Feb 3, 2013 8:56 PM
In a match that lasted upwards of six hours on a bitter Sunday afternoon in Lexington, Ky., the No. 9 University of Kentucky men's tennis team outlasted No. 8 Oklahoma by a score of 4-3, as the Wildcats improved to 6-0 on the season with the win.
"It's a big win for the boys," UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. "I told them in the locker room that I thought we could do great things and beat some teams in the top-10 later on in the year, or maybe mid-year, but I didn't think it could happen this early. I am very pleased and I am really happy for the players."
Kentucky (6-0, 0-0 SEC) has been stressing the importance of the doubles point all season long, as yet again, Kentucky claimed the all-important point with two wins in tiebreakers to claim the early 1-0 lead in the match.
The first court to go final was court two as Oklahoma's No. 32 Guillermo Alcorta/Axel Alvarez Llamas defeated Ryuji Hirooka and Alejandro Gomez 8-7 (6). The match went all 14 games without a break of serve as the Wildcats' tandem was unable to come up with the decisive point in the tiebreak as OU took the early lead in the doubles point.
After falling behind 5-2 in the match on court three, Anthony Rossi and Grant Roberts fought their way back from a double-break deficit to get the match back on serve at 5-5 and laterforce a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Rossi and Roberts stood strong as the Sooners never led in the extra session and the Wildcats took the 8-7 (4) win, as the doubles point would end up being decided on court one.
On court one, No. 35 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai were able to get ahead early with a break of serve at 2-1 to give the duo from France and Taiwan the early lead. The Wildcats kept the break in the match up until the Sooners pair of Costin Paval and Dane Webb, who are ranked 12th in the nation broke back at 5-4 to get the match leveled at 5-5. The teams would exchange service games down the stretch, as the match wouldcome to form with the others and go to a decisive tiebreak at 7-7. In the tiebreak, OU led 4-3 before Kentucky rattled off three-consecutive points to gain the mini-break to win the tiebreaker 7-5 and clinch the doubles point for UK.
"The doubles point was big for us," Kauffmann said. "For Oklahoma or us to take four singles matches from each other, we knew would be really tough. Not impossible, but very tough. It kind of gives us momentum. We tell the boys that when we take the doubles point, it is going to be very, very tough to take four singles from us."
With the win in the doubles point, UK is now 6-0 on the season in the doubles point and has won 16 of the 18 matches played in doubles this season.
In singles, Oklahoma (4-1, 0-0 Big XII) would strike first and even the match up at 1-1 as on court three, No. 71 Dane Webb outlasted No. 97 Alejandro Gomez in a three-set match 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Gomez struggled in the opening set, and was down 0-3 in the second setbefore rallying and winning six of the last nine games of the second set toforce the match to a decisive third frame. In the final set, Gomez served first and it was 2-2 before Webb broke to make it 4-2 and take the lead in the final frame. As the final set closed, Webb broke Gomez out to close the third set at 6-3.
No. 15 Tom Jomby would quickly give Kentucky the lead back with a straight-set 6-4, 7-5 win over the top-ranked Sooner on court today, No. 36 Guillermo Alcorta. Jomby was up 3-0 early in the opening set, and even 4-1 before Alcorta took back a break to level the set at 4-4. Jomby held serve at four all before capturing double break point a 5-4 and clinching the opening set 6-4. In the second set, Jomby again picked up the early break of serve to go up 2-0 and the two exchangesservice games up until Jomby broke Webb at 6-5 and took the second set 7-5.
Jomby is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation, and with the win today hoists a record of 5-0 on the season with wins over two ranked players.
Oklahoma struck back again to equal the match and make it 2-2 as Axel Alvarez Llamas defeated Juan Pablo Murra 7-6 (2), 6-3. Murra was down 5-4 in the opening set before coming back to force a tiebreak. Llamas took the tiebreak 7-2 and rolled in the second set 6-3 to give the Sooners their second point of the afternoon and square the match at two all.
