Mean Green Tennis Begins 2017 Fall Season
Nationally Ranked Kononova, Kutubidze Team Travels To Invite-Only Milwaukee Classic
DENTON — The North Texas tennis team begins its fall season this weekend with a pair of tournaments.
“This is an exciting time of the year,” said head coach Sujay Lama. “We get to compete and grow as a team. We’re sad Maria and Tamuna won’t be with us in Houston but they have an incredible opportunity.”
The Milwaukee Classic is a 42-year old invite only tournament that features the best tennis players in the country.
Kononova and Kutubidze will compete in singles and doubles at the tournament. They were recently ranked a program-high No. 22 in the country for doubles after they posted a 17-1 record last season and set four school records.
This weekend will mark the first time since last season’s Conference USA championship the two have played together. Kononova won a singles title last weekend at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame Grass Court event.
“Playing with Maria always feels so good,” Kutubidze said. “It’s a job that I love and enjoy every second of it. I’ve grown a lot since playing with her. This is a great opportunity to prove how good I am and an honor to represent my university and team.”
Last fall, the duo went 7-3 and defeated the No. 36 nationally ranked doubles team from Oklahoma State at the ITA All-American Championship in California. They also had wins over Texas Tech and Texas A&M in the fall.
The two will travel to the tournament with associate head coach Jeff Hammond who played in the same tournament in the early 1990s.
“I remember playing the Milwaukee Classic as a player and just how much I appreciated the hospitality and the crowds,” Hammond said. “ It is a special tournament and a great opportunity for Maria and Tamuna to build their resumes.”
While Kononova and Kutubidze are in Milwaukee, the rest of the team will in Houston competing at the Rice Invitational, which along with Rice features opposing schools such as Alabama, Oklahoma and Kansas
It will be all the women’s first time competing since the end of last season and will be freshman Nidhi Surapaneni’s first collegiate match.
“We want to see where the returners are and we’ve had productive practices leading up to this tournament so we’re definitely excited,” Lama said. “But the most important thing is to get the rust off and get back into that competitive mode.”
The Mean Green return six of their eight players from last season’s team, which reached the semifinals of the 2017 Conference USA Championship and received a program-best five all-conference honors.