LEXINGTON, Ky. – After clinching the doubles point on courts two and three to take the early 1-0 lead in the match, the 10th-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team dominated singles play, taking courts two, five and six en route to a 4-1 upset of No. 4 Ole Miss at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., on Friday afternoon.
“Today was a really great performance by everybody,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “This was a great effort coming off of a bad stretch last weekend where we didn’t play our best. I thought we really bounced back well with today’s effort. I am proud of the team for showing the heart I knew they had today against a top-5 team in the nation inside a very tough place to play with a tough crowd.”
With the win, Kentucky climbs to 15-4 overall on the year, and stays in the lead pack of the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division with a 3-1 mark inside league play. Ole Miss was the only remaining undefeated SEC team entering action on Friday, as the Rebels fall to 4-1 in SEC play.
Kentucky came out of the blocks blazing in the doubles point, as the Wildcats went up double break in all three matches to start off. On court three, senior Anthony Rossi and junior Grant Roberts were the first to clinch their match as they took an 8-4 win over the Rebel’s William Kallberg and Zach Wilder. Up 5-2 early in the match, the tandem collected a couple of key service holds down the stretch before closing out the match at 8-4. With the win, Rossi and Roberts escalated their season overall record to 8-3 overall with a 3-1 mark in SEC action.
On the second court, Alejandro Gomez and Ryuji Hirooka raced out to a 5-1 lead in the early going, before easily closing out the match after a couple of service exchanges 8-3. Gomez and Hirooka now are above the .500 thresholds as the duo moves to 7-6 on the year in doubles competition, and are now 2-1 in SEC play. The win was over the 40th-ranked doubles team in the country, Stefan Lindmark and Johan Backstrom of Ole Miss.
On court one, No. 23 Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai powered out to an early 5-2 lead on No. 6 Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen before the Rebels would work their way back into the match. Ole Miss would collect a hold followed by a break and then backed up their hold to eventually battle their way back to a 6-6 position with the match on serve. The Rebels tandem would hold to take the 7-6 lead on Jomby and Lai before the match was abandoned after UK clinched the point.
“The doubles point gave us a lot of momentum heading into singles play,” Kauffmann said. “But I really thought all of the boys were ready for singles play and we performed like a championship-caliber team today.”
In singles play, Kentucky and Ole Miss each took three of the six first sets, before Kentucky would take hold of the match, winning three of the five completed second sets.
The first match to finish was over rather quickly as No. 32 Tom Jomby made quick work of No. 13 Jonas Lutjen 6-1, 6-4 in just under an hour’s duration. Jomby took early control of the match, as Lutjen was only able to hold serve once in the opening set with Jomby breaking twice in the set. After the Frenchman took the opening set 6-1, he would win the final four games of the second set to close out the match 6-1, 6-4 and pick up his 11th win of the season, as he moved to 11-3 overall. Included in that 11-3 record is a 2-1 SEC record and he now has 55 career wins.
After Kentucky opened up a quick 2-0 lead overall, the Rebels would respond with their only point of the match as No. 69 William Kallberg outlasted a tough Charles Minc in two extremely tight sets 7-6, 7-5. Minc and Kallberg played back-and-forth tennis the entire match before the Rebel’s Kallberg broke at 6-5 in the second set to capture the win. Minc still has a solid record on the year, as he hoists a 7-5 mark in 2013 dual-match action.
Junior Grant Roberts expanded UK’s lead to 3-1 when he earned what would be one of two three-set matches that Kentucky would claim on the afternoon. Roberts dropped the opening set 6-4 on court five before battling back. Roberts was facing Johan Backstrom of Ole Miss, and Roberts blanked Backstrom 6-0 in the second set to force the decisive set. Roberts and Backstrom each held before Roberts broke at 3-2 to take the 4-2 lead, where he would back up his break to take the match 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 and give the Wildcats the 3-1 in the match. The Tates Creek High School alum upped his 2013 record to 9-3 overall, including a 1-1 SEC record.
