April 2, 2010
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 33 men’s tennis team (9-10, 2-5 SEC) came out on top in a dramatic 4-3 match against No. 46 LSU (5-11, 2-5 SEC) on Friday at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium. The Crimson Tide looked dominant in doubles against the Tigers, but singles action provided a stiff test.
“We expected this match to come down to the wire,” head coach Billy Pate said. “That is exactly what we got. We played exceptionally well in doubles, but started very slowly in singles. We showed great resolve and gained momentum throughout the day to pick up the tough win.”
Doubles play started off in favor of Alabama, as all three Tide duos claimed an early break lead. On court two, sophomores Ricky Doverspike and Michael Thompson held a two break lead at 5-2 before LSU’s Mark Bowtell and Stefan Szacinski got one of the breaks back. Alabama broke again for a 7-4 lead, and after Thompson was broken at 7-4, the Tide broke one more time for the win. At the No. 3 spot, freshman Jarryd Botha and junior Trey Walston collected an early break against David Roberts and Julien Gauthier, but the match was back on serve at 4-4. Walston fought off two break points at 5-4, then broke in the next game to take a commanding lead, serving out the 8-4 victory.
On court one, the No. 64 pair of senior Saketh Myneni and sophomore Michael Davis earned the first break thanks to a passing shot down the line from Davis, giving them a 4-3 lead. The lead did not last long however, as Neal Skupski and Sebastian Carlsson broke back to tie the score at 5-5. The match remained on serve until 7-7, when Alabama broke and easily served out the match for a sweep of the doubles point.
The Tigers quickly responded in singles, winning five of the six first sets. Carlsson got LSU on the board, defeating Botha on court four 6- 4, 6-4. Carlsson needed just one break in each set, getting one at 1-1 in the first and in the first game of the second. He never dropped serve in the match.
Alabama regained the lead quickly thanks to senior Houssam Yassine. Yassine trailed early against Gauthier at the No. 5 position, but was able to break serve at 5-4 with Gauthier serving for the opening set. That sparked Yassine, who held serve and converted a break point at 6-5 thanks to a crafty lob, which he followed in to easily. Yassine took a 4-2 lead in the second, and appeared to be in cruise control before suffering a scare at deuce leading 5-3. He scrambled to the net for a drop shot and fell on his wrist, prompting an immediate injury timeout. Yassine came out of the timeout facing break point, but came through with some clutch serving to hold on for the win 7-5, 6-3.
Bowtell evened the score at 2-2 by virtue of his three set win over Doverspike on court two. The first set remained on serve until 5-5, when Bowtell broke and successfully served out the set. Doverspike rebounded in the second, breaking serve at 3-2 to run away with the set 6-3. The final set was much like the first, remaining on serve until Bowtell was able to earn a break, this time at 3-3. Bowtell had all the momentum from there, taking the final set 6-3.
Freshman Ian Chadwell put the Tide back on top with his tight three-set victory over Cody Loup. Loup broke serve twice in the opening set to take it 6-3, but Chadwell earned the only break in the second to win it by the same score and force a third. Chadwell was able to break early in the final set and remained steady on his own serve, winning the set 6-4 to take the match.
The Alabama victory was clinched by Myneni, ranked No. 31 in the nation in singles, but it didn’t come easy, as he was forced to claw his way through three tough sets against No. 34 Skupski. Myneni fell behind an early break to start the match, but Skupski gave the break back at 4-3 via a double fault. He was able to shrug it off at 5-5, breaking serve and taking the opening set 7-5. The second set opened with consecutive breaks, but the players held serve the rest of the way, sending the set into a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Myneni took a 3-1 lead before falling behind 3-4. However, he would not lose another point, winning it seven points to four.
The final set was equally as dramatic, as Myneni broke serve on two occasions, but was unable to consolidate. Myneni recorded another break for a 5-4 lead and an opportunity to serve out the match. He was shaky at the net in the game, letting three match points slip away, but finally was able to wear down Skupski and punch a half volley into the open court to clinch the match in dramatic fashion.
LSU took the final match of the day thanks to a default from Thompson. Szacinski earned the decisive break of serve at 4-3, taking the opening set 6-3. The second set featured six breaks of serve, leading the set into a tiebreak. The tiebreak saw the serves continuing to struggle. Szacinski let two match points slip away, and it was Thompson who converted his second set point to win the set. Thompson was battling cramps late in the second set, and defaulted once Myneni clinched the match win.
“When you win a close match like this, there are several heroes,” Pate said. “Houssam and Ian coming back was huge, and Saketh was very familiar with the position he was in. Now we have to turn our focus to Arkansas.”
Alabama remains at home for its match on Sunday when it takes on No. 50 Arkansas. Opening serve is slated for noon (CST).
1. No. 64 Davis/Myneni (UA) def. Carlsson/Skupski (LSU) 9-7
2. Doverspike/Thompson (UA) def. Bowtell/Szacinski (LSU) 8-5
3. Botha/Walston (UA) def. Roberts/Gauthier (LSU) 8-4
Order of Finish: 2,3,1
1. No. 31 Saketh Myneni (UA) def. No. 34 Neal Skupski (LSU) 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-4
2. Mark Bowtell (LSU) def. Ricky Doverspike (UA) 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
3. Sebastian Carlsson (LSU) def. Jarryd Botha (UA) 6-4, 6-4
4. Stefan Szacinski (LSU) def. Michael Thompson (UA) 6-3, 6-7(8)
5. Houssam Yassine (UA) def. Julien Gauthier (LSU) 7-5, 6-3
6. Ian Chadwell (UA) def. Cody Loup (LSU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Order of Finish: 3,5,2,6,1*,4