The Longhorns in action at the Texas Tennis Center in this file photo. [RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Tennis

Notre Dame scores an upset as Texas (finally) debuts its new tennis center

Bad weather had forced the Longhorns to move previous matches elsewhere.

Posted January 27th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • The Texas Tennis Center replaces the 28-year-old Penick-Allison facility.
  • The center seats 1,200 fans and has locker rooms, lounges, a cold tub and a weight room.
  • Texas did not lose a point in its three relocated matches, but Notre Dame spoiled that run.

Over the first two weeks of the men’s tennis season, the strength of Texas’ schedule varied.

UT-San Antonio? Texas swept its season-opening opponent.

A&M-Corpus Christi and SMU? UT sustained a spotless slate.

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Mother Nature and Notre Dame? Now, those were fickle and formidable foes.

Weather delayed the start of Texas’ match against Notre Dame by more than two hours Saturday, and the Longhorns then fell victim to a 4-3 result. It was the first match completed at the Texas Tennis Center, UT’s new outdoor facility.

Texas expected to host its housewarming parties last weekend. However, the men had three matches moved indoors to the Weller Tennis Center because of weather. The UT women also moved matches against UT Rio Grande Valley and Texas State. (Texas still held a grand opening ceremony last Sunday).

“Facility’s great, and we’re happy to be in here,” said Texas men’s coach Michael Center, whose team was eliminated from contending for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. “We want to play good tennis; (that’s) the most important thing.”

The Longhorns partially christened their crib last week as Texas and UTSA played about 10 minutes of doubles before the weekend’s plans were altered. So sophomore Christian Sigsgaard technically received the honor of recording the first serve and point at UT’s new digs.

The 12-court facility — just off Interstate 35 by UFCU Disch-Falk Field and McCombs Field — gives UT a home for the first time in more than three years. Texas razed the Penick-Allison Tennis Center after the 2014 season to clear room for the UT Dell Medical School. The Longhorns had played at Penick-Allison for 28 years.

While homeless, Texas trained at the Whitaker Courts off 51st Street. In addition to Whitaker and Weller, UT had matches at the Caswell Tennis Center and the Westwood Country Club. The Longhorns even played some home matches at the Polo Tennis Club, which is just outside of Dripping Springs.

“For the fans, it’s pretty hard to move around and let them know where we’re playing,” Texas sophomore Yuya Ito said.  “It was kind of tough in a way, but we got here.”

Designed by Chambers and constructed by SpawGlass Contractors, the Texas Tennis Center sits on land once occupied by a UT printing operation. Construction began in 2016. A school official put the final price tag at around $20 million.

In addition to a tennis center that seats 1,200 fans, the Longhorns will enjoy locker rooms and lounges for both the players and the coaches. The facility has a cold tub, a study area and a weight room that the softball team will also use.

“Personally, I love it. We have everything,” junior Rodrigo Banzer said. “We’re so lucky to be in this program. We don’t want anything else. This is perfect.”

Texas tennis player Yuya Ito warms up before a match against UTSA on Jan. 19.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texas did not lose a point in its three relocated matches, but Notre Dame spoiled that run of perfection in UT’s true home opener. Ito led the eighth-ranked Longhorns (3-1) with a 6-1, 6-0 rout of Notre Dame’s Matt Gamble. Banzer also earned a straight-set conquest, and Texas picked up the doubles point.

Notre Dame, however, won four of the six singles matches. Alex Lebedev, the Fighting Irish’s only ranked competitor, closed out the win with a 7-6, 1-6, 7-6 upset of Leonardo Telles.

The Texas men will be back on the courts to play Tennessee on Sunday. The UT women will host their first match at the Texas Tennis Center on Feb. 16.

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