Schwark ends fall strong

Zach Eisendrath

Right now Baylor men’s tennis coach Matt Knoll is probably kicking himself for not saving a scholarship for Raoul Schwark.

After all, who wouldn’t want a player who has won nearly 80 percent of his singles matches the last three years?

Schwark, ranked no. 41 in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings, completed his final fall season for the Gophers with a 9-3 record after making a run to the quarterfinals at the Men’s ITA Midwest Regional Championships this weekend at the Baseline Tennis Center.

But Schwark could have very well been playing in the Big 12 the last four years. The senior from Dalheim, Germany had specific intentions to play for Knoll and the Bears on the recommendation of a close friend from back in his home country.

Knoll, however, didn’t have a scholarship offer available for Schwark and instead referred him to former Minnesota men’s tennis coach David Geatz, a close friend.

Geatz, who resigned in the spring of 2006 after 18 years with the Gophers, coincidentally made his first appearance back on the Minnesota campus with another team this weekend.

In his first year as an assistant coach at Big Ten foe Ohio State, Geatz got an up-close look at the man he recruited.

“Raoul’s a really talented player,” Geatz said. “He’s gotten better every year. He (is) just tough to beat.”

While he was an underclassman, Schwark played anywhere from the No. 3 to No. 5 singles spots for Geatz.

But Geatz said he never doubted Schwark would eventually be the Gophers’ top singles player, which he has already made apparent this spring.

“He’s got too much racquet talent and he’s a competitor. The guy’s got heart, he fights hard,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for his game.”

So should every team in the Midwest after Schwark battled through the 64-person main draw down to the final eight competitors.

After a straight-set win to open up the tournament against Louisville’s Robert Rotaru on Saturday, Schwark, seeded sixth in the draw, went three sets against Ohio State’s Matt Allare, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 later in the day.

Early Sunday morning, Schwark rallied from down 3-0 in a third-set tiebreaker to beat Iowa’s Bart Van Monsjou 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (4) on his home court but rolled his ankle late in the match.

The hour-and-a-half break in action before his final match Sunday proved unhelpful, as it was a tired and hobbled Schwark that was bounced out of the tournament in the quarterfinals by Notre Dame’s Brett Helgeson, 6-3, 6-4.

But Schwark wasn’t ready to use his injury as an excuse.

“He deserved it. I had no chance. He was the better player, no doubt,” Schwark said.

Student assistant coach Sion Wilkins played with Schwark for three seasons and currently lives with him. Wilkins said when Schwark’s healthy he can beat anyone in the collegiate tennis ranks.

“He’s always been a calm person and a pretty smart tennis player, so I think that has kind of allowed him to play so steady.”

“He’s slowly gotten into a little bit better shape each year. With his type of game, if he has fresh legs and he’s feeling good physically, he can beat anybody in the nation.”

After outright winning one tournament this fall – The Princeton Invitational – and holding his own at the ITA All-American and Midwest Regional Championships, Schwark was modest about what he accomplished during the individual season.

“I had a good fall, I can’t complain.”

Women fail to advance

The Minnesota women’s tennis team had an up-and-down weekend at the Women’s ITA Midwest Regional Championships, held at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. this weekend.

All three Gophers who qualified for the tournament’s main draw – freshman Alessandra Ferrazzi, sophomore Tijana Koprivica and junior Karina Chiarelli – won their first singles matches, but failed to make it out of the round of 32.

In doubles action, the team of Chiarelli and Ferrazzi, which has been nearly unstoppable this fall, made it to the quarterfinals before falling to Michigan’s Chisako Sugiyama and Whitney Taney, 8-1.