The Fresno State men’s tennis team opened its first home tournament of the young season this past weekend during the Bulldog Classic.
The Bulldog Classic marked the second tournament of the fall season and started the squad’s journey back to the NCAA Tournament – where the Bulldogs’ 2010-11 run ended against the then-No. 15 California Golden Bears.
Head coach Jay Udwadia is in his seventh season and has a couple seniors returning for their final seasons in a Bulldog uniform. The Bulldogs’ senior trio consists of Remi Boutillier, David Ayoun and Jean-Charles Diame. All three are from foreign countries.
“Three seniors and they’re all from France,” Udwadia said. “So we’re losing the French connection here. Leading the pack is Remi Boutillier, who has been really solid for us the last four years. He’s currently ranked 47th in the country. Then, we have David Ayoun who has been instrumental in making Sweet 16’s for us and winning WAC championships. And then we have Jean-Charles Diame, who was a transfer student last year and he helped us win the WAC.”
The seniors have already made a difference on the court with Ayoun having a strong showing in the Bulldog Classic. Ayoun advanced to the final slot before losing to the top-ranked player in tournament. In the Baylor Invitational, Fresno State’s season-opening tournament, Boutillier got the first Fresno State win of 2011-12. Boutillier also advanced in doubles play, teaming up with sophomore Nick Papac to win their first match against a familiar Western Athletic Conference opponent in New Mexico State.
Boutillier advanced to the round of 16 at the Baylor Invitational to play against Oklahoma, but lost in a close match, 6-4, 7-6. The France native already started off strong after being named first team All-WAC in singles and doubles last year. He also earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Boutillier recognized his early Bulldog days as a resource for improving the newcomers.
“I’m just trying to help the team a little more than I would do if was just a freshman or sophomore,” Boutillier said. “We got four new guys coming in this year so I’m just trying to help them out.”
Although the seniors are making their presences felt, the ‘Dogs have some newcomers to carry the torch after they graduate. The newcomers include freshman Sai Kartik Nakireddi, junior Zachary Leslie, freshman Reid deLaubenfels and sophomore Jeremy Quiroz.
Nakireddi is from India and earned a ranking as high as No. 67 in the 2011 ITF World Junior Rankings. Leslie is a transfer from Wake Forest, playing for the Demon Decons for the first two seasons of his collegiate career. The transfer was ranked in the top 10 as a United States Junior.
Nakireddi and Leslie shared the court as doubles partners. The pair made it to the finals, but lost to a doubles team from Oregon.
DeLaubenfels is a top-ranked freshman on the team and was the No. 105-rated tennis prospect in high school. Quiroz is a transfer from Niagara University, but he is familiar with the San Joaquin Valley being from Bakersfield, Calif. For Leslie, this was his first match as a Bulldog and he talked about what it means to be at Fresno State.
“I went to college in North Carolina and it was a culture shock because I’m from San Diego,” Leslie said after last Tuesday’s practice. “I didn’t necessarily improve the way I wanted to. The coach was gone after last year so I felt like I needed a change. It feels good to be back in California. I think the program is very well run. Jay is strict, but I like that because I like to work hard.”