The No. 12-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team lost a hard-fought 4-3 decision to Rice in non-conference action held Monday night at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
The Owls (15-9) ended a six-match home-court winning streak by the Aggies (13-7) which dated back to a 4-3 upset of No. 7 Illinois on March 15. Once again, A&M had to duke it out in singles after dropping a 9-8 (1) tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles which gave Rice the 1-0 advantage leading into the second portion of the match.
The third-ranked doubles combination of senior All-American Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) and sophomore All-American Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.) continued on their winning ways by finishing off No. 52-ranked Christoph Müller and Tobias Scheil of Rice, 8-3, at No. 1, but the Aggies couldn’t pair it with another win on courts two or three to claim the doubles point which proved to be the deciding factor in the end.
“We were up 6-2 and a point for 7-2 on Marcus Lunt’s serve, but we weren’t able to win that game at No. 3 doubles,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “Then it got tight and we lost the tiebreaker. We were able to win three singles matches comfortably, but it really came down to the doubles. Give Rice credit, because they played well. There is still a bit of disappointment though. A couple of our guys didn’t come to play tonight. In my opinion, this is really the first subpar match that we have played in awhile. It is unfortunate that it came at this time, but we will bounce back and get ready to play Texas on Thursday night.”
A&M’s big three only lost a combined 12 games against Rice’s top singles players, but it wouldn’t be enough to carry the Aggies to victory with three losses at the bottom of the lineup. No. 51-ranked and No. 2 player Austin Krajicek handily defeated Christoph Müller, 6-2, 6-1, to level the match at one-all. No. 19-ranked Conor Pollock also breezed through a 6-2, 6-3 decision over No. 48-ranked Bruno Rosa at No. 1 to put A&M up 2-1 on the scoreboard. Sophomore Wil Spencer (Ponce de Leon, Fla.) won his fourth-straight match on a service ace to close out a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Tobias Scheil at No. 3 for the Aggies.
It would all come down to the last match standing as freshman Austin Klores (Franklin, Texas) and Rice’s Christian Saravia extended their battle into three sets at No. 6 singles. Klores rallied from a 7-5 loss in the first-set tiebreak to a 6-4 result in the second set. He later went up 2-1 in the third set on a service break, but Saravia answered back with three breaks of his own to clinch the match for the Owls who picked up their second-straight win in the all-time series versus the Aggies.
“Nerves happened in the third set,” said Denton on the final match between Klores and Saravia, both first-year players for A&M and Rice. “The temperature tonight was about 55 to 60 degrees. You cannot cramp up in this kind of weather unless its nerves, which both players were having trouble with. You have to be able to relax out there and trust your shots. We had an opportunity, but it just didn’t happen for us tonight.”
A&M will host rival Texas (16-4, 3-1) in its regular-season finale on Thursday, April 16 at the Mitchell Tennis Center. The State Farm Lone Star Showdown between the two in-state rivals will begin at 6 p.m. (CT). Dollar Day promotions will be offered for the match with $1 admission in addition to $1 hot dogs and drinks available for purchase at the concession stand while supplies last. The first 300 fans will also receive a free Aggie Tennis water bottle.