounds — two in the pre-qualifier, two in the qualifier and one in the main draw.
Francis Sargeant, a freshman from the United Kingdom, was the first team member to fall in the first round of the pre-qualifying round. Even though he exited the tournament early on, he said he felt it was a great experience to compete.
“I have only been in the United States for five weeks,” Sargeant said. “Back home I didn’t travel or play in a lot of big tournaments. I didn’t know what the standard was going to be like until now.”
Keaton Cullimore became the next player to fall after progressing through the first two rounds of the pre-qualifier. However, he did not fall because of losing, but rather he withdrew from the third round because of BYU’s “no Sunday play” rule. To accommodate, BYU officials from the tournament put Cullimore in a wild card draw for advancing in the tournament, but unfortunately he did not get the draw.
Following the pre-qualifying bracket, BYU went on a winning streak, winning its next five matches in the qualifying round, until junior Spencer Smith dropped his third match to Guillermo Alcorta of Oklahoma (6-4, 6-3).
With Spencer out, two Cougars remained to represent the team in the main draw. In order to qualify for the main draw, Batrakov defeated Chris Thiemann of Mississippi (7-5, 1-6, 7-5) and joined teammate sophomore Patrick Kawka. Though Kawka began in the main draw, he progressed no further than the first round, losing to Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech (6-0, 2-6, 6-2).
Batrakov’s energy level was put to the test having the majority of his matches go to three sets. The most trying came in the second round of the main draw against Kevin King of Georgia Tech. Batrakov won the first set 6-3 but dropped the second 7-6. Several times during the second set, he had the chance to put it away, but King battled back. In the end, the senior’s stamina came out on top claiming the third set 6-4.
“My most satisfying moment as a coach in watching Georgy came when he played King,” assistant coach Zach Warren said. “It showed the resolve he had and he persevered throughout the entire match. This tournament shows our team we can compete against the best players in the country. It was exciting.”