Feb. 2, 2014
TULSA, Okla. -- With the match coming down to his court, junior Brandon Fickey once again delivered the victory for Tennessee.
Fickey rallied from a break down in the third set to beat No. 71 Carlos Bautista 6-4, 5-6 (3), 6-4 on court 3 to clinch the Vols' 4-3 victory over Tulsa at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.
The Vols (7-1) won the doubles point and took a 3-0 lead in the match on victories by Hunter Reese on court 2 and Markus Kerner on court 6. Tulsa rumbled back to tie the match at 3-3 a few minutes later, setting a familiar stage for Fickey.
With all eyes glued to his entire third set, the Knoxville native was relaxed. After all, he'd been there before.
"As soon as it was just him left, I just started smiling," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "I knew he was going to perform great. That's all we could ask for."
Twice last season, Fickey wrapped up 4-3 victories for the Vols, doing so against Wake Forest on the road and Clemson in the second round of the NCAA Championships. Like the Clemson victory, Fickey had been struggling to find his form on the singles court because an injury layoff. He entered this spring season having missed four months of practice while recovering from a back injury.
"The hardest thing to do sometimes is figuring out how to win a match when you've been off," Fickey said. "When it came down to it and I knew it was up to me, I actually felt more relaxed having been in that situation and come through on several occasions."
Fickey and Bautista exchanged leads early in the third set, but Bautista broke Fickey's serve to go ahead 4-3.
"That's the kind of match it had been the entire time, we'd been breaking each other left and right," Fickey said. "I just knew I had to hang in there. The pressure was on him a lot of times with the home crowd. I just let my racquet do the talking."
Tulsa fans chanted for the Golden Hurricane during the changeover, but Fickey stayed calm as he returned to court. He rallied to win the last three games of the match while his teammates cheered him along the neighboring court.
With Bautista serving down 5-4, Fickey hit a backhand winner on the approach to capture the Vols' first road victory of the season.
The win represented a rebound from the Vols' 4-2 loss two days earlier at the hands of Oklahoma State. Tennessee heads home for a tough ACC weekend against talented Duke and Wake Forest teams.
"I think we had an opportunity to get better today," Winterbotham said. "The challenge we continue to face is even though our intentions were good from everybody going out there, the performances weren't up to the level they can be. That's where as coaches we've just got to figure out how to bring their performance level up. I think they were all out there and committed to each other. After a tough loss, you need to see that."
#6 Tennessee 4, #30 Tulsa 3
1. Japie De Klerk (TLS) def. #34 Mikelis Libietis (UT) 6-4, 6-1
2. #16 Hunter Reese (UT) def. Clifford Marsland (TLS) 6-5 (7-2), 6-0
3. Brandon Fickey (UT) def. #71 Carlos Bautista (TLS) 6-4, 5-6 (3-7), 6-4
4. Alejandro Espejo (TLS) def. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 6-4, 6-4
5. Dylan McCloskey (TLS) def. Bartosz Sawicki (UT) 6-5 (7-4), 6-4
6. Markus Kerner (UT) def. Daniel Santos (TLS) 6-1 (4-6), 6-4
1. #1 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. Clifford Marsland/Dylan McCloskey (TLS) 6-3
2. Alejandro Espejo/Japie De Klerk (TLS) def. #28 Jarryd Chaplin/Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-1
3. Andrew Dromsky/Markus Kerner (UT) def. Carlos Bautista/Matthew Kirby (TLS) 6-1
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (6,2,1,4,5,3)