March 16, 2003
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's men's tennis team recorded its second upset of a top 20 team this month as it defeated No. 18 Arkansas 4-3 Sunday at UT's Varsity Courts. Making Sunday's win even sweeter for Tennessee are the controversial circumstances surrounding the recent series between the two teams. The Vols defeated the Razorbacks in last season's dual meeting, but the victory was overturned late in the season.
"It was a great win for our team today," Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt said. "We had an overruling of our victory over Arkansas last year, which still hurts a lot. So for us to come back and beat Arkansas this year was really big for us."
Tennessee, which improved to 8-6 (2-4 SEC) with the win, had perhaps its strongest showing of the season in the doubles portion of the contest. The Vol netters swept all three matches for the first time against an SEC opponent this season.
That success propelled the team into the singles competition, where Tennessee jumped out to one-set leads in five of the six matches. Simon Rea was the first Vol to record a singles win on the day, capturing his 21st singles victory of the season.
Junior Wade Orr then broke out of a recent two-match slump with a win over Rohan Gajjar at the No. 4 position. Orr's victory gave the Vols a 3-0 match lead, but the Hogs answered back with consecutive wins at Nos. 5 and 3 singles to make things interesting.
The crowd's attention then focused on courts two and six, where Tennessee players were inching closer and closer to the vital clinching point. While sophomore Mark Dietrich battled through an intensely competitive second set tiebreaker at the No. 2 spot, freshman Rawl Martin, was trading booming baseline shots with Arkansas's Hunter Benson in the third set of their No. 6 singles contest. The race was on to see which player could capture victory for the Vols.
Just moments after Dietrich lost his marathon tiebreaker by a score of 12-10 to go to a third set, Martin had worked his way up to match point. After a lengthy baseline exchange, an errant Benson backhand landed wide, and Martin's teammates rushed to congratulate the hero of the day.
Martin's win was his first conference dual match singles victory, and also his first career clinching point.
"There's nothing like winning a match for the team, and knowing that I clinched it and sealed it for everybody," Martin said after receiving some hugs and high-fives from teammates and fans. "I needed to stay loose and not get tight and just keep basically ripping the ball and hitting it hard. He was more of a counter-puncher type of player, so I needed to stay aggressive and play my own game.
"That's why I want to be a Vol, because of what just happened right there. That's why I'm here."
Fancutt was quick to point out the importance of the team's hard-fought win.
"Having Rawl Martin win his first (SEC) match of the year, to clinch the victory for us was a huge thing for our team, for him individually, and for his future confidence," Fancutt said. "Rawl's grandmother passed away this morning, and a lot of kids wouldn't even have played the match. But Rawl went out there and, even under those circumstances, went on and pulled out a really tough victory, so it shows what kind of character he has."
Tennessee now holds a 13-10 advantage in the all-time series with Arkansas, which dates back to 1973.
The Vols' next action will come against Georgia Southern Tuesday, March 18, in Boca Raton, Fla. The Vols are spending their spring break in the Sunshine State, and will also square off against No. 39 Miami (Fla.) on the trip. Tennessee's match with the Hurricanes will take place March 23 in Coral Gables.