Jordi Masselle Ferrer and Kamil Khalil have each enjoyed substantial success as singles players during their brief careers as Charlotte 49ers tennis players. But their outstanding play as doubles partners this season is gaining them national attention.
Masselle Ferrer, a sophomore, and Khalil, a junior, had a 13-1 record as the 49ers prepared for the Conference USA Championships. The tournament, being played in Tulsa, Okla., was scheduled to start on April 17 and conclude April 20.
Masselle Ferrer and Khalil will try to help Charlotte (12-6) win the team championship, which would earn the 49ers a berth in the NCAA tournament. Singles and doubles champions are not crowned at the conference tournament, but if Masselle Ferrer and Khalil’s national ranking is good enough coming out of this event, they could also advance to NCAA post-season play.
A native of Spain, Masselle Ferrer played on a doubles team that reached the Spanish National Championship. His biggest obstacle to playing tennis in America was adjusting from the clay he was used to, to hard court surfaces.
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Masselle Ferrer was a quick leaner, though, winning 25 matches as a freshman, mostly at number two singles. He was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 last year.
Khalil also has a solid tennis reputation internationally, but in three different countries. He was born in Russia and his Lebanese father’s connections to his native country have allowed Khalil to qualify for Lebanon’s Davis Cup team.
When Khalil finished middle school, a family friend suggested that his family enroll him in a U.S. tennis academy where he could attend high school and concentrate on tennis. He attended Saddlebrook Prep in Tampa, Fla., and drew the attention of college coaches.
Khalil enrolled at Charlotte for the spring semester of 2012. In singles, he lost his first match but won his next 13 in a row to finish 13-3.
In doubles play, coach Billy Boykin matched Khalil with a couple of different partners before settling on Krzysztof Kwasniewicz, a native of Poland. They won 10 matches together in 2012 and 13 matches last year.
When Kwasniewicz graduated, Khalil had to find a new doubles partner. Masselle Ferrer and Jack Williams, a current junior, posted a 13-4 record together but Boykin found some new magic when he tweaked this year’s doubles lineup.
“(Khalil and Masselle Ferrer) each had some success with different partners,” said Boykin. “But we said let’s give these guys a whirl together because they may be a tough team. They’ve had pretty good results.”
Khalil and Masselle Ferrer won their first seven matches. In late February, they were ranked 31st in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s National Doubles rankings, making them the 49ers’ highest ranked doubles team in program history.
Helping them to their national ranking were victories over doubles pairs from nationally ranked Wake Forest and Alabama-Birmingham. They suffered their only loss on Feb. 28 to a pair from George Washington.
Khalil and Masselle Ferrer have developed a strong friendship even though their personalities slightly differ. Khalil exudes a confidence on and off the court while Masselle Ferrer remains passive and humble.
“I focus on being confident,” said Khalil. “I’m focused on the match. I don’t care if we lose or win, if we’re on a losing streak or on a wining streak. I just play. When he gets a little nervous, I help him out. I usually don’t get nervous. I believe in myself.”
Masselle Ferrer gave this analysis of why he and his partner are so successful: “You could tell we had a good feeling inside the court. Opponents are always having an extra ball to finish and that makes them miss some easy balls sometimes. It makes them frustrated because the balls are always coming back to them. I think that’s our best quality as a team.”
Sophomore outfielder Jessica Plemmons sent a 1-0 fastball over the left-centerfield wall for her first career walk-off home run as the 49ers defeated Florida Atlantic 2-1 April 13. It was her eighth homer of the season.