No. 9 Men's Tennis Defeats No. 3 Georgia 4-3 in Athens

March 31, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind sophomore Tom Jomby’s thrilling three-set winner that clinched the match, the No. 9 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team moved into sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference standings after its exhilarating  4-3 win over No. 3 Georgia on Friday at the Dan MaGill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

The win for Kentucky (19-4, 7-0 SEC) was the second consecutive over the SEC powerhouse and its first in Athens since the 1997 season. Friday’s victory marked only the eighth time in school history the Wildcats have beat the Bulldogs. Kentucky lost its regular-season match with Georgia last season in Lexington, Ky., before it took down No. 5 Georgia 4-0 in the SEC Tournament semifinals in Gainesville, Fla..

“This was a very, very intense match and I am really happy with how our guys pulled together to get the win,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “Our players handled some real adversity tonight, playing against a hostile crowd and having to fight through some rain delays. That was the key to the match was how we were able to make adjustments and continue to fight to get the win.”

Kentucky has now won seventh consecutive matches to start league play, moving the Wildcats into sole possession of first place in the SEC standings. The 7-0 start for UK is the second best in school history, just behind the school-best 8-0 start by the 1988 team. UK’s win also continues its recent success in the SEC as the Wildcats have won 18 of their last 22 matches in league play dating back to last season.

The Wildcats’ victory over Georgia was their first over a top-three team since they knocked off No. 2 Virginia 4-3 on Feb. 6, 2010 in Lexington. Kentucky is an impressive 7-3 this season against teams currently ranked in the ITA top 25. Including its win Friday, UK has now won 26 matches over top-25 teams since the start of the 2009 season.

Georgia (16-2, 6-1 SEC) entered the match riding an eight-match winning streak, including a win over No. 2 Ohio State. UK joins current No. 1 Southern California as the only teams that have defeated UGA this season, while the Wildcats are the only team to defeat Georgia at home.

“Georgia is considered to be the leading program in our conference and it is for good reason,” Emery said. “They are so well coached and are so hard to beat at home. Their crowd is very vocal and it really creates an advantage for them. This is a big win for our team, but we cannot dwell on it too long. We have to put it behind us and get ready for a terrific Tennessee team on Sunday.”

The marathon match, which lasted nearly five and a half hours, had four rain delays before eventually being moved inside. Kentucky would win the doubles point to start the match before No. 7 Eric Quigley, No. 18 Alex Musialek and No. 91 Jomby all defeated ranked foes in singles to clinch the win.

Jomby was the star of the match for Kentucky, earning the clinching point at court four over No. 33 Ignacio Taboada. With the team score knotted at 3-3, Jomby vs. Taboada was the lone singles match remaining on court to decide the match. Jomby started strong, winning the first set 6-4 before Taboada earned the second set in a tiebreaker 7-6 (5). In the third set, both players held serve until Taboada earned a break to go up 4-3. Jomby would answer, breaking back to tie the score 4-4 before both players held serve two more times to tie the set 6-6. In the tiebreaker, Jomby won the first two points to go up 2-1, before Taboada cut the lead to 2-1. Jomby would then put the match away, earning five straight points to win the tiebreaker and give Kentucky the 4-3 win.

“Excellent poise by Tom Jomby tonight,” Emery said. “Jomby had match point in the second set on his serve and then ended up getting broke and losing the second set in a tiebreaker. That could have knocked his legs out from under him, but he fought back hard in the third set and did a great job of not getting disappointed or down on himself. He just continued to play with a high level of energy and that was the difference for him tonight.”

The clincher for the native of Nantes, France, was not the first in his young career for the Wildcats. The sophomore clinched one of the biggest matches in school history last season, helping Kentucky defeat Florida 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament. The win advanced Kentucky to the Elite Eight for only the fourth time in school history. So far this season, Jomby is 13-3 in dual matches and an impressive 6-0 in SEC play.

“That was probably the best played tiebreaker in school history,” Emery said laughing. “It was the best I have seen anyway and I have been coaching a long time. He was so aggressive in the tiebreaker and because of that things starting to fall his way. It was great to see him have that confidence out there because we are going to need more of that this season.”

