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Tennessee Drops SEC Opener at No. 9 Kentucky
Mark Henderson

Mark Henderson

Feb. 28, 2003

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 9-ranked Kentucky Wildcats avenged last season's NCAA quarterfinal loss to Tennessee with a 6-1 victory over the No. 26-ranked Vols Friday at UK's Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex. With the loss, Tennessee falls to 6-3 on the season, while Kentucky improves to 7-4.

Kentucky head coach Dennis Emery saw his squad jump out to an early lead in doubles competition. The Wildcat team of Rahim Esmail and Jesse Witten orchestrated a rare upset of the nation's No. 37-ranked doubles paring of Mark Henderson and Simon Rea. That victory, along with a win at No. 3 doubles, clinched the double point for Kentucky.

The Wildcats also struck first in singles competition, taking a win at the No. 3 spot. Tennessee then managed to get its first and only point of the match when No. 40 Rea emerged victorious at the No. 2 position. The Vols' most reliable netter this season, Rea improved his overall season singles record to a team-best 18-4 with Friday's win.

"Simon Rea played exceptionally well in singles and doubles," Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt said. "He's stepping up as a leader on this team as we had hoped he would."

In only his second career match at the No. 3 singles spot, freshman Vincent Perna was out-dueled by experienced Wildcat veteran Karim Benmansour, who was ranked as the nation's No. 36 singles player this preseason.

The No. 1 singles matchup between Kentucky's top netter, No. 10 Jesse Witten, and No. 69 Mark Dietrich of Tennessee, was a hard-fought thriller that went down to the wire. Witten, who was an NCAA finalist as a freshman last season, captured the first set by a score of 6-3, only to see Dietrich claw his way back and take the second set by the same score. The third set proved to be a classic, as the two gritty competitors met one another shot for shot on their way to a 6-6 deadlock. Witten then took the decisive tiebreaker by a score of 7-4 and clinched the match for Kentucky.

"Mark Dietrich played very well," Fancutt said. "He really did everything well except win the match."

In the final two matches of the day, Vol sophomore Mark Henderson was downed in straight sets at the No. 5 position, and freshman Rawl Martin was outlasted in yet another marathon-match at the No. 6 slot.

"Rawl fought hard and had three match-points," Fancutt said. "Unfortunately, he just didn't get it done today."

Tennessee holds a 39-33 advantage in the all-time series versus Kentucky, which dates back to 1930.

The Vols will conclude their current two-match road swing Sunday in Nashville, where they'll face No. 24 Vanderbilt (8-1, 1-1 SEC) at the Currey Tennis Center.


 

 

 

#9 Kentucky 6, #26 Tennessee 1
Singles
1) No. 10 Jesse Witten (UK) def. No. 69 Mark Dietrich (UT), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4)
2) No. 40 Simon Rea (UT) def. Evan Austin (UK), 6-3, 6-4
3) Karim Benmansour (UK) def. Vincent Perna (UT), 6-2, 6-1
4) No. 104 Rahim Esmail (UK) def. Wade Orr (UT), 7-5, 6-4
5) Matt Emery (UK) def. Mark Henderson (UT), 6-2, 6-3
6) Alex Hume (UK) def. Rawl Martin (UT), 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(9)
Doubles
1) Dietrich/Orr (UT) def. Benmansour/Emery (UK), 8-5
2) Esmail/Witten (UK) def. No. 37 Henderson/Rea (UT), 8-6
3) Austin/Hume (UK) def. Martin/Perna (UT), 8-4


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