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The Daily Tar Heel

Donato captains UNC's stacked men's tennis team

Senior Clay Donato won the ITA Carolinas Regional Singles title earlier this year.
Senior Clay Donato won the ITA Carolinas Regional Singles title earlier this year.

To a casual observer, the North Carolina men’s tennis team might not seem like anything special coming into this season.

In addition to returning a roster stocked with almost the same group that finished 17-11 in 2009 and fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, UNC lost its No. 2 player last season, Taylor Fogleman, to graduation.

But senior Clay Donato, who oversaw the team’s development this past offseason, knows differently.

“We have a stacked team with tremendous potential,” Donato said.

“I believe that this is the best team I’ve seen in my four years playing here, and that’s saying something, as we made it to the final four when I was a sophomore.”

Three to watch

Key players:

Clay Donato, senior
Jose Hernandez, freshman
Stefan Hardy, junior

Key matches:

Feb. 28 at Virginia Commonwealth (VCU)
April 2 vs. Virginia*
April 13 at Duke

*Home matches will be held at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.

 Even on a team well-stocked with talent, Donato is the unquestioned No. 1.

Earlier this season, the senior became the first North Carolina player since 2005 to qualify for ITA National Indoors after winning the ITA Carolinas Regional singles title.

The No. 22 Tar Heels have feasted on competition not ranked in the top 10 of the national rankings.

They claim a 5-0 record against those teams, including a 4-2 upset of then-No. 20 Miami.

UNC’s two stumbles have come on the road against some of the best competition in the NCAA. No. 3 Ohio State and No. 7 Georgia cut down the Tar Heels 6-1 and 4-2, respectively.

North Carolina will need to reverse that record in order to reach Donato’s stated goal for the season.

“It’s obvious — a win in the championship,” Donato said.

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