Feb. 10, 2013
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Sophomore Brandon Fickey rallied from down a break in the third set Sunday to clinch the Vols' 4-3 victory over Wake Forest.
Fickey found himself down 5-3 in the final set to Jon Ho in the decisive match on court 4 after double faulting twice. In the following four games, however, the Vol was nearly flawless.
With all eyes on his court and teammates cheering on him from a court away, Fickey lost only three points the rest of the way to surge past the Wake Forest freshman 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 and deliver the Tennessee victory.
"Brandon got the opportunity to finish it, and he had the heart of a champion," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We had guys cheering him on, supporting him. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. Nobody had their arms folded.
"They were all just into it. That's what college tennis is at its best. You've just got to embrace it, go with it and compete."
The 14th-ranked Vols (11-1) jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the match. After sweeping the doubles point, sophomore Hunter Reese beat 59th-ranked Amogh Prabhakar 7-5, 6-2 on court 2 and Mikelis Libietis earned a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over David Hopkins on court 1.
Despite the Vols being just a match away from clinching, 36th-ranked Wake Forest (8-2) found itself in good position for a comeback after winning three first sets.
As those matches were ending, interest built quickly in Fickey's match on court 4.
Fickey had entered the match riding a nine-match winning streak and was coming off a three-set win against 14th-ranked Michael Redlicki of Duke.
He lost the first set 6-4 as Ho stayed on the offensive, but Fickey regained momentum in the second set to force a third.
"Last year, I don't know if I even would have come back in the second set," Fickey said. "When I'd lose the first, I'd get really wound up, angry and frustrated, and I'd fold. The thing was, I came back and believed in myself."
Fickey was broken twice in the final set but his resolve never wavered. Trailing 5-3, Fickey closed out the final four games by inducing errors from Ho on long rallies and striking a few service winners of his own.
After match point, Fickey celebrated on court with teammates, who sprinted out to join him. It was the Vols' first 4-3 win of the season.
"That's a moment I'm sure will sink in more as the day goes on and into tomorrow, and I think it will help me grow as a player as well," Fickey said.
Fickey said a year of big-match experience was vital in the win as the sophomore improved to 20-5, already two more wins than he had his entire freshman season. He also credited his improvement to working with Tennessee's sports psychologist Joe Whitney.
Three Vols now have at least 20 wins in singles. Reese recorded win No. 20 Sunday, and Libietis is a team-leading 22-3.
The Vols return to action next weekend with the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle.
Tennessee 4, Wake Forest 3
1. #9 Mikelis Libietis, UT, def. David Hopkins, WF, 6-4, 7-6 (5)
2. #40 Hunter Reese, UT, def. #59 Amogh Prabhakar, WF, 7-5, 6-2
3. #90 Danny Kreyman, WF, def. Jarryd Chaplin, UT, 7-5, 7-6 (4)
4. Brandon Fickey, UT, def. Jon Ho, WF, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
5. Adam Lee, WF, def. John Collins, UT, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2
6. Sam Bloom, WF, def. Edward Jones, UT, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6)
1. #26 Libietis/Chaplin, UT, def. Hopkins/Prabhakar, WF, 8-7
2. Collins/Jones, UT, def. Kreyman/Lee, WF, 8-5
3. Reese/Fickey, UT, def. Ho/Bloom, WF, 8-4
Order of Finish: Doubles (3,2,1), Singles (2,1,3,5,6,4).