The Razorback men’s tennis team looks to bounce back this year after losing last year's most prominent singles player and doubles partners.
“It was a big thrill to be able to watch him do it. To win a national championship in any sport is a big achievement and we’re very proud of him,” coach Andy Jackson said when asked about Mike Redlicki. “I was very proud of him, and it was really good for the Razorback program.”
Although the Razorbacks had the singles ITA/USTA National Indoor Champion on their team, they only went 6-6 in conference play and finished the season with a 16-13 record. They also had an NCAA tournament appearance and ended up losing in the first round to the ACC No. 6-seed Florida State. Jackson said that while the championship win was very exciting for him, he felt that the team already had validation as a top-tier program.
“I think that (being top 20 last year and having a good year before) just showed that we’re making progress, but I mean, I don’t really think we needed to be validated or at least that would be my opinion, but it was a huge accomplishment for him individually,” Jackson said. “For us, the validation would be (to) win the SEC as a team.”
“We got six new guys and replacing two leaders like Jose Salazar and Michael Redlicki is obviously gonna be difficult, both guys were top 20 in the nation for most of the year,” Jackson said. “But that’s also college sports…Every year is different, every team is different.”
At the end of the 2016 season, Jose Salazar and Mike Redlicki both were named All-Americans by the NCAA as a tandem. Redlicki also received All-American honors as a singles player. Both players were also named to the All-SEC first team.
The Razorbacks are on the lookout for their new leaders, but Jackson said that he is not sure who the leaders will be yet.
Jackson said the team is just getting started on the year, and there is almost always someone who emerges from the group to lead and that he is looking forward to finding out who that is.
The Razorbacks, although adding new talent, are returning four players in senior Jacob Herndon and juniors Oscar Mesquida, Branch Terrel and Adam Sanjurjo. Jackson said he is prepared for these guys to come and make their marks on the court and for one or more of them to come up and lead his team.
The schedule for the Razorback season has not been confirmed yet, but Jackson and his team are ready to compete, he said.
“I’m really excited about this season because, even though every season is new, you also have cycles and this is sort of my second cycle at Arkansas,” Jackson said. “But the core (of the team) is completely different, so I’m very excited because it’s new and that energizes old coaches like me to have new projects and challenges, and I think we are going to have a very good team.”