Kentucky Earns Come-From-Behind Victory Against Ole Miss

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats kept a pristine record in Southeastern Conference play on Sunday afternoon after a dramatic, 4-3 victory over the visiting No. 26 Ole Miss Rebels at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center. 

“Today was bitter-sweet for me,” head coach Cedric Kauffman said following Kentucky’s second win in three days. “It was a great effort by our guys. We are becoming a tough group. I am sad for Charles [Minc] and I hope his injury is not too bad - we will know more about it mid-week. Our guys on the top four courts competed incredibly well today. I’m proud of the team and the great performance this weekend.”

The fate of the match came down to the play of freshman Ryotaro Matsumura on the second court, with the contest knotted at 3-all after Minc was forced to retire on the sixth court with an apparent leg injury. Matsumura led 4-2 in the second set before the Rebels’ Gustav Hansson strung together three straight games to make the match 5-4 in Ole Miss’ favor. From there the two battled to a 6-6 tie before a 7-4 tiebreaker victory earned both Matsumura and the Wildcats the win. 

The rookie had faced adversity earlier in the day, trailing 5-2 in the first set before firing back, winning five in a row to take the first set, 7-5.

"A huge win by Ryo today to clinch the match,” said assistant coach Matt Emery. “I envisioned moments just like this when I recruited Ryo. This was his first time playing the deciding match, and he handled like a seasoned veteran. He won this match because he is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, mentally in college tennis."

Kentucky now sits at 10-2 on the season and 2-0 in league matches. Ole Miss moves to 6-3 on the season with a 1-1 SEC mark. 

After falling in the doubles point, Kentucky responded with two quick points of their own. Sophomore Nils Ellfesen dispatched his opponent on the third court moments before freshman Enzo Wallart won on the fourth court. Ellefsen earned a 6-2, 6-2, win over Filip Kraljevic, while Wallart dropped a lone game in the entire match with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Fabian Fallert. 

The Kentucky lead was extended to 3-1 when sophomore William Bushamuka earned a win on the top court in the day’s only match featuring two ranked opponents. After cruising to a 6-2 win in the opening set, he and No. 69 Stefan Lindmark fought to a tiebreak, where Bushamuka earned the victory, 7-5. 

"Our guys at one through four singles were absolute studs today,” Emery added. “Nils and Enzo came right out of the gate and took it to them.  I can't stress enough how much Nils means to this program. He has become such a rock for us in the middle of the lineup.

"I was really proud of William today on the top court. He played a really solid match from start to finish. He was fearless in the second set tiebreaker to close it out."

Shortly after, Ole Miss would storm back, taking two victories of its own. Sophomore Trey Yates put up a fight in the second set but fell to Grey Hamilton, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5). Minc was in his third set when injury forced him to resign. 

Kentucky opened the match with doubles, in which the top and third seeded duos fell. The match also marked the first time that the Wildcats played on the outdoor courts this season. 

"I can't stress enough how proud I am of this group of guys,” Emery concluded. “They had a lot of adversity thrown at them today. It was a difficult situation, having to play outdoors without having hit literally one ball outdoors in the past two months. To beat a top 30 team - a team that thrives in an outdoor environment - is a really solid accomplishment.  This match came down to toughness and our guys responded in a huge way."

Kentucky will spring back into action again next weekend with another pair of SEC matches, this time on the road. The Cats will take to Starkville, Miss., to face Mississippi State on Friday, Mar. 11 before heading to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to play the Crimson Tide on Sunday, Mar. 13 at 2 p.m.

#22 Kentucky 4, #26 Ole Miss 3

1. #31 William Bushamuka (UK) def. #69 Stefan Lindmark (OM) 6-2, 7-6 (7-5)
2. #90 Ryotaro Matsumura (UK) def. Gustav Hansson (OM) 7-5, 7-6 (7-4)
3. Nils Ellefsen (UK) def. Filip Kraljevic (OM) 6-2, 6-2
4. Enzo Wallart (UK) def. Fabian Fallert (OM) 6-1, 6-0
5. Grey Hamilton (OM) def. Trey Yates (UK) 6-0, 7-6 (7-5)
6. Zvonimir Babic (OM) def. Chalres Minc (UK) 3-6, 6-3, 2-0, retired

1. Zvonimir Babic/Filip Kraljevic (OM) def. Nils Ellefsen/William Bushamuka (UK) 6-2
2. Ryotaro Matsumura/Enzo Wallart (UK) def. Ricardo Jorge/Stefan Lindmark (OM) 5-1
3. Grey Hamilton/Fabian Fallert (OM) def. Austin Hussey/Kevin Lai (UK) 6-4

Match Notes
Ole Miss 6-3; National ranking #26
Kentucky 10-2; National ranking #22
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (3,4,1,5,6,2)

For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow @UKMensTennis on Twitter or Kentucky Men’s Tennis Team on Facebook.