Tennis is more than just a game for sophomore Sam Rundle – it’s a family tradition.
“My parents played tennis,” Rundle said. “They use to play at a quite competitive level. My brother, who is a couple years older than me, also played. They were the ones who raised me to play tennis.”
So Rundle, a native of Australia, was glad when his parents were on hand to witness some of his fall season success during the Penn Invitational.
“They have always helped with my [development] on the tennis court, so it was good for them to be there to see me play,” Rundle said. “It was the first time they have seen me play in America.”
Rundle and fellow sophomore Santiago Canete have been playing their most consistent tennis so far in their careers. During the fall season, both men have combined for a 16-5 record.
With just a semester of collegiate tennis experience, Rundle has worked his way to an 8-1 record.
“I started the season pretty well,” Rundle said. “Every time I step on the court I feel as though it’s a winnable match, and I guess it helps because I have had four or five wins in a row now.”
Rundle’s only loss came at the hands of Binghamton’s Thomas Caputo in the Princeton Invitational. Binghamton has been a consistent threat on the tennis court, winning six straight America East Conference Championships. Rundle, however, was not unraveled by the loss. He has not looked back, winning every match since.
Canete has played 12 matches, earning an 8-4 record so far. With the absence of one of the team’s top players, junior Kristian Marquart, the Penn Invitational proved to be one of the most defining moments for Canete this fall. He rose to the occasion when coach Steve Mauro moved him up in the lineup.
“Coach said, ‘You have to play at the first flight because Kristian is not going to play,’” Canete said. “That was Friday just before the match.”
Still, Canete said he was not mentally or physically affected by the abrupt change.
“I played with no pressure because I was playing No. 1 and it is normal to lose since, at No. 1, the players are usually seniors and a lot better,” Canete said.
After his loss in his first singles match against Buffalo, Canete, who is from Madrid, began defeating his opponents from Lehigh, Duquesne and a longtime foe who attends the University of Delaware.
“When I played against Lehigh I played really great and I had a lot of confidence,” Canete said. “I was really fast on the court, everything went well during that tournament. I beat No. 1s that are quite good, one is from Madrid. [Adam Lawton] plays for Delaware and he was always on top of me in Madrid. He was better than me and I beat him.”
“I was really impressed with Santiago,” Mauro said after that match. “Santiago played Delaware’s No. 1 player, who we have always had troubles with, but Santiago beat him pretty convincingly.”
A week later at the Lehigh Invitational, Canete quickly realized playing at a high level is a challenging feat to accomplish every match. He seemed to hit a wall and was unable to get past Delaware at the second flight.
“My last match wasn’t that good because I was tired,” Canete said. “We had a lot of practices and a lot of matches and not enough rest. The proof of that was the Lehigh tournament. I wasn’t even half the level I was the week before.”
Nevertheless, Canete said he is playing some of the best tennis of his career and hopes to continue to get better throughout the year.
“I need to keep working on my [conditioning] so I can be more fit and not get tired as easily,” Canete said. “Also continue to get more confident and win matches. You get confidence when you win.”
Canete and Rundle, along with the rest of the men’s tennis team, were selected to go head to head with some of the best tennis players in the region at the United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic Regional Championships at Virginia Tech from Oct. 17 to 22.
“Some of the best players in the country are going to be there, players who might be ranked 200 or 300 in the world,” Canete said. “It will be a good experience to play in that tournament. We will see the level we have to reach to be able to compete against those guys.”
Danielle Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Dan_Nels.