Singles Play Propels Kentucky to Win Over No. 26 Vanderbilt

April 6, 2014

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 14 University of Kentucky men's tennis team used four singles wins from No. 90 Beck Pennington, freshman Jerry Lopez and Nils Ellefsen and the clinching match from senior Grant Roberts to gather a 4-2 win over No. 26 Vanderbilt on Sunday afternoon at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center on a gorgeous, 60-degree sunny day in Lexington.

"Coming off of the loss on Wednesday, I thought we really competed well today and picked up a good win today against Vanderbilt," UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said after the match. "I'm really happy with our youngsters and the way they battled and competed in this match. Nils (Ellefsen) and Jerry (Lopez) worked so hard today and deserved their spot in the lineup. Jerry and Beck (Pennington) are some of the brightest young stars in college tennis when they're focused and playing at their best. Tom (Jomby) and Alejandro (Gomez) competed well, but we need to rest them because of some small injury concerns we have with them. When they get rested, they will be back in top form, and we can be one of the best teams in the country."

With the win, the Wildcats now sit 8-2 in Southeastern Conference play in second place, one game behind both Texas A&M and Georgia in the standings. With its 8-2 conference record, Kentucky clinched a double-bye in the SEC Tournament, and will begin play in Nashville on Friday afternoon the week of the tournament.

"It was really important for us to pick up the double-bye in the SEC Tournament with the win today," Kauffmann said. "It's really hard to win the SEC Tournament Championship by playing four days in a row, so that extra day of rest will really help our guys."

The doubles point was one of the tightest of the season, as the Wildcats fell just a few points shy on both courts one and three, as Vanderbilt took the early 1-0 lead in the match.

The No. 2 doubles court of Pennington and senior Alejandro Gomez continues to be a great asset to Kentucky, as the Wildcat pair rolled over Rhys Johnson and Anton Kovrigin of Vanderbilt, 8-3, in the first match that finished. Gomez and Pennington broke right out of the gate, and led the match 3-0 before breaking again at 6-3 to serve out the 8-3 win and take the win.

On court one, fresh off a win over the No. 3 doubles team in the country on Wednesday afternoon, the Wildcat tandem of No. 31 Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai were looking to beat their fourth top-five opponent this season, as they were facing No. 4 AJ Austin and Ryan Lipman of Vandy. After both sides had break points and chances to take a lead in the match, neither side broke in any of the 14 games, and the match was decided by a tiebreak. Vandy got ahead a mini break off the bat and won all seven points of the tiebreak to win 7-0.

On court three, Kentucky's Ryuji Hirooka and Nils Ellefsen were the last to finish, and made it very entertaining on the final court that would decide the doubles point. Hirooka and Ellefsen were serving at 6-5, already up a break, when Vanderbilt's Ryan Smith and Suresh Eswaran broke for 6-6 and eventually wound up forcing a tiebreak. Kentucky was down 0-4 and 1-5 in the tiebreak and then won four-straight points to push it to 5-5 where the madness began. After Kentucky had two match points and Vandy had six match points during the tiebreak, Kentucky evened the breaker at 15-15, with a forehand winner from Hirooka, and Ellefsen with one more serve remaining. Ellefsen then double faulted, and Vandy won the tiebreak on the next point, as the Commodores took the lead, 1-0 on a 17-15 tiebreak on the third court.

In singles play, Kentucky would need to win four matches to take the match, and that's exactly what they did, as the outer courts sent Kentucky home with a 4-2 win thanks to singles wins on courts three, four, five and six.

No. 90 Beck Pennington quickly put a point on the board for UK, as the sophomore from Bowling Green, Ky., delivered a 6-4, 6-3 straight-sets win on court three to square the match at 1-1. Pennington has been virtually untouchable in singles play this season, notching wins in nine of his 10 SEC matches this season. Pennington broke at four-all of the first set, and then two times in the final frame to collect the win.

Kentucky would take its first lead of the afternoon as freshman Nils Ellefsen gathered his first-career SEC win over Anton Kovrigin on court six. Ellefsen broke at 5-4 in the first set to take the opening frame, 6-4 and then put his foot on the gas petal in the second set. Ellefsen broke to begin the set, and jumped out to a 5-0 lead. After a quick hold from Kovrigin, Ellefsen served out the 6-1 second set, and put the Wildcats ahead 2-1.

After a win on court one by Vandy to tie the match 2-2, Kentucky would grasp the lead for good when Jerry Lopez recorded a straight-set win on court four to give UK the 3-2 lead. Lopez found himself down  a break at 4-5 in the opening set and needing to break to stay alive in the set. Lopez battled off numerous game points from Vandy's Rhys Johnson, before picking up the break to square the set at 5-5. After two holds, they entered a tiebreak for the opening frame. Lopez got ahead 4-1 and never looked back, collecting a 7-4 tiebreak win. In the second set, the freshman from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, took an early 4-1 lead and added in another insurance break after that to win 6-1 in the second set and put the Wildcats ahead.

Senior Grant Roberts would clinch another match for Kentucky on court five, with a three-setter. Roberts dropped the first set to Vanderbilt's Jeff Offerdahl, 4-6. Roberts then took total control of the second set, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and going up double-break at 5-1. After a service game at love, Roberts won the set and forced a deciding third set. In the third, Roberts got ahead 2-0, picking up a break, and then going up double-break with a 4-0 lead. A Vanderbilt break at 4-1 would make it 4-2 and only a single-break lead for the senior from Lexington, but Roberts stood strong and broke right back for 5-2, serving out a 6-2 decisive-set win, and clinching the match for the Wildcats.

Kentucky continues its eight-match homestand to conclude the regular season on Wednesday afternoon, as the Wildcats will face off against the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes at 2 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center. The nighcap of the doubleheader on Wednesday will feature the Wildcats and Morehead State at 7 p.m. ET. 


No. 14 Kentucky 4, No. 26 Vanderbilt 2

Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center - Lexington, Ky.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Match Duration: 3:44

Doubles (Order of finish: 2, 1, 3*)

1- No. 4 AJ Austin/Ryan Lipman (VU) def. No. 31 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) 8-7 (0)

2- Beck Pennington/Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. Rhys Johnson/Anton Kovrigin (VU) 8-3

3- Ryan Smith/Suresh Eswaran (VU) def. Ryuji Hirooka/Nils Ellefsen (UK) 8-7 (15)

Singles (Order of finish: 3, 6, 1, 4, 5*)

1- No. 17 AJ Austin (VU) def. No. 11 Tom Jomby (UK) 6-4, 7-6 (5)

2- No. 57 Ryan Lipman (VU) led No. 85 Alejandro Gomez (UK) 6-7 (4), 6-2, 3-0 (DNF)

3- No. 90 Beck Pennington (UK) def. Kris Yee (VU) 6-4, 6-3

4- Jerry Lopez (UK) def. Anton Kovrigin (VU) 7-6 (4), 6-1

5- Grant Roberts (UK) def. Jeff Offerdahl (VU) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2

6- Grant Nils Ellefsen (UK) def. Anton Kovrigin (VU) 7-5, 6-1

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