The match was clinched on court six for the Wildcats as freshman Kevin Lai battled back from a one-set deficit to win in three sets and clinch the win. Lai dropped the opening set to Adrian Skogeng of Ole Miss 6-3. After that, the freshman from Taiwan would go on to win 12 of the final 18 games of the match en route to a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win. Lai was up 5-1 before Skogeng held serve in the second set to stay alive in the set at 5-2. Lai served out the set easily to force a third. In the final set, Lai picked up a break at 3-2 before Skogeng would battle back and break back at 4-3 for 4-4. Lai would then counter with a break at 4-4 to make it 5-4, and served it out at 40-30 to give the Wildcats the 4-1 win, and Lai with 6-4 win in the third. The win for Lai, one-time SEC Freshman of the Week, ups his 2013 dual-match record to 8-0 on the year and 1-0 in SEC action.
“You also have to give a lot of credit to Matt Emery,” Kauffmann said. “He did a really good job of working with Grant and Kevin on courts five and six which really turned out to be crucial in the match today.”
The matches were not played out after UK clinched.
On court one, No. 31 Anthony Rossi was on his way to a solid result against Ole Miss’ No. 14 Nik Scholtz. Rossi took a break in the closing parts of the set to collect a 7-5 win, as Rossi broke at 6-5 to collect the opening-set win. In the second set, Rossi and Scholtz were on serve at 4-5 before the match was clinched by UK.
In the only remaining court out on three, UK’s Alejandro Gomez was in tough battle with No. 99 Stefan Lindmark. Gomez broke early and held onto the lead for the duration of the opening set. Gomez was up 4-1 at one point and battled to protect it, as he took the opening set 6-4. In the second set, Gomez was broken at 4-4, as Lindmark had a chance to serve for the set a 5-4. Gomez battled and hung tough to break back at 5-5 before Lindmark outlasted Gomez in the tiebreaker. Gomez and Lindmark exchanged service holds before the match was called at 1-1 in the third.
With the win, Kentucky moves to 15-4 overall on the year and stays at 3-1 in SEC play. The win for the Wildcats marks UK’s second-consecutive win in Oxford after going some 20 years without a win against the Rebels in the Magnolia State.
The match at No. 4 Ole Miss marked Kentucky’s 14th match against teams that comprise the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top-50 in the polls. UK now holds a 10-4 record against those teams, including an amazing 4-1 mark against teams in the top 10. Kentucky has defeated No. 4 Ole Miss (4-1), No. 5 Georgia (4-2), No. 7 Oklahoma (4-3), and No. 10 Mississippi State (4-0).
Kentucky will continue its Mississippi swing on Sunday afternoon as the Wildcats head south to Starkville to take on the Bulldogs at 1:00 p.m. ET. Mississippi State comes into the weekend with a ranking of 13th in the nation.
“We are right back in the race,” Kauffmann said. “There is a logjam at the top of the race with five or six really solid teams. We know we belong there and this win re-energizes us for the rest of the conference season.”
No. 10 Kentucky 4, No. 4 Ole Miss 1
Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center – Oxford, Miss.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Doubles: (Order of finish: 3, 2*)
1- No. 6 Nik Scholtz/Jonas Lutjen (OM) led No. 23 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) 7-6 (Abd.)
2- Ryuji Hirooka/Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. No. 40 Stefan Lindmark/Johan Backstrom (OM) 8-3
3- Grant Roberts/Anthony Rossi (UK) def. William Kallberg/Zach Wilder (OM) 8-4
Singles: (Order of finish: 2, 4, 5, 6*)
1- No. 14 Nik Scholtz (OM) vs. No. 31 Anthony Rossi (UK) 7-5, 5-4 (Abd.)
2- No. 32 Tom Jomby (UK) def. No. 13 Jonas Lutjen (OM) 6-1, 6-4
3- No. 99 Stefan Lindmark (OM) vs. Alejandro Gomez (UK) 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 1-1 (Abd.)
4- No. 69 William Kallberg (OM) def. Charles Minc (UK) 7-6, 7-5
5- Grant Roberts (UK) def. Johan Backstrom (OM) 4-6, 6-0, 6-3
6- Kevin Lai (UK) def. Adrian Skogeng (OM) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
For continuing coverage of UK men’s tennis, log on to UKathletics.com.