The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 31st

Men's Tennis: Tar Heels start off season strong for men's tennis

With Clay Donato's doubles contest at match point a hard-flying return came from James Madison's Jared Robinson.

Effortlessly Donato calmly stepped forward and whipped a liner perfectly inside the left baseline.

The point and match were won and in much the same fashion so was the team's day.

As far as season openers go they don't come much easier as the No. 20 North Carolina men's tennis team (2-0 0-0) easily rolled to two victories Sunday against UNC-Charlotte and James Madison winning 5-2 and 7-0" respectively.

""I thought we played better our second match (against JMU)" we had a little bit more intensity coach Sam Paul said.

The first match you're nervous. It's the first match for a lot of the kids" and in the second we just had better intensity.""

After playing much of last year at No. 3 singles" Donato opened the spring season without trouble in his new role at No. 1.

In his singles match against the Dukes' Mike Smith Donato started off the set with a bang breaking Smith on his first serve.

The momentum continued as Donato used his vastly improved net play to keep Smith off guard all night winning 6-1 6-1.

And after dismantling the 49ers' Ricky Cuellar 6-1 6-3 earlier in the day" it's evident Donato has a bright season ahead.

""I beat the No. 9 guy in the country" the No. 20 guy in the country so I feel like I belong here Donato said.

I've just been working on hitting the ball heavier from the baseline trying to work the point a little bit more until I get the short ball" and I can attack and come to the net. I'm starting to see the results now.""

On a team filled with youth — five freshmen saw action Sunday — the Tar Heels' senior leader" Taylor Fogleman struggled late.

After teaming with Donato in two 8-0 doubles victories Fogleman was challenged in his No. 2 singles match against JMU's Robinson.

The experienced lefty quickly took the first set but faced a back-and-forth contest in the second before winning the match 6-0" 7-5.

""I kind of got a little bit lazy" to be honest Fogleman said. After I'm getting on somebody" I have the tendency to take my foot off the pedal just a little bit.

""I would've loved to keep rolling and that didn't happen. Still"" I was pretty pleased.""

Earlier" Andrew Crone provided one of the few Tar Heel blemishes on the day when he fell to UNC-Charlotte's Michael Anders 6-4 6-4. The junior was unable to recover his broken serve in each of the sets.

Crone's doubles partner freshman Zach Hunter" gave Paul a bright spot while teaming with Crone in two doubles victories.

His persistent vocal encouragement and inspired net play gives Paul's young squad a positive sign moving forward.

""I think we're going to learn something about this team every single day" Paul said.

However" I think everybody's going to have to step up. We'll see.""



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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