No. 17 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State
SEASON AT A GLANCE
Oklahoma wraps up its regular season on Saturday with Bedlam, facing No. 5 Oklahoma State on Senior Day. The 17th-ranked Sooners enter the weekend with a 13-9 record in 2017, with the squad coming off a 4-2 win in Lubbock, Texas, over Texas Tech.
OU head coach Nick Crowell and his squad have battled hard in Big 12 play without injured senior Andrew Harris, falling to No. 4 Baylor and No. 7 Texas by the slimmest of margins, 4-3. When Harris is in the lineup, the Sooners are 8-2. Oklahoma has four wins over top-25 foes and have a mix of veterans - three seniors and a junior - and newcomers, with three freshman, in Crowell’s first year at the helm.
THIS YEAR’S SOONERS
Oklahoma boasts four players who have been a part of multiple national runner-up teams - seniors Florin Bragusi, Alex Ghilea and Andrew Harris and junior Spencer Papa. However, a trio of freshman provide a bright future in Norman, as Jochen Bertsch, Adrian Oetzbach and Arnaud Restifo have all been crucial for the Sooners. The group of freshmen have combined for 24 singles wins and 12 doubles wins. Junior walk-on Mason Bridegan has also provided depth in doubles, with a 3-3 dual match record.
SCOUTING OKLAHOMA STATE
The Cowboys are off to their best-ever start under fifth-year head coach Jay Udwadia with a 21-4 record and No. 5 ranking in Oracle/ITA’s national team rankings. Oklahoma State is 3-1 in Big 12 play, including wins over Baylor and Texas, and they’ve earned eight victories against top-25 opponents this season.
Seniors Arjun Kadhe and junior Julian Cash have been vital to the OSU program over the past three-plus years, as Cash is a two-time All-American and Kadhe is a three-time All-American. The duo make up the nation’s No. 4 doubles tandem, and Cash is the 23rd-ranked singles player in the nation.
BEDLAM IN 2016
The Sooners cruised past the Cowboys in Stillwater last year to close out their regular season in a clean 4-0 sweep. Both Harris and Ghilea tallied victories in singles coming at the No. 1 and No. 4 spots, respectively. Harris defeated then-No. 45 Julian Cash 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, to clinch the match following Ghilea’s straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, win against Tristan Meraut. Harris was responsible for another point in doubles, where he and teammate Axel Alvarez took care of the No. 6 ranked doubles duo of Cash and Kadhe, 6-4.
There have not been many more distinguished senior classes in OU men’s tennis history than this year’s, as Bragusi, Ghilea and Harris have been crucial components of Oklahoma’s back-to-back-to-back national runner-up squads. Ghilea and Harris are four-year starters, and have been in the lineup for all three of Oklahoma’s runs to the NCAA final. Bragusi first played in the 2015 season, and was in the singles lineup for both the 2015 and 2016 runner-up teams.
The three are not lacking in terms of career achievements. Ghilea racked up 36 singles wins in the 2014-15 campaign, the fourth-most in a season in OU history. The Neamt, Romania, native is also No. 7 in program history in career singles wins (92) and eighth in career singles win percentage (71.3%). He also has a career 49-34 doubles record.
Ghilea has been consistent on the court, with 11 or more dual play wins in each of his four seasons. Along with being All-Big 12 in 2015 and 2016, he is also a two-time Academic All-Big 12 member, showing his leadership in the classroom.
Harris has represented the Oklahoma program at the highest level on the court and in the classroom. The Melbourne, Australia, native is a three-time All-Big 12 member and was an ITA All-American in 2015 as a sophomore. Harris has been ranked as high as No. 5 in the country in singles, and was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and ITA Rookie Player of the Year in 2014 with a 20-5 singles record and 12-7 doubles record.
Harris currently sits at No. 7 in program history in singles win percentage (71.4%) with a career 60-24 mark. He is also a two-time Academic All-Big 12 member, and has seen plenty of success on the junior and professional tours. He won the Junior Wimbledon Championships and Roland Garros Junior Championships in 2012, and earned four wins over top 200 ITF singles players in the world in the summer of 2015.
The program welcomed a second Romanian, Bragusi, who joined Ghilea and Harris on the courts for the 2014-15 campaign. Immediately, Bragusi became relied upon in the most crucial and nailbiting moments of the 2015 spring season.
A Ramnicu Valceau, Romania, native, Bragusi snapped Ohio State’s 200-match home win streak in 2015 with a three set win at No. 6 singles, and that streak still stands as an NCAA all-sport record. He also clinched OU’s 2015 Big 12 title with a third-set win over Felipe Rios of Baylor as the dual was tied 3-3. Bragusi is 9-2 all-time in postseason singles action, and holds a career singles record of 48-21, the 11th-best winning percentage in program history.
RALLYING FROM BEHIND
Although Crowell’s squad has captured the doubles point just nine times this campaign, OU has bounced back from losing the doubles point to win the match five times this season. The most recent came at Texas Tech, where the Sooners dropped only one singles match against the Red Raiders to win the match 4-2. The Sooners also showed their fight in Waco, Texas, against Baylor, nearly coming back from a 3-1 hole.
SOONERS IN THE RANKS
Oklahoma is up to three top-50 singles players - No. 18 Papa, No. 40 Harris and No. 41 Ghilea. That number is tied for best in the country. Papa, an Edmond, Okla., native has been spectacular at No. 1 singles in the absence of Harris, going 7-5 at line one with two wins over top-10 singles players, Eduardo Perez of Florida and Juan Benitez of Baylor. Ghilea has skied up the ranks this year, as he began the season unranked. He is 15-3 in singles action, and Bragusi, ranked No. 99, is 13-5.
NEWCOMERS ADDING DEPTH
Four of the eight Oklahoma players had no collegiate playing experience coming into 2017, but they all have been contributors. Bertsch, Oetzbach, Restifo and Bridegan entered the season with zero combined collegiate wins, but they’re up to a total of 24 in singles and 15 in doubles.
Bertsch has been a force in the middle and back end of the singles lineup with his 12-6 record. Oetzbach has found his game recently, winning back-to-back matches in crucial moments for OU at the No. 6 spot in earning his sixthand seventh singles victories of the season. Oetzbach, a Velbert, Germany, product notched his first career win over a ranked opponent when he took care of No. 109 Johannes Ingildsen of Florida in the Sooners’ 4-3 win over the No. 7 Gators. Restifo earned his way into the lineup in February, and has continued to improve, now playing at the No. 5 slot with five wins in 2017.