Men’s Tennis Ends Competition in Denver


By Leif Thulin

The University of Utah men’s tennis team aspires to follow their impressive and encouraging season from a year ago. Coach Roeland Brateanu’s Utes squad, who heavily relied on veterans last year, lost senior leaders including singles superstar Dan Little, as well as David Micevski and Joe Woolley.

This year Brateanu brought in a great recruiting class to fill in for their lost seniors. The class is headlined by Rafael Grovas from San German, Puerto Rico. Along with Grovas, Rian Ta is the other freshman on the team. Ta is from Fremont, California.

Grovas was the No. 1-ranked junior in Puerto Rico, has been ranked highly in the ITF Junior World Rankings and has represented Puerto Rico in the Davis Cup twice. Ta was a four star recruit at time of commitment to Utah, ranked as high as No. 2 in Northern California in doubles play and he has participated in multiple USTA events. These two freshmen look to help this talented team led by Slava Shainyan reach new heights.   

This week the Utes traveled to Denver, Colorado for ITA regionals. The Utes competed with the likes of BYU, Montana State, Nevada, UNLV, Idaho State, Air Force and University of Montana.

Day one, senior Azat Hankuliyev and junior Russell Benkaim earned wins for the Utes. Hankuliyev had a great day winning two matches, the first by the score of 6-2, 6-4 against Montana State and the second by the score of 6-1, 6-3 against UNLV. Benkaim was ranked 8th and thus received a bye into the second round where he emerged as victorious with the score of 7-5, 6-4 over Nevada.

The remaining matches from day one played by the Utes were all close losses as the freshmen were rudely welcomed to college tennis. Ta fell in a close match 5-7, 4-6 against BYU, Grovas fell 1-6, 0-6 against New Mexico. The tandem of freshmen fell in doubles against Montana 4-8. Sophomores Paul McCallie and Mathias Gavelin battled talented opponents, McCallie falling to a hometown hero, Sam Tullis of BYU 5-7, 0-6. Gavelin fell in three sets to Air Force by the score of 4-6, 7-5, 2-6. Lastly, the duo of Benkaim and McCallie fell in a tightly contested match 5-8. 

On day two, the seeded Utes took care of business. The 16th-Seeded Gavelin/Hankuliyev defeated Air Force 8-5, and Benkaim defeated BYU’s Ben Gajardo 6-4, 7-5. 

 In the consolation draw, Ta and Grovas both fell again, Ta losing 2-6, 3-6 and Grovas 2-6, 4-6.  On the plus side, the sophomores McCallie and Gavelin both advanced, McCallie winning 6-2, 2-6, 10-4, and Gavelin cruising 6-1, 6-0. McCallie backed up his performance in the next round winning 7-6, 7-5. Gavelin, however, fell 7-6, 6-4, 2-10. 

Day three was highlighted by Benkaim’s run to the semifinals. Benkaim won his round 16 match easily by the score of 6-1, 6-4, and then came back to earn his semi-final birth in convincing fashion after dropping the first set; 3-6, 6-1, 6-0. McCallie fell in the consolation round of 16 by the score of 1-6, 4-6. In doubles, the duo of Gavelin and Hankuliyev 7-8 in a very tough match.

Day four proved to be the last for the Utes as Benkaim, fell in the semifinals to BYU’s Mateo Vereau, the twelfth seed by the score of 1-6, 3-6. 

The Utes will next be in action at the Loyola Marymount University Invitational, beginning on Nov. 8. 


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