By Phillip Ericksen
The Baylor men’s tennis team, ranked 13th in the nation, starts the Big 12 Championship Saturday as the top seed. The Bears (19-4) will play the winner of TCU and Texas.
The team began the season with a rough start in a loss at Tulsa, but then went on an eight-match win streak. The team then lost three in a row to top-five teams, including top-ranked Virginia. However, the Bears found themselves in every third set against the Cavaliers, making for a close match.
They won their last nine matches, including a perfect conference record to win the regular season championship.
The top-ranked singles player on the team, junior Patrick Pradella at 30th, has thrived playing in the No. 1 spot this season. He boasts a 10-2 record in that spot and will look to continue his consistent play into the postseason.
Q: How has this team grown since the start of the season?
A: I feel like we’re getting better every day. We are like a big family. Everyone likes each other and everything we do is helping us to keep getting better and to grow as a team. It’s always good when you have success. That helps a lot. I think we are on a good streak right now, so that helps us a lot. So even on not-that-good days, we can still win.
Q: Was there a turning point where you realized the team could win the Big 12?
A: I think we knew from the beginning of the season that we are a good team. We saw in the match against Virginia that we can beat everybody in the country, even if it was 6-1, but we were close in every match. We started winning matches at home then, against Cal, and those gave us a lot of confidence. I think right now with the win against Oklahoma, that was just amazing. So that really helps.
Q: Are you preparing any differently for postseason play?
A: No, not at all.
Q: Do you think this team has all the pieces to win the national championship?
A: We need to keep getting better, I think. Because everyone is not at his limit, and we are playing together and cheering for each other. When everyone keeps fighting for every point, then we can be a really, really good team in the end. You never know if you win, but I think we have a chance.
Q: Do you feel ready to take on the top players in the No. 1 spot and do you feel comfortable there?
A: Yeah, for sure. I like the challenge and I hope I can help the program, but I think all the other spots are probably more difficult because everyone expects them to win in the lower spots. I feel like it’s an easy position for me.