Meet the 2021-22 Texas men’s tennis team: Same lineup, now with NCAA tournament and US Open experience

Ross Fisher, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 8 flipbook. 

Last season, a freshmen and sophomore-laden Texas men’s tennis team exceeded all expectations, beating top-ranked programs on their way to the NCAA Final Four in Orlando, Florida. 

This season, the team led by head coach Bruce Berque looks to build upon last year’s success with nearly its whole lineup returning and the addition of a veteran graduate transfer. 

Following the release of the ITA Preseason Rankings on Tuesday morning, Texas will have five singles players ranked in the top 65, and two doubles pairings ranked in the top 50.

Here are the five Longhorns that feature in the ITA singles rankings:

Eliot Spizzirri

In his first full season of college tennis, Spizzirri had a breakout season, emerging as Texas’ No. 1 singles and doubles player. 

After making the NCAA Championship semifinal with Texas in the spring, Spizzirri had a tremendous summer. Playing on the ITF Futures circuit this summer, the Greenwich, Connecticut, product won his first professional singles title and second doubles title.

Off the back of that success, the 19-year-old became the second-youngest player to receive a wild card bid into the U.S. Open men’s singles qualifying tournament and earned a spot in the main draw of men’s doubles. 

In the U.S. Open singles qualifying, Spizzirri beat the No. 163-ranked player in the world, before narrowly losing out to the No. 130-ranked player in the second round. Playing alongside Oklahoma State’s Tyler Zink, Spizzirri fell to the No.3-seeded duo in the first round of the doubles main draw.

The sophomore will enter the 2021 fall collegiate season ranked No. 10 in men’s singles, and No. 2 in doubles, alongside fellow sophomore Siem Woldeab. 

Micah Braswell

Touted as a top newcomer in college tennis — and as one of the most highly sought after recruits in the nation — Braswell lived up to the hype in his freshman season.  

With Woldeab battling injuries in the early spring season, Berque plugged in a then-freshman Braswell at No. 2 in the singles lineup. Braswell battled hard in that position, making it his own the rest of the season and earning a top 30 ITA ranking by the end of the spring.

With a full year of college experience under his belt, the sophomore is poised for another breakout year, entering the season at No. 17 in the ITA singles rankings. 

Braswell also excelled in doubles as a consistent performer at the No. 3 spot, playing alongside graduate transfer Payton Holden. This season, he may see action at No. 3 doubles alongside graduate transfer Richard Ciamarra. 

Siem Woldeab

Woldeab began last season as Texas’ No. 1 guy in Berque’s mind. However, after battling injury and illness early on in the spring — and following the emergence of Spizzirri and Braswell — Woldeab was relegated to the No. 3 spot in the singles lineup.

Playing at No. 3, Woldeab was a force, consistently bringing the energy. This season, the sophomore will likely hold rank, entering the fall season ranked No. 58 in singles.

Woldeab also relished life playing alongside Spizzirri in doubles, and the No. 1 duo for Texas will enter the season as the No. 2-ranked pairing in the nation. 

Richard Ciamarra

Among this youthful Texas lineup, Ciamarra may assume the role of elder statesman, being the only senior on the team. 

The graduate transfer from Notre Dame has elite college tennis pedigree, having entered the 2020-21 college season ranked No. 6 in singles. He didn’t quite live up to that ranking last season but will be a huge addition for Texas this year nonetheless. 

He will likely assume the No. 4 or No. 5 spot in the singles lineup and enters the year with a singles ranking of No. 61. 

Cleeve Harper

Harper was the most improved player, according to Berque, last season. The redshirt sophomore finally nailed down a spot in the singles lineup, making the No. 4 position his own. 

Unlike his quiet demeanor would suggest, Harper is the hype man for Texas on the court, and he used his energy last season to propel himself to an ITA singles and doubles ranking by the middle of the spring season. 

Harper enters the season ranked No. 64 in singles and No. 41 in doubles alongside Chih Chi Huang. The Canadian connection of him and Huang will likely be the No. 2 duo for Texas, and Harper will likely plug in at No. 4 or No. 5 in the singles lineup.