The Sooners would take their first lead of the afternoon as No. 103 Costin Poval knocked off Anthony Rossi 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a three setter that took 2:35 to play. Rossi came out of the gates strong, breaking Poval twice in the opening set to pick up a 6-2 win in the frame. Poval then climbed back into the match picking up a 6-4 win in the second stanza to send the match to a decisive third set. In the final frame, Rossi picked up a break at 1-0, and raced out to a 4-1 lead in the set with the break. OU's Paval would then rattle off the final five games of the match, breaking Rossi three times to claim the final set 6-4 and give OU the momentary 3-2 lead in the match.
As the match grew older, Kentucky sent two players out that Kauffmann has confidence in, as Charles Minc and Grant Roberts took the stage in the third wave of players as UK needed two wins to clinch the match out of the No. 5 and No. 6 courts.
Minc easily won his match 6-2, 6-2 in just 1:17 minutes to level the score at three all in the match overall. Minc and Peerakit Siributwong of Oklahoma were knotted at two in the opening set before Minc broke at 3-2 and then won the final three games of the set to take the opening frame 6-2. The second set saw more of the same as Minc broke at 3-2 and won the last few games to easily shut down any chance of Siributwong getting back into the match.
"Charles has been a really good surprise for us," Kauffmann said. "He is just playing really, really well and its kind of a nerve-racking situation to just throw them out on the third wave of players. He is handling that as a champ."
The win for UK on court five set the stage for Lexington, Ky., native Grant Roberts to give the Wildcats thecome-from-behind 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over Leonard Stakhovsky.
"My mindset walking on was to just go out there and play," Roberts said. "I didn't really want to think about the score and off of that stuff. I love the pressure situation, and that's why I play the No. 6 slot. I just kind of went out there and did it."
The first set in the match went to Stakhovsky after he trailed Roberts 3-0 to start. The opening framestayed on serve up until 5-4 when Stakhovsky broke Roberts after six deuces to capitalize and take the set 6-4.
In the second frame, everything was on serve at 2-2 before Roberts picked up the break to lead 4-2 in the set and was looking to force a decisive frame. Stakhovsky broke Roberts at 5-3 to get the match back on serve for the time being at 5-4, but Roberts stayed in every point and didn't buckle, as Stakhovsky dropped his serve to Roberts to end the set and the Tates Creek High School alum forced a decisive frame that would not only decide his match, but the match overall.
In the final frame, Roberts served first and dropped his serve right off the bat and was behind the eight ball. At 1-3, with Stakhovsky for OU leading, Roberts had a massive hold after four deuces and battled his way to get the match back on serve with a break at 3-3.
"I just wanted to get the bulldog mentality after I got things back on serve," Roberts said. "I wanted to have that fight and will to win. I saw he was getting a little tired and was putting his hands on his knees and bending over. I just wanted to battle and give everything I had."
After Roberts made it 4-3 with a hold, the two would exchange holds up until Roberts held at 6-5 and made Stakhovsky serve to stay in the match. Roberts forced Stakhovsky into a deuce and picked up the advantage right off the bat in the deuce game. At match point, Roberts watched a Stakhovsky forehand sail wide of the volley and the junior clinched the point for the Wildcats as Roberts won in an epic three-set affair, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
"This is a huge win for us," Roberts said. "This is going to help our ranking with other teams losing, but it's a really good win for us. That was a big win today and I am proud of the way we fought for it."
"Grant has made some sacrifices to be where he is at," Kauffmann said. "Plain and simple. That is why we put him at court six and in these situations. We believe he can handle the nerves. I am really proud of the sacrifices he has given."
"We had some guys really step up in this match who we hadn't really needed all year," UK assistant coach Matt Emery said. "Our freshman did a good job again of in a big match, coming out and playing really well. Grant has been rock solid at six, and that is why we trust him so much at that six spot."
Kentucky with the win improves to 6-0, and will next take a trip to the site of the 2013 NCAA Championships as the Wildcats will take on No. 25 Illinois in a match on Sunday Feb. 9 at 6:00 p.m. ET.