GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 21-ranked Alabama men's tennis team topped No. 26-ranked Ole Miss with a dramatic 4-3 victory in the second round of the 2019 Southeastern Conference Men's Tennis Championships on Thursday at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
"A battle today and I'm proud of our willingness to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation," said head coach George Husack. "As I've said before it starts with discipline in every way on and off the court. Trusting your preparation and being courageous is next. And finally keeping a relentless pursuit of the carrot in front of you while responding from each blow you might take from your opponent and giving it right back. That's competing and we did a pretty good job of that today."
Sophomore Jeremy Gschwendtner supplied the clinching point with a three-set triumph at No. 6 singles to help the Tide win its first matchup versus the Rebels on the season. Alabama moves to 16-9 overall record including a 5-7 mark in SEC play, meanwhile, Ole Miss slips to 16-12 overall and 5-7 in league play.
Alabama registered the first doubles victory of the contest, as No. 13 sophomore Patrick Kaukovalta and senior Mazen Osama teamed up to defeat No. 43 Finn Reynolds and Fabian Fallert in a 6-3 decision on court one. The Rebels would battle back to close the gap, as Simon Junk and Cotter Wilson topped sophomore Sam Fischer and junior Zhe Zhou 6-4. No. 50 Tim Sandkaulen and Filip Kraljevic overcame junior Edson Ortiz and sophomore Riccardo Roberto 7-5, to take the doubles point.
Zhou put Alabama on the board and evened the score at 1-1 after dispatching Wilson, 6-3, 6-2, in the No. 5 position to earn the first singles decision. However, Junk defeated Kaukovalta at No. 4 by a 6-4, 7-5 tally, setting a pattern for the remainder of the dual, as the two sides traded proverbial punches.
The No. 46-ranked Osama erased a 6-2 deficit in his first set to earn the 6-4 and 6-0 come-from-behind victories in the last two sets. Ole Miss took back the lead, as Fallert got past Ortiz in the second position, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
Alabama extended the match thanks to the efforts of Roberto, who outlasted, Reynolds in three sets in the No. 3 slot, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
With the team score knotted at 3-3 all eyes turned to the No. 6 court, where Gschwendtner rallied in the third set to clinch the match against Jan Soren Hain, 7-6(8), 6-7(7), 6-2, as his teammates erupted in jubilation.
With the victory, Alabama advances to the quarterfinals to face No. 1 seed Florida on Friday at 11:00 a.m. CT. The Gators defeated the Crimson Tide by a final score of 7-0 in the two teams' only meeting during the regular season on April 5 in Tuscaloosa.