In 2011, Idaho named its first ever ITA Mountain Region doubles champion pairing. After repeating this in 2012, the Vandals are vying for their third-straight doubles championship Wednesday at the ITA Regional Championships in Las Vegas, Nev. The five-day tournament concludes Sunday.
“It’s a tough tournament. The draw is full of 128 of the best players from this part of the country,” Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. “You go in and you’re going to play several good people and it’s also a pretty grueling event. But I think we have some guys that definitely have a shot.”
Andrew Dobbs and Marius Cirstea were the first Idaho duo to claim the doubles championship when they beat the No. 1 doubles team in the region, Phil Anderson and Jadon Phillips of New Mexico in 2011. Cirstea returned to team up with Abid Akbar in 2012 and beat UNLV’s Ace Matias and Bernard Schoeman to repeat as champions.
Idaho has continued its doubles success in 2013. Most recently, Idaho made it an all-Vandal doubles final on Oct. 4-6 at the Dar Walters Tennis Classic in Boise. Senior Jose Bendeck and junior Cristobal Ramos Salazar made it to the final along with senior Artemiy Nikitin and sophomore Odon Barta. Since it was an all-Idaho championship and the Vandals had already battled each other in the singles championship, the match was not played.
“In doubles, it’s been something that’s been a strong point in our program the past three years,” Beaman said. “We have three teams that are entered. All three teams have a shot to potentially win it but I don’t want just focus on doubles where we’ve been successful in the past. If any of our guys get hot, they could also compete for the singles.”
Bendeck offers Idaho’s best chance at a singles championship in Las Vegas. Bendeck, Idaho’s team captain, was named the WAC men’s Tennis Athlete of the Month for September after going 5-1 in singles and 4-1 in doubles. He continued his success in October with a win in the Blue Draw singles at the Dar Walter Classic beating his doubles partner, Ramos Salazar in the final.
“He’s progressed. He’s a senior and he’s definitely made progress with his game, his mental approach, his fitness, over his time here,” Beaman said of Bendeck. “He’s really peaked coming into this fall so it will be exciting to see what he can do in regionals.”
The winners of the ITA Mountain Regional Championship go on to compete in November at the ITA National Indoor Championships in New York.
“Our goal is to win it and get a bid to national indoors,” Beaman said. “Just try to carry on sending people to nationals, everybody can’t win it, but get as many deep in the tournament to give us our best chance as possible.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org