Wildcats Come Back in Singles to Tame Razorbacks 4-2 at SECs

April 23, 2009

AUBURN, Ala. -

After trailing No. 47 Arkansas 2-0, the No. 12 Kentucky men’s tennis team mounted a crucial comeback to win four consecutive singles matches and earn a 4-2 victory in the first round of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Men’s Tennis Tournament at Auburn University’s Yarbrough Tennis Center Thursday.

UK freshman Alex Musialek won a three-set match on court four to claim the Cats’ fourth-straight singles victory and complete the comeback win over the Razorbacks.  Arkansas’ Dmitry Lebedev jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the first set. Musialek then came back to win the next three games to take a 5-4 lead. In the next game, Lebedev evened the match at five-all then the foes swapped games to force a tiebreaker that went to the Razorback for a 7-6 first set win.

In the second, Musialek won the final five games en route to a quick 6-1 victory to force a deciding set. The UK rookie jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the third. Lebedev cut the lead to 4-3 but could not even the set before Musialek won the next two games for the 6-3 decision.

“We knew we would be in a tough match against Arkansas,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “They play really tough and compete hard to take the match to the limit. We’ve been really strong at our third and fourth positions this year and have progressively improved at the fifth and sixth spots. Our guys really came through and we needed each of those wins today.

“I thought we played a little tentative in doubles. We really changed the momentum of the match when we took four of the six first sets in singles. It was a really good performance for us. We played with a lot of character.”

With the victory, UK (17-9, 7-5 SEC), the sixth seed, advances to play No. 6 Tennessee (19-5, 8-3), the third seed, in the quarterfinals at 4:00 p.m. ET Friday at Yarbrough.

Arkansas (10-14, 2-10) started the day by edging the Cats for the doubles point.

The No. 20 tandem of Wildcat senior Bruno Agostinelli and sophomore Brad Cox quickly gave UK an advantage by defeating Arkansas’ No. 80 team of Lebedev and Chris Nott 8-3 on court one. Then the Razorbacks fought back on the other two courts. On court three, Taylor King and Matt Walters of Arkansas took three of the final four games leading to a 9-7 defeat of UK sophomore Alberto Gonzalez and Musialek.

The doubles point came down to court two. After a six-all tie, Arkansas’ No. 85 team of Matt Hogan and Blake Strode split the next four games with UK’s freshmen pairing of Graeme Dyce and Eric Quigley forcing a tiebreaker to decide the doubles point. The Razorbacks took the breaker to clinch the first team point of the match.

Arkansas extended its lead after the first singles match concluded. Nott used an early break to jump out to a 2-0 lead against Cox on court two in the first set and never looked back. The Razorback played inspired tennis, surrendering only three games in a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Kentucky began its comeback on court six. Gonzalez claimed the first eight games over King to win the first set and lead 2-0 in the second.  King closed the gap in the second to 4-3 before Gonzalez closed out the victory by taking the next two games.

No. 119 Quigley evened the match with a straight-set win over Hogan on court three. After opening the first set in a 1-1 tie, Quigley rattled off 11 of the next 12 games for a 6-1, 6-1 decision.

Dyce broke the 2-2 match tie with the Wildcats’ third-straight singles win, this time on court five, to give UK its first lead of the match. The freshman jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first over Arkansas’ Tyler Tarnasky and then held on for a 7-6 first set win. In the second, Dyce again led 5-2 but this time he closed out the match in the next game.

On court one UK’s fifth-ranked Agostinelli battled No. 14 Strode in a match that could have decided the team match point. In the first, Agostinelli trailed 5-4 but rallied to win the next three games to secure the set. Strode led 3-0 early in the second but the Wildcat evened the match at 5-5, then each player won a game to force a tiebreaker. Strode won the breaker to force a third set, denying Agostinelli the chance to clinch the team match point prior to Musialek’s victory. The match was later suspended when UK claimed the first-round win on court four.

Kentucky’s victory sets up a quarterfinal match against Tennessee. The matchup marks the third meeting this season between the border-rivals with UK defeating UT both on the road and at home this season. In February, the Cats upset the Vols 4-2 in Knoxville and then backed that up with a 4-3 victory earlier this month in Lexington. Those match losses account for two of the five blemishes on Tennessee’s overall record this year.

Two UT players are ranked in the latest ITA men’s singles poll, including No. 8 John-Patrick Smith and No. 33 Boris Conkic. Smith and doubles partner Davey Sandgren rank fifth in the nation while Conkic pairs with Matteo Fago to stand 42nd nationally.

A live results link can be found on UKathletics.com. For more detailed SEC tournament information, please visit the conference Championship Central page: 2009 SEC Men's Tennis Tournament Championship Central

The winner of the UK-UT second-round matchup will face the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 4 Georgia (21-2, 10-1), the second seed, and No. 19 Auburn (13-9, 6-6), the seventh seed, in the semifinals at 4:00 p.m. ET Saturday. The Cats lost to Georgia 6-1 two weeks ago but defeated Auburn 4-2 on the road last month.

All 12 Southeastern Conference teams are ranked among the nation’s top 63 squads. Additionally, the conference is top-heavy with seven teams inside the top 20 in the country. Top-10 SEC teams include No. 2 Ole Miss, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 10 Florida. The twelfth-ranked Wildcats as well as No. 13 Alabama and No. 19 Auburn complete the group of top-20 squads.

Please visit UKathletics.com for a complete recap of the Tennessee match Friday evening.

#12 Kentucky 4, #47 Arkansas 2
Yarbrough Tennis Center
Auburn, Ala.
SEC Tournament First Round

Singles

1. #5 Bruno Agostinelli (UK) led #14 Blake Strode (UA) 7-5, 6-7(6), 1-0 susp.
2. Chris Nott (UA) def. Brad Cox (UK) 6-2, 6-1
3. #119 Eric Quigley (UK) def. Matt Hogan (UA) 6-1, 6-1
4. Alex Musialek (UK) def. Dmitry Lebedev (UA) 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-3
5. Graeme Dyce (UK) def. Tyler Tarnasky (UA) 7-6(1), 6-2
6. Alberto Gonzalez (UK) def. Taylor King (UA) 6-0, 6-3

Order of Finish: 2, 6, 3, 5, 4*

Doubles
1. #20 Bruno Agostinelli / Brad Cox (UK) def. #80 Dmitry Lebedev / Chris Nott (UA), 8-3
2. #85 Matt Hogan / Blake Strode (UA) def. Graeme Dyce / Eric Quigley (UK), 9-8(4)
3. Taylor King / Matt Walters (UA) def. Alberto Gonzalez / Alex Musialek (UK), 9-7

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2*


TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (All times Central and subject to change)

Friday, April 24
11 a.m. Match 5: #8 LSU vs. #1 Ole Miss
11 a.m. Match 6: #5 Alabama vs. #4 Florida
3 p.m. Match 7: #6 KENTUCKY vs. #3 Tennessee
3 p.m. Match 8: #7 Auburn vs. #2 Georgia
 
Saturday, April 25
11 a.m. Match 9: Winner Match 5 vs. Winner Match 6
3 p.m. Match 10: Winner Match 7 vs. Winner Match 8
 
Sunday, April 26
1 p.m. Championship: Winner Match 9 vs. Winner Match 10