Mladenov Reaches Consolation Semifinals in National Tourney

Junior Vasko Mladenov of the St. John’s men’s tennis team made it to the semifinals of the consolation bracket after losing his first match in the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships on Nov. 3-5.

Mladenov entered the tournament first St. John’s men’s tennis player ever to qualify for and was the only Big East male representative. 

 “After winning Regionals, we knew he was prepared,” said head coach Eric Rebhuhn. “[That] is the second biggest tournament.” 

Despite being prepared, Mladenov still stumbled in the first round of the main bracket when he took on Kevin King from Georgia Tech on Nov. 3. He fell in three sets to King (6-1, 3-6, 6-3), who was ranked No. 85 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

 “There are no medium players,” said Mladenov about the competition. “Everyone is good so I [had] to focus and play my best.”

His loss moved him to the consolation bracket.  On Nov. 4, his first opponent was Texas A&M’s Alexis Klegou, who was ranked 42nd in the ITA rankings..  Mladenov defeated Klegou 6-4, 6-2.

 Advancing in the consolation round, Mladenov’s second opponent was 11th-ranked Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech, who was coming off a straight-set win in his first round over Pepperdine’s Finn Tearney.  Mladenov again won in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6 (4). 

  In the second set, Mladenov held a 3-2 lead, but Escobar came back to lead 5-4.  Mladenov forced a second-set tiebreaker and closed the match by winning the tiebreak 7-4. 

“Escobar is a really good player and I knew I had to do my best,” Mladenov said. “If I were a little less mentally prepared I would have lost. I focused on every point and felt pretty confident.

 The win pushed Mladenov into the semifinal round where he played Georgia’s Sadio Doumbia.  The  24th– ranked Sadio Doumbia had defeated USC’s Daniel Nguyen 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals to reach the semis. Doumbia was fourth straight ranked player that Mladenov would have to go against, which didn’t bother Mladenov.

“It was nothing too big because I have been playing good players,” he said. “I like it because I know it will be a close match and I am excited for the challenge.”

And it was a close match. Mladenov sent the first set into a tiebreak, but lost 7-6 (6). He dropped the second set in almost equally close circumstances 7-5, ending his weekend. 

Rebhuhn was impressed with his player’s performance, but cited areas where he needed to improve if he wanted to compete in tournaments like the one he just played in.

“Vasko needs to hit his serves better, return of serve, and basically his whole game,” he said. “He needs to take it to another level in every aspect since he is playing against the best.

“Vasko always fights very hard, recovers well, win or lose,” he added. “He continues to play well so good things happen and he doesn’t get down. He is a very passionate player.”

The tournament marked the end of the fall season. Mladenov ended the campaign by winning nine of his last 11 matches.