It's been five years since the ASU men's tennis program was reinstated, and now it is in consideration to be a top-25 program, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Preseason Rankings.
ASU has become a top tier program thanks the coaching staff and their recruiting ability. With another year of improvement expected, the Sun Devils seem to be in good hands with five new faces joining the team for the 2021-22 season.
Murphy Cassone, freshman
Cassone was ranked No. 17 among U.S. juniors coming into his freshman season with the Sun Devils. He was also the No. 1 prospect out of Kansas and has picked up more than 50 wins over the last three years.
"We have been super impressed with Murphy," said head coach Matt Hill. "Not only from his tennis, but his desire to do extra, and the little things."
One of Cassone's main reasons for coming to Tempe was the coaching.
"I had a rough year in 2019 and the start of 2020," Cassone said. "Matt and Dom (Cotrone) were some of the only coaches that really stuck with me and communicated. It meant a lot."
Fellow teammate senior Fabien Salle said Cassone is a "machine and never stops working."
Fabien Salle, transfer senior
Salle was one of the top players in the country before coming to ASU. He was born in Switzerland and played in Europe before college, including Sweden and Spain.
He went to the University of Louisville, where he was a captain for his sophomore and junior seasons and made the 2021 All-ACC Second Team.
After he arrived in Tempe, he was named co-captain of the team alongside sophomore Max McKennon.
"He is a natural leader," Hill said. "He has been a captain before. He knows college tennis."
Salle earned his undergraduate degree early and said he wanted to go to a "better school, meet new people and play in a new conference."
"They (the tennis team) made me feel really comfortable right away," Salle said. "I'm having a great time here."
Nicola Cigna, freshman
Known as "Nico," Cigna is described as one of the top talents coming out of Italy and had some Sun Devil influence before deciding to attend ASU.
He trained in the same club and under the same coach as Andrea Bolla, who is a former Sun Devil tennis player who graduated last year.
"He's a guy that you would want 10 of," Hill said. "He's very professional and loves his tennis."
Cigna competed in the fall with the Sun Devils and won three out of the seven singles matches he played and three out of the five doubles matches.
"He is only going to get better as the season goes," Hill said. "We are expecting big things from him not only this year but for years to come. He has the weapons and athleticism to play at any level."
Jacob Bullard, transfer junior
Bullard was born and raised in Calabasas, California, Bullard attended the University of Texas for the first two years of his college tennis career.
Bullard's highest career ITF Junior Top-100 ranking was 75th. He committed early in his junior year of high school, which could be "tricky," according to Hill, because the coaching staff can change over the next two years before stepping on the court, and that is what exactly happened to Bullard.
"The coach he committed with wasn't there when he went," Hill said. "This changes everything."
With seven players leaving the Sun Devil roster going into the 2021 fall season, Bullard took his opportunity and came to Tempe.
"The opportunity to the number of people we were graduating and the number of people Texas was graduating, it was a whole different scenario," Hill said. "We had a lot of availability for a great player like Jacob."
Filipe Costa, redshirt freshman
Costa won't be able to play this year due to a knee injury, but his development and fast-growing relationship with the team will help him become one of the foundational pieces for this program.
A four-star recruit from Roswell, Georgia, Costa was one of the best prospects in the States growing up.
"He has had some knee problems over the years, which has left him out of the competitive space," Hill said. "We're using this year to learn about him and his game, and try to get him in the best space in his life."
Despite the knee problems, Costa was ranked in the top-100 Tennis Recruiting Network Tennis ratings percentage index for the 2020 recruiting class.
"(Costa) has incredible upside," Hill said. "He is a great ball-striker and a very hard worker."
Whether it's the new players on the roster or the already tenured Sun Devils, the ASU men's tennis program is in a better place than it's ever been.
Hill said he's "ecstatic" about the incoming players. "We are super impressed with these guys. They all are very similar which is allowing them to get along with each other very well."
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.