Second-seeded Mississippi held off a relentless effort by 15th-seeded Texas A&M, 4-1, in a nearly four-hour match for the right to move on to the quarterfinals of the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship held Thursday night before a home crowd of 1,316 fans at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
It marked the third-largest crowd in school history behind two previous NCAA Round of 16 match appearances versus Georgia (2,339) in 2002 and Baylor (1,820) in 2005. The Aggies closed out a memorable Sweet 16 run at 17-9 overall, while the Rebels improved to 27-2 and advanced to their second-straight Elite Eight appearance. They will face seventh-ranked UCLA (20-4) on Saturday, May 16 at 5 p.m. (CT). Meanwhile, the women’s round of 16 will kick off tomorrow morning beginning at 9 a.m. (CT).
A&M hung tough with Ole Miss throughout the match winning three first sets in singles and a strong performance by the seventh-ranked All-American doubles tandem of senior Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) and sophomore Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.) who knocked off top-ranked Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge, 9-7, at the top of the lineup. The duo broke Ole Miss’ serve three times and served up two love games courtesy of Krajicek, including a winner to close out the match. It matched a career best for Krajicek and Pollock and the second time in NCAA postseason play in which they upset the No. 1 team in the country next to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Virginia’s Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey in the round of 16 in the 2008 NCAA Doubles Championship in Tulsa, Okla.
The Rebels, however, took the early 1-0 lead by reeling in 8-4 and 8-6 victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 lines to secure the doubles point leading into singles. Pollock, ranked No. 17 nationally in the Campbell/ITA rankings, quickly tied up the match at one-all with a convincing 6-2, 6-1 victory over 16th-ranked Jonas Berg at No. 1. Ole Miss countered with a pair of wins at the No. 5 and No. 6 lines leaving a trio of three-set matches on the court to decide the final outcome. No. 30-ranked Devin Britton sealed the victory for Ole Miss with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) win over former IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy classmate and No. 47-ranked Austin Krajicek at the No. 2 line.
“We needed to win the doubles point and I knew they were really good in doubles,” said Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton whose A&M squad was vying for its second-ever trip to the Elite Eight next to 2001. “We needed to figure out a way to win either two or three (doubles) and we weren’t able to do that tonight. It’s pretty tough to lose five and six in the doubles and expect to win against a really good team like Ole Miss. They were just a little bit better and played the big points better than we did.”
The Aggies will continue postseason play with a school-record number of individual qualifiers in the singles and doubles portion of the NCAA Tennis Championships. Pollock, Krajicek and sophomore Wil Spencer (Ponce de Leon, Fla.) will compete in the 64-player singles championship draw, while Pollock and Krajicek will look to make another historic run in the 32-team doubles draw beginning on Wednesday, May 20 at the Mitchell Tennis Center.