Schwark prepares for the season as the top man for the Gophers

Zach Eisendrath

When the Minnesota men’s tennis team opens its fall season this weekend at the Princeton Invitational, like it or not, Raoul Schwark will have a target on his back.

The senior from Dalheim, Germany, enters the Gophers’ opening tournament in an unfamiliar position as the No. 1 overall seed in the main singles draw at this weekend’s three-day individual tournament in New Jersey.

Schwak, who is ranked No. 41 overall in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, will have to adjust on the fly to his new role as a favorite to win a collegiate tennis tournament.

After all, Schwark was unranked nationally to start last season and was a relatively unknown across the country, never having been a top-10 seed in a college tournament.

But after posting a 21-8 overall singles record last year while playing at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots in the Gophers’ lineup, he has quickly made a name for himself.

Second-year coach Geoff Young, who won’t make the trip because of a recruiting commitment, said Schwark’s preseason ranking is well-deserved.

“It’s nice that he’s recognized because he is, in my opinion, one of the top 30 players in the country,” Young said of Schwark. “But he still has to go out there and play the matches.”

Young said it is entirely possible that Schwark could play well and still not win the tournament, which is fine with him.

“I just want him to take one match at a time, compete really hard and if he does that I think good things will happen,” he said.

Schwark, who will face mostly Ivy League players, said he understands what accompanies being the top-seeded player in the draw, but doesn’t have overly high goals for the tournament.

“For me it’s not that big of a deal, but I know everyone playing against me will be more motivated,” he said. “I kind of expect every match to be hard because everyone will be giving 120 percent.

“I’m going to go out there and hope that I win a few rounds. It would be nice if I could win (the tournament) but I know it will be hard because everyone is against (me).”

Accompanying Schwark will be senior Pierre Dumas, and highly-touted freshman Tobias Wernet. All three players will compete in the top singles and doubles draw.

Young said he wants to see the competitive spirit of the three players – a trio that figures to be at the top of the Gophers’ lineup all season.

“I’m looking for them to compete hard, to learn about their game and get better,” Young said.

Women hit road

The Minnesota women’s tennis team will bring eight players from its roster to the New Mexico Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. this weekend.

Seniors Lindsay Risebrough and Danielle Mousseau, juniors Karina Chiarelli and Mariana Spilca, sophomores Jackie Sperling, Mikayla Rogers and Tijana Koprivica and freshman Alessandra Ferrazzi will all partake in the three-day tournament which begins today and goes through Sunday.

Players from Colorado, Denver, New Mexico and Northern Arizona will join the Gophers in comprising three singles and two doubles brackets.

Coach Tyler Thomson said the competition this weekend will be much more challenging than what his team faced at the Gopher Invitational last weekend at the Baseline Tennis Center.

“There are more national caliber players in the draws,” he said. “We’re definitely going to have opportunities to assess ourselves against some good national teams.”