NORMAN – Oklahoma men’s tennis continues its California trip on Friday, as the 9th-ranked Sooners will face Tulsa in the opening round of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge presented by Oracle in Indian Wells, Calif., at 7 p.m. CT.
This year’s tournament features eight teams, four of which are ranked in the top 13 in the nation by Oracle/ITA – Baylor, USC, OU and Cal. Seven of the eight are ranked in the nation’s group of top 50 teams.
The Sooners, seeded No. 2 in the field, will be facing the No. 7-seed Golden Hurricane for the second time this season. OU earned a win over Tulsa on Feb. 24 at the Headington Family Tennis Center, 7-0. That matchup featured four three-set wins in singles for Oklahoma, including junior Spencer Papa’s win over No. 25 Or Ram-Harel, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8).
Playing in Indian Wells has become an annual event for Oklahoma tennis, as the program has appeared there in March for three consecutive years. In 2015 OU went 3-0 at what was then the Oracle Challenge. In the 2016 BNP Paribas Open, the Sooners went 1-1, with the win coming over this year’s No. 1 seed, Cal.
Entering the tournament at 11-4 on the season, Oklahoma has three players currently at 10-2 in singles – freshman Jochen Bertsch and seniors Florin Bragusi and Alex Ghilea. Additionally, Papa, an Edmond, Okla., native has stepped up in a big way in the absence of senior Andrew Harris to injury, going 5-2 at the No. 1 singles spot.
Spencer Papa (left) and Jochen Bertsch (right) get some coaching during a doubles match from assistant coach Nate Feldman.
Ranked in the top 120 of the Oracle/ITA singles rankings are Papa (No. 21), Harris (No. 36), Bragusi (No. 77) and Ghilea (No. 101). Additionally, Oklahoma features four ranked doubles tandems.
Head coach Nick Crowell and his team are coming off of Tuesday’s win in Malibu, Calif., over Pepperdine, 4-3. The Sooners dropped the doubles point against the Waves, but stormed back in singles. Bragusi clinched the win for his team on court three when he came back to win over Pedro Iamachkine 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, continuing his career expertise of coming up big in clutch moments.
The Golden Hurricane, led by head coach Vince Westbrook who is in his 25th year at the helm of TU tennis, enter the contest ranked 45th in the nation with a 10-8 record. Tulsa already has a 4-3 win over then-No. 4 Texas on their resume, and the team has rebounded since the Oklahoma loss, winning six of their past seven matches.
Tulsa boasts one ranked singles player, Or Ram-Harel at No. 27, and the 43rd-ranked doubles tandem in Ram-Harel and Majed Kilani.
Following the three-day event, the Sooners will be back in Norman to begin Big 12 play, as the Red River Rivalry is set for Friday, March 31 at 6 p.m. CT versus the eighth- ranked Longhorns. OU will also be in action on Sunday, April 2 at the Headington Family Tennis Center versus TCU.
As always for home regular season matches, admission will be free for all fans.
For more information on Oklahoma men’s tennis, follow the team on Twitter @OU_MTennis. Daily results at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open can be found here, along with live streams on courts seven and eight here.