Jan. 19, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind junior Anthony Rossi becoming the first player in over 23 years to win the singles title, the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team recently completed a very successful four-day tournament at the Southeastern Conference Coaches’ Indoor Championships in Lexington, Ky., over the weekend.
Kentucky, who is ranked seventh in the nation as a team in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, was led by Rossi, who won the singles title at the event by defeating No. 10 Sadio Doumbia of Georgia in the final by straight sets. The native of Marseille, France, earned two wins over ranked foes in the tournament, including Doumbia and No. 87 Charlie Jones of Vanderbilt. Rossi, who is ranked 36th in the nation in singles, also took down Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss, who defeated two ranked foes en route to the semifinals, and William Kallberg of Ole Miss, who defeated the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed in straight sets.
“This was obviously a big breakout tournament for Anthony,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “It gives him five wins now against top-100 players and two wins against players ranked in the top 10 this season. When we recruited Anthony we knew he was a great athlete and great competitor. I think in this tournament, those two things came together for him. He was also healthy for one of the first times this fall and that really helped.”
Senior Eric Quigley, who is ranked fifth in the nation in singles by the ITA, followed his appearance in the tournament’s singles final last season with a quarterfinal appearance this year. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., went 2-1 at the event to move into a tie for second on Kentucky’s all-time career singles wins list with 141 wins. Quigley tied former UK All-American Jesse Witten (2002-05), who ended his career with 141 wins. Quigley’s 2012 tournament run was ended by senior Jonas Lutjen of Ole Miss in a three-set thriller.
“Really proud of Eric for tying Jesse Witten’s win mark in this tournament,” Emery said. “Eric ran into a great player in the semifinals, who we thought played near the top of his game the entire match. I thought that (Jonas) Lutjen took some great chances on the indoor courts and was good enough to make those chances pay off for the victory.”
Fellow senior Alex Musialek, who received the No. 4 seed in the singles main draw, also made movement up the career singles win list at the tournament. The native of Dax, France, earned his 92nd career singles win during the weekend, surpassing All-Americans Carlos Drada (1997-2000) and Greg van Emburgh (1986-88) to sit tied for 15th with Rahim Esmail (2001-04). Musialek’s tournament run ended in the round of 16 in a tight match against Scholtz.
“Alex played a really good player in the round of 16, who we feel is going to be one of the best players in the nation by the end of the year,” Emery said. “He did a great job of creating some opportunities but just wasn’t able to cash in on them. We are happy with how he is playing moving forward and think that he is set up to have a great senior season.”
Sophomore Tom Jomby showed outstanding growth both physically and mentally at the event, according to Emery. Jomby, who is ranked 95th in the nation in singles, had some big wins in the main draw, including taking down No. 26 Ignacio Taboada of Georgia in the second round. The native of Nantes, France, would take down Gonzalez Austin of Vanderbilt to advance to the quarterfinals before falling to Scholtz.
“I said it a couple of times throughout the weekend but there is no doubt that this was a breakthrough tournament for Tom Jomby,” Emery said. “He had some injuries that prevented him from playing well for a few days but he did a great job of keeping his composure and playing through things when he got tired. He was able to beat a guy who is ranked 26th in the nation and that win should help move Tom forward from a mental standpoint. This was no question the best event he has played on a day-to-day basis at Kentucky.”
Fellow sophomore Alejandro Gomez, who entered the spring season ranked 111th in the nation in singles, went 4-1 in singles action at the event. The native of Cali, Colombia, started his tournament with a win over No. 122 Michael Thompson of Alabama before falling to No. 27 Marcel Thiemann of Ole Miss in the second round. Gomez would play well in the consolation draw, advancing to the finals with wins over Andrew Adams of South Carolina, Johan Backstrom of Ole Miss and No. 64 Hernus Pieters of Georgia.
“Gomez had a really good tournament and had some opportunities against Thiemann, who is a two-time singles All-American for Ole Miss,” Emery said. “After the loss, I thought that Alejandro bounced back to have a great tournament in the back draw to beat two really good, veteran players from Ole Miss. We decided not to play him in the finals because we wanted to make sure we keep him healthy heading into the spring season. Overall, he played very consistent every day of the tournament and is competing well, which is one of his strengths right now.”
Several other UK sophomores played in the event, including Panav Jha, who is ranked 85th in the nation in singles by the ITA. The native of Pointe Claire, Montreal, earned the No. 12 seed in the singles main draw and received a first-round bye before falling to Frank Carleton of Florida in the second round.
