Scarlet and Gray to serve up first matches in 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio The three-time defending Big Ten champion and No. 1 preseason-ranked Ohio State men’s tennis team will begin the New Year as host of the 2009 Ohio State Invitational Friday-Sunday at The Ohio State University Varsity Indoor Tennis Center.

The individual tournament will feature student-athletes from Denver, Minnesota and Ohio State. The first day of round robin competition will begin at noon Friday while both Saturday and Sunday are slated to start at 9 a.m.

After finishing the 2007-08 season, the Buckeyes looked ahead to the fall schedule and it turned out to be one of the most successful times in Ohio State men’s tennis history. Head Coach Ty Tucker, who is entering his tenth season, guided members of his squad through an autumn season to remember as multiple Buckeyes took home significant hardware against some of the top collegiate talent in the nation.

Bryan Koniecko took the crown at the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor singles championship Nov. 9 at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va. Koniecko also claimed the 2008 Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional singles crown Oct. 20 in Columbus. The Long Island, N.Y., native faced teammate Justin Kronauge in the finals of both championships.

In the national indoor championships, Koniecko defeated Kronauge 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to become the Buckeyes’ first ITA indoors singles champion since 2003. The Buckeye teammates added themselves to the record books as it was the only the second time in the history of the ITA indoor championships teammates faced each other in the singles final.

The Buckeyes combined an overall singles record of 47-20 and a 23-13 singles record against nationally ranked opponents.

Ohio State was named the ITA NCAA Division I preseason No. 1-ranking Tuesday as the Buckeyes enter the 2009 spring season. The top ranking is the first in Buckeye program history and the men’s tennis team becomes the first Ohio State team to earn a preseason No. 1-ranking since football in 2006.

Ohio State is the only program in the nation to have three players ranked in the Top 6 of the ITA preseason poll, including two in the Top 3. Senior Bryan Koniecko holds the nation’s top ranking entering the 2009 spring season while classmate Steven Moneke sits at third. Justin Kronauge begins his junior campaign, holding the No. 6 ranking.

Koniecko becomes the first Buckeye in the top singles seed since current assistant coach Jeremy Wurtzman in 2004. This ranking comes after Koniecko took the crown at both the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships and the Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional with teammate Kronauge receiving runner-up awards in both.

Buckeyes Balazs Novak and Shuhei Uzawa made the preseason rankings at Nos. 38 and 78, respectively.

In doubles, three Scarlet and Gray pairs rank in the Top 45 nationally, with Moneke and Novak leading the Buckeyes at No. 11. Ohio State also has the duo of Koniecko and Kronauge ranked at No. 31 while Mike O’Connell and Novak sit at No. 41.

The Buckeyes have won a school-record 73-consecutive home matches dating back to the 2002-03 season. No other Big Ten team in any sport has won as many games in a row at home than the Buckeyes.

Bryan Koniecko has won ten-consecutive singles matches and posts an 11-1 overall singles record. Koniecko is 6-1 against nationally ranked opponents including four-consecutive wins in the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor singles championships against opponents in the Top 32 of the ITA pre-season polls. On his quest to the indoor singles crown, Koniecko defeated No. 1 Oleksandr Nedovyesor of Oklahoma State 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Steven Moneke ranks in the Top 5 of several program lists. He is second in season doubles wins (36-2008), tied for second in single-season single victories (42-2007) and is fifth in career singles wins with 110.

In 2008-09, Moneke has a 9-3 overall singles record and is 6-3 against nationally ranked opponents this season. Moneke defeated two Top 10 opponents at the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor singles championships including No. 10 J.P. Smith of Tennesee in the first round 7-5, 6-2 and No. 2 Denes Lukacs in the round of 16, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

Moneke highlighted the 2008 D’Novo All-American Championships Oct. 11 in Tulsa, Okla., for the Scarlet and Gray by advancing to the quarterfinals after winning three-consecutive matches in the singles main draw.

At the 2008 ITA Intercollegiate National Indoors singles championships, No. 8 Justin Kronauge defeated three opponents in the Top 15 of the ITA pre-season singles polls. Kronauge defeated No. 15 Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine and No. 14 Bruno Rosa of Rice in the first and second rounds, respectively. Kronauge went on to upset No. 6 Arnau Brugues of Tulsa 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the final round of the tournament.

Matt Allare, Balazs Novak and Shuhei Uzawa have a combined overall singles record of 16-6 this season. In doubles, Allare holds a 6-2 overall record this season and advanced to the semifinals with teammate Justin Kronauge at the 2008 Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional championships.

Novak, a native of Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, has compiled a 7-3 overall singles record this season. During the All-American championships, Novak took down No. 1 seed and No. 46 Olivier Sajous of Texas in two sets 6-1, 6-2.

Uzawa, a native of Chiba, Japan, won six-consecutive matches in the pre-qualifier and qualifier rounds of the 2008 D’Novo All-American Championships to earn a spot in the singles main draw of the tournament.

The Buckeyes kick off the dual season Jan. 21 vs. Butler and Xavier in Columbus at The Ohio State University Varsity Indoor Tennis Center.