Feb. 20, 2004
Tennessee's men's tennis team used a pair of outstanding doubles performances, two impressive freshman victories and an inspiring return to the singles lineup from junior Mark Dietrich to upset No. 6-ranked Duke 4-3 Friday afternoon at UT's Varsity Courts.
"I think this is a building block for us," Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt said. "It's a great win but it's a building block. We're going to be at least a 50 percent better team by the end of the year than what we are now. There were some great individual performances today. For Mark Dietrich to come out with a metal rod in his broken leg and win was just a great effort, and for Ockie Oosthuizen to step up and beat a highly ranked player like Ludovic Walter was another great effort."
Playing its first outdoor contest of the season, Tennessee (5-2, 0-0 SEC) began the day by exhibiting more of the doubles dominance that it has shown in each of its previous six dual matches. UT took the early advantage when Dietrich and senior Wade Orr beat Stephen Amritraj and Peter Rodrigues 8-4 at the No. 3 position. The doubles point was then clinched by two Vol netters playing their first match as partners. Simon Rea and Damien Spizzo toppled the nation's No. 2-ranked doubles team of Ludovic Walter and Jason Zimmermann (who also won the doubles crown at the ITA National Indoor Tennis Championships last November) 8-5 at the No. 1 spot to give the Vols a 1-0 team-score lead.
"Doubles is something we work on a lot," Fancutt said. "It's something we pride ourselves in. Both (associate head coach Chris Mahony) and I were very good pro doubles players so it's something we think we know a lot about. We made a few adjustments this week and they worked out very well. I'm very happy with the way our doubles teams are going, but we're going to keep improving in our doubles and as a team.
"For Simon Rea and Damien Spizzo -- who had never played doubles together before -- to step up and beat the national champions and No. 2-ranked team in the country was a great effort."
Shortly thereafter, singles play began amidst windy conditions that included gusts up to 37 mph. Rodrigues put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard by topping Vol freshman Ben Rogers at the No. 5 position, but the Vols countered with a victory by freshman Kiril Tcherveniachki at the No. 4 spot.
Meanwhile, on court No. 6, Dietrich was taking part in his first singles contest since suffering a broken right leg in an accident last September. Just as he had before his injury, the junior from Memphis played with intensity and determination on his way to a 7-6(4), 7-5 victory over Christopher Bao Brown.
The defending ACC champion Blue Devils again tied the team score when sophomore Jonathan Stokke knocked off Spizzo 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 at the No. 3 slot.
At the No. 2 position, Vol freshman Ockie Oosthuizen -- playing in only his sixth career singles match -- was trading blows with Walter, the nation's No. 7-ranked singles player. Oosthuizen dropped the first set 6-3, but rallied to win the next two sets 6-3, 6-3. The gutsy performance from the South African rookie clinched the win for Tennessee and gave the Vol program its first win over a top-10 opponent since the 2002 NCAA Championships.
"I knew (Walter) was good but I was never scared of the guy," Oosthuizen said. "I knew I could beat him. Even after losing the first set, I still knew I was going to win. I was never really worried because I just knew I was going to win today. Today was the first time that I didn't know anyone else's score. I only knew my own score. I was focused."
Three-time All-America selection Phillip King closed out the day by handing No. 64-ranked Rea a rare singles loss.
With Friday's win, Tennessee now owns an 8-5 advantage in the all-time series versus Duke, dating to 1975.
The Vols now have two weeks to prepare for SEC play. Tennessee's first league test will be on the road against Arkansas March 5 in Fayetteville, Ark. The Razorbacks currently boast an ITA team ranking of No. 25 in the nation.