Lobos eager to get a taste of pro tennis with circuit stop in Albuquerque - Albuquerque Journal

Lobos eager to get a taste of pro tennis with circuit stop in Albuquerque

Georgio Samaha

School was definitely in session Monday for the University of New Mexico tennis team as a host of Lobos got a small taste of the professional tour during the opening round of qualifying in the United States Tennis Association/ITF Pro Circuit Tournament.

Qualifying in the event at UNM’s McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium continues Tuesday, with play continuing throughout the week.

Georgio Samaha, a UNM sophomore and a former Eldorado High standout, took down 11th-seeded Arman Zamani 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 in the opening qualifying round.

The win advances Samaha to face the top seed in Christian Lakoseljac of Canada for a spot in the 32-man main draw.

Samaha is scheduled to play at 10 a.m.

New Mexico’s Aram Noroozian was playing in his first event of this nature, going up against ninth-seeded Michael Shabaz, a former top player with Virginia, who won the 2005 Wimbledon boys doubles title.

“That guy, he’s really experienced,” Noroozian said of Shabaz. “I know he didn’t miss many returns. He’s really solid. He knows how to play the game. It was a good experience playing people like that. It’s good for your game and to learn.”

Shabaz delivered his lesson succinctly, winning 6-3, 6-4. Norzoozian said he definitely came away from the court with a better appreciation for what it takes to play at the next level.

“Honestly, you don’t need to win points by just blasting balls,” he said. “It’s very obvious and general, but with people like him, you have to find more creative ways to win points, like I

Aram Noroozian

was drop shotting more and I was coming in. I was mixing it up and not showing him the same angle every single time, so it’s a good takeaway for me.”

This is the first time Albuquerque has been the site of such a tournament, said Lobos coach Christian Russell, who worked with the city and the university to make it happen.

“It’s something I’ve been trying to promote and just have been working to get this thing on the calendar for the ITF and USTA,” he said. “The city has been instrumental in providing the prize money and expense money to make it a reality. Our university has made it a reality by resurfacing the courts, so multiple players were involved in trying to put this together.”

The tournament is one of about a dozen like it worldwide going on this week, Russell said, but it is a coup for the UNM program to have it here.

“It’s really valuable for our guys’ player development to get exposed against higher level players who are trying to play professional,” he said. “Simultaneously, in recruiting, there is a lot of value for recruits knowing that we host at our university an event like this which could potentially help them or launch their professional careers.”

Getting that exposure was so important that despite a broken left wrist, Nikolay Sysoev took the court, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Marino Jakic.

Home » Sports » Lobos eager to get a taste of pro tennis with circuit stop in Albuquerque


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