“Panav lost a tough match to a really good player from Florida, who transferred from Wake Forrest where he played at the top of their rotation,” Emery said. “I thought that Jha did a very good job in that match considering that the guy he was playing was so experienced.”
Sophomores Ryuji Hirooka and Maks Gold completed the singles action for Kentucky. Hirooka fell in his opening-round match to Andrew Butz of Florida before earning wins in the consolation singles bracket over Ben Barnette of South Carolina and Joe Dorn of Vanderbilt. Hirooka eventually fell to the singles consolation champion Michael Alford of Florida in the semifinals.
“Really pleased with how Hirooka played,” Emery said. “He had such a tough first-round match against a guy who was in the rotation for Florida last year. He lost in a tough three setter, but glad he was able to bounce back in the back draw before falling to the guy who eventually won the consolation title.”
Gold earned a tough draw in the main draw, facing the talented Kallberg of Ole Miss. The UK sophomore held his ground in the opening-round match, losing in a three-set match that featured two tiebreakers.
“Maks lost a great match against a guy who would eventually beat the tournament’s 14th seed and first seed in the next few rounds,” Emery said. “Maks played very well in that match and had some chances to get a good win, but just lost in a tough one.”
In doubles action, Quigley and Jha made an impressive run to the main draw semifinals before coming up short in a tight battle against fifth-seeded and eventual champions Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann of Ole Miss. Quigley/Jha, who knocked out the tournament's top seed and fourth-ranked Nassim Slilam and Billy Federhofer of Florida in the second round, also defeated seventh-seeded Ignacio Taboada and Hernus Pieters of Georgia in the quarterfinals. The UGA duo is not ranked in the nation, however Taboada is ranked ninth in the nation in doubles with Doumbia.
“Doubles wise I think we did well in this event,” Emery said. “Eric Quigley and Panav Jha had a very good tournament for it being their first time playing together. They beat a really good Georgia team that had a former doubles All-American on it and then beat a team from Florida that went to the finals of the National Indoors and is ranked high in the nation. They were also serving for the match against the eventual doubles champion for a chance to go to the finals. Overall, we have been pleased with their progress and thought that they showed great improvement from when they first started practicing together.”
Another UK doubles duo found its way into the semifinals of the main draw when Musialek and Gomez continue to play well together. Musialek and Gomez started the tournament with a win over Barnette and Eguez of South Carolina before taking down No. 53 Nathan Pasha and Sadio Doumbia of Georgia to advance to the quarterfinals. Musialek/Gomez fell in the quarterfinals to the draw’s eventual champion.
“A great way for Musialek and Gomez to start the spring season,” Emery said. “They played together some last year and had some success and we think that will help them have more success together this spring. The fact that they were able to beat a good Georgia team this early in season, really says a lot about how well they play together. The ended up falling in the quarterfinals to the team that eventually won the tournament.”
Two other UK doubles teams played in the main draw, including the French tandem of Jomby and Rossi. Jomby and Rossi went 1-1 in the main draw with their lone win coming against Eric Diaz and KU Singh of Georgia in the first round. The Frenchmen fell in the second round to fourth-seeded and 25th-ranked Bob van Overbeek and Butz of Florida.
“Jomby and Rossi got the spring off to a good start in doubles,” Emery said. “Their first-round win was big because KU Singh is one of the top incoming players in college tennis. That win will be good for their confidence even though they lost to a highly ranked team from Florida in the next round.”
The final doubles team in the field for UK was the sophomore duo of Hirooka and Gold, who won the Southern Intercollegiate Division II doubles title earlier this fall. Hirooka/Gold won their first-round match over Aston Kovrigin and Austin of Vanderbilt before falling to No. 41 Carleton and Spencer Newman of Florida.
“Hirooka and Gold have been a little bit of a surprise team for us in doubles,” Emery said. “They came together and played really well in the Southern Intercollegiate this fall and have continued to ride that momentum. Nice win for them against Vanderbilt, especially indoors. The Florida team they lost to is really good and returns the ball so well, so it was a style mismatch for them. The good thing is that those guys continue to improve and do well in doubles and we think they can really help us down the road this spring.”
Kentucky will be back in action this weekend when it travels to Indianapolis for its first two dual matches of the year. UK will face IUPUI at 10 a.m. ET and follow that with a dual match against No. 53 Michigan State at 2 p.m. ET.
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