Hosting a professional tournament on your home turf certainly has its perks, as the Rice University men’s and women’s tennis teams have come to find out this weekend. Action is now underway for the Oracle Challenger Series Houston event at the George R. Brown Tennis Center, and the Rice Owls are well-represented in both the men’s and women’s qualifying fields.
Sophomore Jacob Eskeland of Norway and freshman Karol Paluch of Poland will both get a taste of life on the professional ranks when they take the court Saturday for the opening round of qualifying action. Eskeland will take on seventh-seeded American Harrison Adams, while Paluch will face Canadian Alexis Galarneau.
On the women’s side, freshman Victoria Smirnova and sophomore Anna Bowtell will try to earn their way into the main draw. Smirnova will have to take down American Julia Elbaba; and Bowtell will face Elizabeth Halbauer in the opener.
For two Rice owls, the stakes are even higher. Sophomore Michaela Haet and sophomore Sumit Sarkar were granted wild cards into the main draw of the Houston event, with the chance to make some noise in a professional event on their home court. Haet, an Australian native, was named 2018 All C-USA Singles (Second Team) and C-USA All-Freshman 2018 in her freshman season. Sarkar, a New York native, made an impact in his first season at Rice as well, making the All C-USA Singles (second team)
All C-USA Doubles (first team).
The main draws will be made on Sunday, with play beginning at 10 am Monday.