The Arkansas men’s tennis team has four freshmen on its 10-person roster, and all four are planning to excel and make an impact right away.
Josh Howard-Tripp, Alex Reco, Josh Bortnick and Jose Alonso are the new freshmen for the Hogs. Each player is from a different country and brings his own talents to the Razorbacks.
Senior Oscar Mesquida said the chemistry between the newcomers and the upperclassmen has been great so far. He said he has never gotten the opportunity to work with a group of underclassmen who displays the same level of tenacity.
Howard-Tripp made the longest journey to play for Arkansas. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is 9,012 miles away from Fayetteville. Despite the distance, Howard-Tripp said his experience playing in overseas tennis tournaments prepared him for the challenge.
“I feel like playing here is a really great atmosphere,” Howard-Tripp said. “I really enjoy it, and it is really awesome being a part of the team.”
Before coming to the Razorbacks, Howard-Tripp qualified for the Australian Open for juniors and also played on the 2015 South African Davis Cup team for juniors. He won the Curro Junior International Tennis Federation tournament in 2016.
Howard-Tripp has lost only one singles match and one doubles match in the spring slate of the tennis season. He is paired with Arkansas’ best singles player, senior Jose Salazar, to make up a dual-threat doubles team.
During the fall slate of the season, Howard-Tripp played in the Milwaukee Tennis Classic on Sept. 21-24. The freshman was one of two Razorbacks to advance to second day of the competition, and it was the first time during the season in which he showcased the talent he was capable of bringing to Fayetteville.
Howard-Tripp said his favorite thing about being a Razorback is the fans. The crowds’ energy during matches has been his most-enjoyable experience so far, he said.
Reco is from Nantes, France. He is a singles player who has shown real potential for the Razorbacks, coach Andy Jackson said.
Before coming to Arkansas, Reco played for Centre Educatif Nantais pour Sportifs, which translates to Nantes Educational Center for Athletes.
As a Razorback, Reco first showed his talents during the Southern Intercollegiate Championships. He lost his first match as a collegiate athlete to Mercer University sophomore Olivier Stuart but turned things around immediately by winning his next two matches against Stetson University freshman Antoine Sanchez and East Tennessee State University sophomore Juan Lugo. He bested Sanchez in two sets, 6-1, 7-5, and Lugo in three, 7-6, 6-7, 10-4.
Reco was also given the opportunity to go and play in the ITA Central Regional Championships, where he earned the opportunity to play three matches. In the first round, Reco dominated against St. Louis University freshman Kenji Yanaba, 6-0, 6-1, allowing him to advance to the next round. Reco’s next opponent was Minnesota freshman Jackson Allen who beat Reco in two sets, 6-3, 6-4, which kicked Reco out of the main bracket into the consolation bracket. His last matchup was against Minnesota sophomore Eli Ogilvy, who handed Reco his second loss in a 2-6, 6-4, 10-3 battle.
Reco has only played in one match during the spring slate. In the home opener against the No. 15 Oklahoma State Cowboys, in which he fought a difficult battle against senior Jurence Mendoza, resulting in a 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 1-0 (10-5) loss.
Bortnick is the only Razorback freshman who is from the United States. He is a native of Mission Hills, Kansas, and went to Pembroke High School.
While at Pembroke, Bortnick finished fourth in the St. Louis L3 tournament. Bortnick showed potential of becoming a threatening doubles player when he finished first at Super 3, a tournament in Oklahoma.
Alonso is a native of Málaga, Spain. His brother, Pedro Alonso, is a junior for the Razorback tennis team as well.
Before coming to Arkansas, Jorge Alonso was the No. 150 high school tennis player in Spain and was runner up in the under-18 grouping in Andalucia, Spain.
So far this season, Jorge Alonso has posted one of the Razorbacks’ better records for singles. His overall record for both slates is 7-5.
Razorback fans can see the four freshmen in action when the Hogs return to the court on Feb. 3 to take on the Wichita State Shockers.