LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 9 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team booked its spot in the 2013 Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s National Indoor Championships by knocking off No. 17 Texas on Saturday night 4-1 in front of a raucous crowd at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis in Lexington, Ky., to win the Lexington Regional of the 2013 ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
Kentucky (5-0, 0-0 SEC) reverted back to methods they have been using all season by winning the doubles point from the No. 17 Longhorns and then taking three tight singles matches to clinch the match at 4-1.
“This is a big win for us tonight,” UK first-year head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “There were not a lot of people around the country that thought we could beat this Texas team that had two returning All-Americans coming back. They were a really strong team, but I am so proud of my guys for being able to pull off this win.”
The Wildcats won the doubles point by clinching the wins on courts one and two. No. 35 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai picked up an early break in the match and held serve for the rest of the games to capture an 8-6 win and put Kentucky on the board with the first doubles match. Jomby and Lai’s energy would carry over to court two where Alejandro Gomez and Ryuji Hirooka took their match 8-6 over Texas’ David Holiner and Daniel Whitehead. Hirooka and Gomez survived an early break at 1-1 from the Longhorns and were able to break back at 6-6 before winning the last three games to pick up the 8-6 win. The win in doubles marked the fifth time in five matches that UK has won the doubles point.
In singles, No. 15 Tom Jomby continued to play some of the best tennis of his career, picking up a monstrous 6-0, 6-1 win on court No. 2 over Sudanwa Sitram of Texas. Jomby was unstoppable in service games and took control of the match in the early games and finished strong. Jomby’s 6-0 win in the first set continued his streak of taking the first set 6-0 in all five of his matches as he improved to 4-0 on the young 2012 season.
“Tom has always had the capability to play like this,” Kauffmann said. “We had to work physically and mentally with him, but he is coming together.”
With Jomby making it 2-0 very early in singles, the attention turned to the far side of the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center to courts three and four. Texas got on the board to make it 2-1 with a three-set win from Lloyd Glasspool who outlasted Kentucky’s Juan Pablo Murra 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Murra was down 0-5 in the third set and kept battling and grinding in the fifth, and got a break back to make it 5-3, but Glasspool was strong in the closing game to mark Texas’ (4-1, 0-0 Big XII) only point of the match.
The third and clinching points for Kentucky would come within seconds of each other as senior captain No. 94 Anthony Rossi picked his fifth win of the season 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 over No. 31 Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas to move to 5-0. Rossi dropped the opening set 6-5 after being broken in the final game after there were no breaks of serve in the first nine games of the set. In the second set, Rossi broke Hess-Olesen’s first service game before giving it back just three games later. With the second set tied 3-3, Rossi broke Hess-Olesen at 15 and held on to win the final three games of the set to close it out 6-4.
As the match entered the third set and the crowd became increasingly into the match, Rossi turned up the adrenalin and held serve in all of his service games of the final set. After there were no breaks of serve in the first nine games, Rossi broke at 5-5 to give him the 6-0 lead. Rossi served out the match at 7-5 in the fifth, and gave Kentucky the very short-lived 3-1 lead in the match overall at the time.
“It was really tough physically in the last set,” Rossi said after his win. “I was cramping a little bit and I could feel my legs after every serve. It was getting tough. Everybody was tired from playing back-to-back days against great teams and the crowd is pushing you. It was a really tough match, and he is a great player, but gosh it feels good at the end to win.”
“We knew he could do it,” Kauffmann said of Rossi’s performance. “It is always tough to come from the three spot to the one spot, but he has a big heart. He was really, really good. I thought he played big, he played smart and towards the end he was a little tired, but it was a great win.”
Seconds after Rossi made it 3-1 Kentucky, UK’s Alejandro Gomez clinched the match for Kentucky coming back from dropping the third set and picking up a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 43 Daniel Whitehead of Texas. Gomez and Whitehead exchanged three breaks in the final set before Gomez closed out the match with a 5-5 break of Whitehead’s serve to clinch the match. In a match that lasted two hours and 23 minutes, Gomez powered his way to a break at 5-5 before winning the final two games as he was mobbed on-court by his fellow teammates.
“After not being able to play in the fall, this was a big win for me,” Gomez said after the match. “After the second set I told myself to reset and everything was going to start back again at 0-0. I tried to stay in the match mentally and play every point as hard as I could. He is a good player and he is a very consistent player. I fought very hard and it was tough to break him. In the end, I was able to come through with great shot selection which gave me the break at the end.”
“I was so proud of Alejandro after this match,” Kauffmann said. “ He was a little bit down after losing his matches with Michigan State and Indiana, but he told his team in the locker room that he wasn’t going to lose today. That takes a lot of pride and toughness to be able to say that. It really does. But we as a team are so proud of him and it was a big win.”
With the win, Kentucky moves to 5-0 on the season and advances to the finals of the 2013 ITA National Indoor Championships in Seattle, Wash. Kentucky, host school Washington, and 14 other regional winners will compete for the title from Seattle on Feb. 15-18 on the west coast. Kentucky with the win also collects the Lexington Regional title for the second-consecutive season after powering past Pepperdine in 2012 to book a spot in the finals.
The win over Texas marks the third-straight top-50 team that Kentucky has defeated this week after capturing a 5-2 win at No. 22 Indiana, a 4-1 win vs. No. 47 Michigan State and today’s 4-1 win vs. No. 17 Texas.
“I care about winning, but I care about seeing the smiles on the faces of my guys out there on the court and in the locker room,” Kauffmann said. If we win, it makes it easier for them, but this is why I come to work everyday” Kauffmann said.
Kentucky will take a week off after playing three top-50 teams this week and going 3-0 in those games. The Wildcats will return to action Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET at the Boone Tennis Center in Lexington,Ky., for a top-10 showdown as UK welcomes in the Oklahoma Sooners, who currently sit at No. 8 in the ITA rankings.
No. 9 Kentucky 4, No. 17 Texas 1
Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center – Lexington, Ky.
January 26, 2013
Doubles (Order of finish: 1, 2*)
1- No. 35 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) def. Nick Naumann/Chris Camilone (Texas) 8-6
2- Alejandro Gomez/Ryuji Hirooka (UK) def. David Holiner/David Whitehead (Texas) 8-6
3- Grant Roberts/Anthony Rossi (UK) vs. Soren Hess-Olesen/Ben Chen (Texas) 7-6 (abd.)
Singles (Order of finish: 2,4,1,3*)
1- No. 94 Anthony Rossi (UK) def. No. 31 Soren Hess-Olesen (Texas) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
2- No. 15 Tom Jomby (UK) def. Sudanwa Sitram (Texas) 6-0, 6-1
3- No. 97 Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. No 43 Daniel Whitehead (Texas) 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
4- Lloyd Glasspool (Texas) def. Juan Pablo Murra (UK) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
5- No. 98 Nick Naumann (Texas) vs. Charles Micn (UK) 2-6, 4-3 (abd.)
6- David Holiner (Texas) vs. Grant Roberts (UK) DNS
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