It was an action packed weekend, as six Temple men took to the tennis court at the Princeton/Farnsworth Invitational to compete against players from 13 other universities. In singles play, the Owls activated five players for competition but all six players competed in doubles action.
Sophomore Hicham Belkssir, who was the lone Temple player to advance to Sunday’s title match, emerged victorious in the Jersey draw flight final against Princeton’s Josh Yablon, as he retired in the first set to a score of 3-2 due to injury.
“[Yablon] looked like he was fine but apparently he had an operation over the summer,” coach Steve Mauro said. “He was playing well throughout the tournament. I just think he was kinda tired of playing my player. It was his fourth match and I guess he wanted to rest his arm, I am not quite sure. I think that even if they had completed the match, I am confident that my player would have won.”
Belkssir was unbeaten throughout the tournament as he held his opponents to under four points in each set. In the first round of the Jersey flight, he won his match against Yale’s James Ratchford with a score of 6-2, 6-3. On Saturday, he went on to defeat Max Novak of Georgetown in a 6-2, 6-3 win and later defeated New York Institute of Technology’s Julio Marco in a 6-3, 6-1 decision to advance and win Sunday’s title match against Yablon.
“I think Hicham had one of the best performances he has had in a tournament since he has been at Temple,” Mauro said. “He has been playing really well this year, more consistent than last year. So we are real happy with the way he is playing now.”
Sophomore Santiago Canete was also victorious in the first round of the Nassau singles on Friday against Georgetown’s Casey Distaso after a rough start in a 1-6, 6-4, 1-0 (11) final. Canete fell short in a tough match Saturday morning as Binghamton’s Ismael Dinia hung on, 5-6 (2), 5-6 (3) in the consolation semifinals.
Junior, Hernan Vasconez was the only other player to win in singles play, as he defeated Princeton’s Florin Radu 6-5 (4), 6-3 in the semifinal round of the Cordin consolation bracket. Vasconez’s run ended when he was defeated by Georgetown’s Jack Murphy, which ended his hopes for a shot at the consolation title after a 4-6, 4-6 loss.
On Friday, junior Kristian Marquart suffered a tough loss in singles play, after a three hour match against Penn’s Jeremy Court in a 5-7, 2-6, 5-5 tiebreaker.
“Kristian Marquart had a very good first round match,” Mauro said. “Santiago Canete played pretty solid this tournament, aside from his first [set] he played pretty well.”
In doubles action, Temple did not fair well as all three doubles team lost on the first day of competition.
“Overall, I didn’t think we did that well in doubles,” Mauro said. “We struggled a little bit. In singles, even though we lost some matches, a lot of the matches were very close.”
After two tournaments, Mauro believes the men have made significant improvements compared to last season but certainly is not satisfied.
“So far we are off to a good start,” Mauro said. “The guys have been working hard. Compared to last year, we are playing at a higher level. I know we can get better. We need to get better to compete in our conference.”
In order to continue to improve, the team will be playing challenge matches against one another this week as they await their next competition at the UPenn Invitational starting Sept. 27.