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Wichita State doubles partners find solid middle ground

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 8:47 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 6:23 a.m.

NCAA tennis

•  WSU men at Oklahoma, 2 p.m. Friday

•  WSU women at Nebraska, 2 p.m. Friday

Matheus Pereira needed to show some patience. Tin Ostojic needed to grow up. By the spring, they met in the middle and formed a strong men’s doubles team for Wichita State.

“Matheus is more consistent than me,” Ostojic said. “I’m a little more playful. So when you put those two things together, I get more consistency and he gets more of doing stuff he wouldn’t do when playing with someone else.”

Pereira, a senior from Brazil, and Ostojic, a freshman from Croatia, didn’t mesh in the fall. Coach Brad Louderback gave them time apart. When he reunited them in the spring, the pairing sparked WSU to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2010. They went 20-3 overall, 5-0 at No. 1 doubles.

WSU (17-7) opens NCAA play at Big 12 champion Oklahoma (19-6) on Friday. The Sooners, seeded 14th in the 64-team bracket, defeated WSU 7-0 in January. The winner plays Auburn or North Carolina State on Saturday to advance to the round of 16.

“It didn’t take long in January before I said we’ve got to give this another try,” Louderback said. “Tin grew up and Mat realized Tin’s got a lot of talent. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but it did.”

Pereira had every reason to stay set in his ways after two successful seasons with David Cavalcanti, including a spot in the quarterfinals of the ITA All-Americans in the fall of 2011. He played doubles the smart way, following Louderback’s plan of playing the percentages.

In the fall, Ostojic played like a freshman, all enthusiasm, gambles and casual effort. When he hit a return into the net, it didn’t bother him. He expected to use his superior athletic ability to overcome mistakes against lesser players. Pereira’s experience taught him those mistakes are killers.

“A lot of it comes down to high-percentage shots and no unforced errors,” Louderback said. “Mat’s matured under my doubles system. Missing a return of serve is like a double-fault. It’s unacceptable. Mat has that mentality, but Tin still had the junior mentality.”

Ostojic returned to WSU after Christmas break ready to take advantage of his skills and cut down on mistakes.

“We had a good connection,” Pereira said. “I know what he is up to on his returns and where he is serving. He knows my game. At the beginning, it was a struggle, but it fits very well.”

Being a freshman, Ostojic made more adjustments to his game to make the pairing work.

“I did what Matheus and Coach asked of me, making more return shots and not doing nonchalant things on the court and not trying to show off,” he said. “I got over that this season pretty good..”

WSU’s women will make their fifth straight NCAA appearance.

The Shockers (15-10) play 16th-seeded Nebraska (22-5) on Friday in Lincoln. The winner will play Tulsa or UNLV on Saturday.

Coach Colin Foster expects matches against opponents such as Texas, Oklahoma State and Purdue to prepare the Shockers for NCAA competition.

“We’re competitive up and down the lineup, in different positions, against a Texas, against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,” Foster said. “They might lose against a better player, but it’s not going to be because they’re overwhelmed by the situation or in awe of a team’s name.”

Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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