Men's Tennis Upsets No. 4 Tennessee on the Road
Feb. 21, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -
The University of Kentucky men's tennis team notched one of the most significant wins in the 87-year history of the Wildcat program with a 4-2 road victory over No. 4 Tennessee at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday.
The No. 31 Cats jumped out to an early lead after clinching the doubles point, but trailed a set in each of the first four singles matches to take the court. The Volunteers clinched two of those matches for a 2-1 margin before the Wildcats posted two come-from-behind victories that ended in 7-6 third-set tiebreakers and a straight-set victory on court five to secure the win.
The last time UK defeated an opponent ranked among the top five in the nation was on Apr. 6, 2005 when the Wildcats posted a 4-3 road victory at No.2 Illinois.
After Saturday's victory, Kentucky head coach Dennis Emery reflected on the significance of the match.
"Today snaps one of the longest dry spells that I can recall for our program without a win over a top-five team," said Emery. "This win says a lot about the character of our team. We just played great today and we did what we had to do.
"What I like most about this win is that it was a total team effort, everybody on our team contributed. Tennessee is ranked fourth in the nation for a reason after knocking off No. 1 Ohio State last week at the National Indoors. I really like the fact that our guys learned a lot from our road matches against top-10 teams Ole Miss and Virginia earlier this year. Tennessee is a good team with three top-10 wins this season. This is a really big breakthrough win for us against a very competitive, well-coached team."
UK started off the day with positive results on the doubles courts.
On court two, Wildcat freshmen Graeme Dyce and Eric Quigley used a break mid-way through the match to earn an impressive 8-5 victory over Tennessee's Boris Conkic and Matteo Fago. The Volunteer duo was previously ranked as high as No. 21 in the nation this year.
A new UK team made an appearance at No. 3 doubles in sophomore Alberto Gonzalez and freshman Alex Musialek. The tandem has played together only since January but has won three of its last four matches including their only dual-match win against UNC Greensboro in the opener. After an early 3-3 tie against UT's Jeremy Tweedt and Christian Hansen, the Wildcats captured three of the next four games to take a 6-4 lead. The teams split the final four games for the Cats' 8-6 win that secured the doubles point.
On court one, Volunteers Davey Sandgren and John-Patrick Smith upset UK's No. 30 team of Bruno Agostinelli and Brad Cox in extra games, 9-7.
"I thought Quigley and Dyce played their best match of the year today," commented Emery. "We also put a new team out there today at No. 3 and Gonzalez and Musialek really played well together."
With UK up 1-0 after taking the doubles point, four courts of singles action took center stage, but after the first sets of each match it did not look good for the Wildcats. The Volunteers took early one-set leads on courts one through four.
Court two was first to finish as Cox faced No. 20 Conkic. The foes battled to a 4-all tie in the first before Conkic broke the Wildcat to close out the set. In the second, the Volunteer continued to force the action with a 6-2 win.
With the team scores knotted at 1-1, the Wildcats forced a third set on the other three courts.
On court four, UT extended its lead to 2-1 with another win as No. 107 Fago took out Dyce. Fago won the first set 6-2, but Dyce came back to win the second 7-5. In the deciding set, Fago regained control to close out the match 6-3.
Then the dramatic Wildcat comeback began.
On court three, UK's No. 83 Quigley fell behind early to Sandgren as the Vol took the first set 7-5. Quigley bounced back to take the second set 6-4 to force a third. In the final set, Quigley served for the match at 5-4, but Sandgren saved the match point and went on to break the Wildcat to even the match at 5-all and eventually force a tiebreaker. Quigley went on to win the breaker for the 7-6 win and even the team score at 2-2.
Musialek had it a little easier time on court five with a straight-set win over Tennessee's Matt Brewer 6-3, 7-5, to give the Cats a 3-2 match lead.
All eyes turned to court one for a final result in a three-set thriller between two top-10 opponents, Agostinelli and Smith. The two had met twice during the fall with Agostinelli winning both matches over the 2008 NCAA Singles Finalist. Coming into today's match, Agostinelli ranked eighth nationally while Smith stood ninth.
Smith looked like he was out for revenge in the first set with a convincing 6-2 win. Agostinelli fought back to take the second set 7-6 in a tiebreaker to force a deciding set. In the third, Smith jumped out to a 3-0 lead but Agostinelli broke back to knot the match at 5-all. The familiar foes eventually found themselves in a third-set tiebreak with Smith leading after the first changeover. The Volunteer extended his lead to 5-2 out of the break, but Agostinelli again battled back with mini-breaks to take the tiebreaker and the match 7-6; clinching Kentucky's team match point for the win, 4-2.
On court six, the match between Tweedt and Gonzalez was suspended with the Volunteer leading 1-0 in the second and up a set after a 6-2 win in the first.
"Our young guys just hung in there and fought after falling behind in the first set on all four singles courts," said Emery. "I think the keys to our turnaround were the good starts in the second sets; then it became an even fight in the third. Musialek played a really good match and Bruno showed tremendous composure in his win.
"I'm really happy for Bruno. He continues to amaze me with his character and work ethic. J.P. Smith is one of the most respected players in the collegiate game, and he doesn't give you anything. So for Bruno to come back from 3-0 down in the third and down in the tiebreaker, displays his confidence and composure under pressure."
The UK victory does not count in the conference standings but pushes the Wildcats record to 7-2 on the season, while UT's loss drops the Vols to 7-2 this year.
The Wildcats have a quick turnaround before heading north for a road battle against another ranked team. This time No. 25 Notre Dame awaits the Cats with a 4:00 p.m. ET first serve scheduled Monday in South Bend, Ind.
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#31 Kentucky 4, #4 Tennessee 2
1. #8 Bruno Agostinelli (UK) def. #9 John-Patrick Smith (UT) 2-6, 7-6, 7-6*
2. #20 Boris Conkic (UT) def. Brad Cox (UK) 6-4, 6-2
3. #83 Eric Quigley (UK) def. Davey Sandgren (UT) 5-7, 6-4, 7-6
4. #107 Matteo Fago (UT) def. Graeme Dyce (UK) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3
5. Alex Musialek (UK) def. Matt Brewer (UT) 6-3, 7-5
6. Jeremy Tweedt (UT) led Alberto Gonzalez (UK) 6-2, 1-0, susp.
Order of Finish: 2, 4, 3, 5, 1
1. Davey Sandgren / John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. #30 Bruno Agostinelli / Brad Cox (UK) 9-7
2. Graeme Dyce / Eric Quigley (UK) def. Boris Conkic / Matteo Fago (UT) 8-5
3. Alberto Gonzalez / Alex Musialek (UK) def. Christian Hansen / Jeremy Tweedt (UT) 8-6
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1