As the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships approach on Friday, junior tennis standouts Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese will look to continue to proving their legitimacy as two of the best in college tennis.
The Libietis and Reese doubles pairing is ranked No. 1 in the country and won the ITA All-American Championships earlier this year. It was the first collegiate national title for the duo and the third ITA All-American title in school history.
The USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships will be the last for the pair in the fall before they get into team tennis in the spring.
"This last tournament in the fall, (we're) just trying to go out there and have fun," Libietis said. "The spring is totally different. I'm looking forward to the spring because of the environment and competing for a team and going team against team."
After dealing with injuries and even sickness this fall, Libietis is looking to gain his strength back and test his abilities at the highest level during the tournament, which begins today and runs through Sunday in Flushing, N.Y.
"I got a little injured in my past tournament," Libietis said. "So I just want to know how I feel on the court when I play a competitive match and go from there; (I'll) see how I feel and hope that it gets better."
While Reese and Libietis are arguably two of the best tennis players in the country, they both understand the talent level in New York will be steep.
"We will be playing against the best teams in the country, which is kind of how our SEC season is like," Reese said. "Week in and week out we have ranked teams, ranked doubles teams and ranked singles players."
On the singles side, the both are continuing to develop. Reese became the first Volunteer to win the singles championship at the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships this fall, actually beating his teammate Libietis on his way to the title.
Reese and Libietis are trying to repeat their first and second place finishes in this tournament considering singles competition has not been a strength over their career.
"It would be huge," Reese said. "We haven't had the greatest individual success the past couple years, so another tournament win would give the whole team some confidence moving forward."
The tournament is another huge opportunity for Libietis and Reese, but they also pointed to what a good showing could mean from a university standpoint.
"A tournament like that would mean a lot," Libietis said. "(In a) national indoor tournament all the best guys are there, all the best singles players, some of the best doubles teams. It would be huge, for the future, for recruiting plans and it's going to help our university a lot if we could win."
Reese and Libietis's No. 1 seeding in the tournament though is nothing new to the two players.
"I think that if we just take it one at a time," Reese said, "I think that's all we can do."