Tennis Cats Knock Off No. 23 Mississippi State
The 42nd-ranked University of Kentucky men's tennis team pulled off its second upset this week, knocking off 23rd-ranked Mississippi State, 4-3, on Tuesday, April 3 at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
Kentucky (9-11, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) had dropped its last seven matches going into this week, but after wins over No. 15 Auburn on Sunday and the Bulldogs today, the Cats appear to be heading in the right direction entering the final five matches of the regular season.
The Cats fell behind early as the Bulldogs were able to grab wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles to secure the point. The duo of Marco Baron and Chris McDonald fought off UK's Reven Stephens and Johan Grunditz on the first court, while the Bulldog team of Luiz Carvalho and Jerome LeBelicard secured the point over the Cat tandem of Edo Bawono and Karim Benmansour at No. 2. Kentucky's Matt Emery and Gustav Pousette were leading State's Rene-Charles Combette and Mathieu Soto on the third court, but play was suspended once the point was secured.
Emery looked commanding in singles play and snapped an eight match losing streak with his straight-set win over Combette at No. 3 to even the score at one. Grunditz also notched a straight-set win at No. 4 over Soto to give UK the 2-1 edge. David Ruiz countered at No. 5, grabbing the win over Pousette and again knotting the score.
Benmansour fought from behind after a first-set loss to LeBelicard on court two to take his match with a 6-3 second set and a 6-2 final set. Kentucky again had the advantage as the attention turned to the No. 1 match between Bawono and Carvalho, who was playing at No. 1 for the first time all season after Baron was pulled from the lineup after doubles with an injury. Bawono took the first set, 6-2, but Carvalho managed to fight back and take a second-set tiebreak to send it to a third set. Bawono was up 3-2 when his opponent went down with leg cramps. After using up his injury timeout, Carvalho was penalized points until he could play again. Play resumed with Bawono up 5-2, and Carvalho couldn't bounce back. Kentucky clinched with the win at No. 1, while Max Fomine finished off competition on No. 6 by taking his match in three sets over UK's Rahim Esmail to set the final score of 4-3.
"I'm really impressed with our level of concentration and competition tonight," Coach Dennis Emery said. "We got real solid performances out of several players, which is critical going into the final weeks of the regular season."
Grunditz remains undefeated in the SEC, and with the win today he moves to 5-0 in conference play. The Cats look to continue their string of upsets on Friday, April 6 when they travel to Athens, Ga., to take on the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs. Action at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex is set to get underway at 5:30 p.m.