Jan. 18, 2008
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue's men's tennis team begins the spring portion of its 2007-08 season Saturday with day one of the Boilermaker Invitational. This year's field includes No. 41 Minnesota, No. 52 Drake and No. 59 Western Michigan in addition to the host Boilermakers.
The three-day format allows players to compete alongside teammates without feeling the pressure of keeping a team score. Purdue head coach Tim Madden said the invitational should help everyone prepare for the upcoming dual-match season.
"This is a great way for us to start the spring season, and having three nationally ranked opponents here should make this a very competitive tournament," said Madden, who is in the midst of his 14th season at Purdue. "We'll use the results from this weekend, combined with what we do at practice, to assess our team strengths and the confidence level of each postition."
Madden's roster is young but they're coming into this weekend with a clean bill of health. P.J. Rose, who missed most of last spring, will be playing both singles and doubles, as will Kelubia Mabatah, who hasn't played a spring session since 2006.
The Boilermakers' best players appear to be Serbian sophomores Slavko Bijelica and Branko Kuzmanovic. Bijelica recently joined the team following semester break and is a friend of Kuzmanovic's from their days playing junior tennis.
Prior to his arrival at Purdue, Bijelica played one season at UNLV, compiling a 13-7 singles record and a 9-12 mark in doubles. Biljelica began his collegiate singles career playing at No. 6, but was the Running Rebels' No. 2 selection by the time they entered postseason.
Bijelica is expected to play near the top of Purdue's lineup in both singles and doubles.
"Slavko has succeeded at a high level and demonstrated great confidence in his abilities on the singles and doubles courts," said Madden. "When you bring in a player of his caliber, it allows others to play with as much confidence at their own position."
Kuzmanovic, who led the Boilermakers at the No. 1 position for most of last season as a true freshman, will again start this year at the top spot. Madden said he has seen his second-year star develop into a much better player and overall athlete during the past year.
Kuzmanovic finished the 2007 fall season at 6-3, with two of those losses coming in three sets to nationally ranked competitors Steven Moeneke of Ohio State and Matko Maravic of Michigan. With P.J. Rose, Kuzmanovic went 4-1 in doubles.
Following its 2 p.m. match vs. Minnesota Saturday, the men's tennis team will play host to a free youth skills clinic.
The clinic is open to boys and girls of all skill levels ages 13 and under and is expected to last an hour. Participants are asked to bring their own racket and wear tennis shoes. A limited amount of rackets will be available upon request.
Purdue head coach Tim Madden and Schwartz Tennis Center Director Joe Braden will organize the events with the Purdue men's tennis student-athletes instructing on court.
Advance registration is recommended, but not required, and can be done by emailing child's name and age to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Schwartz Tennis Center at (765) 494-3600.
All Purdue varsity tennis matches are free and open to the public. The Schwartz Tennis Center is located west of campus on McCormick Road near the intersection of McCormick and Cherry Lane.
The Boilermaker Invitational runs from Jan. 19 to 21 with session start times of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Boilermaker Invitational Schedule
Saturday - Drake vs. Western Michigan (9 a.m.) and Purdue vs. Minnesota (2 p.m.)
Sunday - Minnesota vs. Western Michigan (9 a.m.) and Purdue vs. Drake (2 p.m.)
Monday - Minnesota vs. Drake (9 a.m.) and Purdue vs. Western Michigan (2 p.m.)