OXFORD, Miss. – When they secured the last point to win the USTA/ITA Southern Regional Doubles title, junior Jonas Lutjen and sophomore Johan Backstrom accomplished a first. They earned a trip to New York and the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships.
This week, the duo will be among the nation’s best players in the exclusive 20-team field at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The tournament begins Thursday Nov. 3 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 6.
As the only tournament on the ITA calendar to showcase elite players from every level of college tennis, the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships serves as the culmination of the fall season. Hosted by Columbia University, this prestigious event features a 32-player singles draw and a 20-team doubles draw for men and women.
“It’s going to be a great experience. It’s my first trip to New York, and I am really excited,” Backstrom said. “I am looking forward to seeing the city and playing at the same facility where they host the U.S. Open. It’s just going to be amazing.”
Six of the nation’s top 10 teams are in the field including the No. 1 ranked team from Georgia Tech. Both Lutjen and Backstrom are looking forward to the challenge.
“We’re right there with some of the top teams,” Lutjen said. “We played well against some good teams last week, and we’re hoping to do the same this week. If we stay positive we have a good chance to do well this week.”
Lutjen and Backstrom played a few matches together last year, but at the ITA Southern Regional things really came together for both as they won six matches en route to the title.
“We served well at regionals, and that made the difference for us. We are playing well right now,” Backstrom said. “We played together some last season, but we are playing a lot better now. We’ve made some improvements in our games.”
“As Johan said, we’ve both been serving well and also returning well. We always fight hard on every point. No one expected us to be in New York, and now we’re going to face some of the best teams in the nation,” Lutjen said. “It will be my first time in New York as well, and I am really looking forward to it.”
Lutjen and Backstrom have a bye in the first round and will face the No. 4 seeded team of Nick Andrews-Chris Konigsfeldt from California at 9:30 a.m. CT Thursday.
The duo became the second Rebel tandem in a row to win the regional and advance to the National Indoor. Twins Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann won the Southern Regional last year and went on to reach the finals in New York.
“They’re two of the most improved players in the country and they showed that at the regionals in both singles and doubles,” said head coach Billy Chadwick, on his latest Southern Regional champions. “We’re very excited to be going to New York, and extremely proud of them. When you’re playing indoor doubles and playing a pro set, it is wide open. The key is you have to make sure and take care of your serve and be ready to play from the first point.”
Live scoring of the matches will be available by going to OleMissSports.com and clicking on the link in the calendar. There will also be an exclusive live chat throughout the tournament at USTA.com.
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