Tom Jomby will occupy the top spot in UK’s singles lineup when the 2014 season begins on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)

Cedric Kauffmann has depth on his side.With six seniors on Kentucky’s 2014 roster and two more regular contributors returning, there is competition aplenty for the 12 total spots in Kauffmann’s singles and doubles rotation.He plans to take full advantage of that fact.”I think this year, as a coaching staff, we’re willing to pull players out – if you will, kind of like basketball or football – if they’re not performing,” Kauffmann said. “I won’t wait two, three matches for that.”The second-year head coach, however, knows managing the rotation of his ninth-ranked UK team will be a balancing act. He wants the Wildcats to know spots are always at stake, but not in a way that prevents them from playing their best tennis.”It’s motivation, but also sometimes it’s pressure for them,” Kauffmann said. “I tell them, ‘Listen, if I put you in you’re going to have a couple matches. I’m not going to throw you in and if you don’t win, I’m pulling you out.’ I think it’s just too much pressure for those kids, especially 18 to 22 year olds.”The player who will occupy the top spot in UK’s singles rotation is accustomed to dealing with that kind of pressure. Tom Jomby, now a senior, stepped into a regular role the moment he arrived in Lexington. The Nantes, France, native played No. 6 singles and made the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team and has only grown since. As a sophomore, he moved into the national rankings. Last season, he was an ITA All-American after rolling up a 21-7 singles record.But even then, Jomby played all but one of his matches on court two. Now, he’s making the step up.”It’s always been my goal since I got here, trying to get to No. 1 on the first court here,” Jomby said. “So I’m excited and I can’t wait.”Jomby is following in the footsteps of Anthony Rossi, who had a similar wait for the top spot behind Eric Quigley’s, the winningest player in school history.”Like Anthony, I think he’s waited his turn,” Kauffmann said of Jomby. “And now it’s his turn.”Jomby may have had to wait his turn, but he won’t have to wait long to be tested now that it has come. After UK hosts a doubleheader on Friday against Dayton and Eastern Kentucky beginning at 1 p.m. ET, the Cats will travel to Cary, N.C., for a Sweet 16 rematch with No. 7 Duke. “I kind of like it, having a top-10 opponent like Duke the first week right after we get back to school,” Jomby said. “It will be a good opportunity to give us confidence.”Jomby – ranked No. 68 after an offseason injury – will likely face No. 29 Michael Redlicki. It will be the first of many highly ranked opponents for Jomby, so Kauffmann believes he will be best served taking a day-by-day approach.”Our schedule is so tough, he’s going to play somebody that’s ranked almost every single match,” Kauffman said. “If he looks at it as a whole five months, I think it’s just too much.”As recently as a year ago, Jomby was not as well suited to handle the burden as he is now. Under the tutelage of fellow Frenchman Kauffmann, Jomby has evolved on and off the court while maintaining the personality that makes him who he is.”I’m still the same person, but I’m kind of more of a leader,” Jomby said. “I’m more mature. I’m maybe less crazy than I used to be.”As much credit as Kauffmann may deserve, he’s sure to point out that it’s taken a village – and buy-in on the part of Jomby himself – to make that growth happen.”I think we have a good school,” Kauffmann said. “I think our bosses are fair. I think they get on him when it’s the right time to get on him. I think his teammates–it’s not just me. Do I feel proud of him? Yeah, I feel proud of him. But I’m a perfectionist. I look for him to do even better.”If he does, Jomby and the Cats could have a season to remember.”I don’t know how many hard talks we had his freshman year,” Kauffmann said. “Maybe 10. We had eight his sophomore year, we had five his junior year and I hope to only have zero or one (this season). If we can get to zero or just one, then he’ll become one of the best players in the country.”

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