Senior co-captains Musialek and Quigley also had big wins over ranked foes in singles. Musialek tied the score 2-2 with his key win at No. 2 singles over No. 24 Sadio Doumbia. After dropping the first set 6-1, Musialek performed flawlessly in the second set to grab a 6-0 win. The native of Dax, France, continued his momentum in the third set, rolling to a 6-2 win to earn the victory. Musialek is now 10-4 on the season and 4-2 in SEC matches.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the turning point of the match for our team was when Alex Musialek was able to win that second set on court two,” Emery said. “When our guys saw him about to win in the third set, it gave us some momentum and helped push us towards the win. It was just a huge win for our senior and co-captain.”

Quigley tied the match at 3-3 at No. 1 singles, taking down No. 8 Wil Spencer. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., started the match by winning the first set in dramatic fashion 7-5, before Spencer got the best of Quigley in the second set for a 6-3 win. In the third set, both players worked their serve before Quigley was able to win two consecutive games to end the set with a 6-4 win. The win moves Quigley to 17-1 this season in dual matches and a remarkable 7-0 against SEC foes.

“Very happy and proud of how Eric Quigley played tonight against one of the best players in the nation,” Emery said. “He did a great job offensively at the end of his match. How he executed towards the end tonight will bode well for not only him but our team moving forward. We have so much respect for Wil Spencer, so this was a big win for Eric.”

The Bulldogs won singles matches at courts three, five and six. No. 32 KU Singh defeated No. 22 Anthony Rossi 6-4, 7-5 at court three, while No. 62 Hernus Pieters earned a 6-4, 6-1 win over Alejandro Gomez at court five. UGA’s final point came at six singles when Nathan Pasha defeated Grant Roberts 7-6 (8), 6-1.

The match started with Kentucky taking the doubles point, moving the Wildcats record to 13-0 this season when it claims doubles. Quigley and sophomore Panav Jha, who are ranked 17th in the nation in doubles, set the tone early, dominating No. 34 Pieters and Taboada 8-2. Rossi and Musialek then clinched the doubles point with an 8-4 win at two doubles over No. 59 Doumbia and Pasha.

“We told the guys that we wanted to come out in doubles with a lot of energy and take control of the match early,” Emery said. “We played fantastic in doubles on all three courts and getting that 1-0 lead really did a lot for our confidence. It was great to see all three courts play so well because it took some pressure off all of us and we were able to relax a little.”

Kentucky will be back in action Sunday when it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on No. 16 Tennessee at 1 p.m. ET. Tennessee is currently riding a four-match winning streak after it defeated Vanderbilt at home Friday night. The Vols are 12-9 overall this season, including a 4-3 mark in the SEC.

“Happy for the win tonight, but we will have to bring the same level of intensity on Sunday against Tennessee,” Emery said. “They had a special season last year and have really done a great job of reloading and continuing their success. We have a lot of respect for them and how good they are this season.”

Kentucky fell to Tennessee 4-2 in the two schools only meeting last season. The Wildcats have not defeated the Vols since 2009.

For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow “UKMensTennis” on Twitter or “University of Kentucky men’s tennis team” on Facebook.

No. 9 Kentucky 4, No. 3 Georgia 3
Dan MaGill Tennis Complex – Athens, Ga.
Friday, March 30, 2012
1. No. 7 Eric Quigley (UK) def. No. 8 Wil Spencer (UGA) 7-5, 3-6, 6-4
2. No. 18 Alex Musialek (UK) def. No. 24 Sadio Doumbia (UGA) 1-6, 6-0, 6-2
3. No. 32 KU Singh (UGA) def. No. 22 Anthony Rossi (UK) 6-4, 7-5
4. No. 91 Tom Jomby (UK) def. No. 33 Ignacio Taboada (UGA) 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-1)
5. No. 62 Hernus Pieters (UGA) def. Alejandro Gomez (UK) 6-4, 6-1
6. Nathan Pasha (UGA) def. Grant Roberts (UK) 7-6 (10-8), 6-1
1. No. 17 Eric Quigley/Panav Jha (UK) def. No. 34 Hernus Pieters/Ignacio Taboada (UGA) 8-2
2. Alex Musialek/Anthony Rossi (UK) def. No. 59 Sadio Doumbia/Nathan Pasha (UGA) 8-4
3. Wil Spencer/KU Singh (UGA) vs. Tom Jomby/Alejandro Gomez (UK) 7-6, unfinished
Order of finish:
Singles – 5, 6, 2, 3, 1, 4*
Doubles – 1, 2*