The performances of junior Esben Hess-Olesen and freshman Ronnie Schneider at the ITA All-American Championship’s singles draw can’t be based simply on the marks in the win column.
Despite both of the North Carolina tennis players falling to the same competitor — Baylor’s Julian Lenz — in the main draw, Schneider’s defeat of two nationally ranked opponents and Hess-Olesen’s return to the courts after an injury, left them with positive feelings as they departed Tulsa, Okla.
“Obviously you have to be disappointed when you lose when you’re a competitor,” Hess-Olesen said.
“But looking at the way I played, I’m satisfied with my level of tennis.”
In his first match against No.38 Lenz, No. 28 Hess-Olesen gained a lead in both sets by breaking his opponent’s serve. But Lenz came back in both of the sets to ultimately win the match 7-6(4), 7-5.
“Both sets I actually had in my hand, I just need to close it out and I wasn’t able to” Hess-Olesen said. “Thinking back I don’t think I played poor games or anything, he was just playing some good points.”
Hess-Olesen faced No. 23 Alex Sarkissian of Pepperdine in the first round of the consolation. Each claimed a set 6-2, forcing a third set, which was ultimately decided by a tie breaker claimed by Sarkissian.
“I am actually leaving the tournament with a good amount of confidence,” Hess-Olesen said. “Both guys I played are some of the very top players in the country and I played really well myself.”
While Hess-Olesen earned an automatic bid to the main draw, Schneider earned his spot after winning three matches in the qualifying round earlier in the week.
Against his first opponent Thursday, No. 27 Ben McLachlan of California, Schneider overcame a break of his serve in the first set to come back to capture the set. Schneider went on to take a close second set against the returning All-American and won the match 6-4, 7-6 (4). Schneider also won his second round match against No. 19 Ben Wagland of Georgia 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.
Both of Schneider’s opponents Thursday played in the number one singles spots for their schools last year..
“I had two really good wins on Thursday,” Schneider said. “They were tough battles.”
In the round of 16, Schneider faced his teammate’s former opponent, Lenz. After dropping the first set 3-6, Schneider was able to take the next set 6-4 by securing an early break of serve. In the third set, Lenz gained an early lead and held on to it to win the set — and therefore the match— 6-2.
“I kind of knew what I was getting into going in, and I was able to make the necessary adjustments to win the second set,” said Schneider. “In the third set I got off to kind of a bad start and then from that point on it was kind of even, but I wasn’t able to make it all of the way back.”
Coach Sam Paul felt like the tournament indicated that they are preparing in the correct ways for the spring season.
“Esben … said that he played well and Ronnie feels like he is on the right path and that his training has been really good,” Paul said. “We just want to keep getting better.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.