Jan. 31, 2010
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 25 men’s tennis team (2-1) capped off 2010 ITA Kick-Off Weekend by coming back to defeat the 18th-ranked Duke Blue Devils (2-1) 4-2 Sunday at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide advances to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, which will be held Feb. 12-15 at Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.
“This was a tremendous victory by our team today,” head coach Billy Pate said. “Duke is a great team. I felt like we were definitely the underdog coming into the match and our guys rallied around that. It looked like we had control of a couple of the doubles courts, but we let them get back into those matches and that frustrated us, but we were able to rebound well in singles. We came out with a sense of purpose and fight in singles today. We also had some young guys step up and really mature out there on the court.”
Alabama was seemingly in control of courts two and three in doubles action, jumping ahead 4-1 in both matches. On court one Duke raced out to a 4-1 lead. All three matches saw momentum change almost simultaneously, with the team trailing 4-1 breaking back and settling into the match. The Duke pair of junior Reid Carleton and freshman Henrique Cunha showed why they are ranked No. 8 nationally, as they were able to regain momentum on court one and run away with the match, defeating senior Saketh Myneni and sophomore Michael Davis 8-4. The Tide’s South African duo of sophomore Michael Thompson and freshman Jarryd Botha saw their 4-1 lead evaporate quickly. They were not able to record another game, as junior Jared Pinsky and sophomore David Holland broke serve four consecutive times on their way to an 8-4 victory that clinched the doubles point for the Blue Devils. Things were slipping away from Alabama’s sophomore Ricky Doverspike and freshman Ian Chadwell when play was stopped, as their 4-1 lead was turned into a 7-5 deficit by senior Dylan Arnould and sophomore Torsten Wietoska.
The Tide found itself in an even larger hole when the first singles match was completed. It was a tightly contested battle on court six between Davis and junior Alain Michel. The first set was on serve until 5-5, when Michel broke Davis and served out the set 7-5. The second set was close as well, with Davis jumping ahead for an early break. However, he could not keep the lead, and Michel stormed back to take the set 6-4. Thompson, ranked No. 123, finally got Alabama on the board thanks to his straight sets victory at the No. 3 position in one of two singles matches pitting ranked players against one another. He found himself down an early break to Arnould, ranked No. 62 nationally. Thompson was able to break back, and broke serve once more to take the opening set 6-4. Momentum clearly carried over into the second set, as Thompson won the first five games of the set en route to winning the set 6-1. The match was evened at 2-2 thanks to a 6-4, 6-4 victory by senior Houssam Yassine over Pinsky on court five. After winning the first set, Yassine found himself up 3-0 and looked to be in full control before Pinsky won two games in a row. The Tide senior was able to stabilize his game and protect his serve the rest of the way to claim the win, coming up with a scrambling lob over the head of Pinsky on match point.
At the No. 4 spot, Botha and No. 77 Wietoska were locked in a battle. The server was in full control of the first set, but it was Wietoska who cracked first and lost serve. Botha capitalized and took the set 7-5. The Duke sophomore was not going to be put away easily though, breaking Botha at 3-3 in the second. But it was Botha who raised his level of play, breaking back and holding for a 5-4 lead. Wietoska was forced to serve to stay in the match, and he once again faltered late in a set, giving Botha the 7-5, 6-4 victory.
Court one held the other battle of nationally-ranked players. No. 62 Myneni and No. 17 Cunha found themselves locked in several long rallies throughout the match, with each looking for the upper hand. Cunha looked sharp from the opening serve, earning a break of serve in the opening games of the match. However, Myneni was able to get the break back with Cunha leading 3-2. The set eventually went to a tiebreak, and once again it was Cunha who appeared to be the better player. He won the first two points of the tiebreak, but would not win another. Myneni won the final seven points to take the tiebreak seven points to two. The Alabama senior appeared to be cruising in the second set, taking a two break lead at 3-0. Cunha proved to be a fighter though, and would get one break back and force Myneni to serve out the match. Myneni did just that, racing out to a 40-0 lead on his serve and ripping an inside-out forehand on his second match point to clinch the victory for the Tide and send the team to Charlottesville.
The final match of the day was at the No. 2 position, and it was the only match to go to three sets on the day. Duke’s Carleton jumped out two a double-break lead against Doverspike, and Doverspike was only able to break back once as Carleton took the opening set 6-4. The second set remained on serve until the final game, when Carleton was serving to stay in the set. Doverspike was able to break and take the set 6-4. Play was halted before the third set began.
“It is a great honor to be able to go to nationals,” Pate added following the win. “We are going to face some stiff competition, but we are ready for the challenge.”
Alabama will be back in action Sunday, Feb. 7 at 1:00 (CST) at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium hosting region foe Tulane.
1. No. 8 Cunha/Carleton (DU) def. Myneni/Davis (UA) 8-4
2. Doverspike/Chadwell (UA) vs. Arnould/Wietoska (DU) 7-5, unf.
3. Pinsky/Holland (DU) def. Thompson/Botha (UA) 8-4
Order of Finish: 1,3
1. No. 62 Saketh Myneni (UA) def. No. 17 Henrique Cunha (DU) 7-6(2), 6-4
2. Ricky Doverspike (UA) vs. Reid Carleton (DU) 4-6, 6-4, unf.
3. No. 123 Michael Thompson (UA) def. No. 62 Dylan Arnould (DU) 6-4, 6-1
4. Jarryd Botha (UA) def. No. 77 Torsten Wietoska (DU) 7-5, 6-4
5. Houssam Yassine (UA) def. Jared Pinsky (DU) 6-4, 6-4
6. Alain Michel (DU) def. Michael Davis (UA) 7-5, 6-4
Order of Finish: 6,3,5,4,1*