April 22, 2004
NASHVILLE - The Tennessee men's tennis team lost a heartbreaking five-hour slugfest to Mississippi State 4-3 Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the SEC tournament at the Brownlee O. Currey Tennis Complex.
The match endured numerous rain delays before finally being forced to conclude indoors due to lightning in the area.
Mississippi State led the match 3-2 with two matches still in action Thursday. Tennessee senior Simon Rea and freshman Ockie Oosthuizen were locked in tight battles at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions, respectively, and both Vols faced 5-4 third-set deficits against their MSU opponents.
Entering the tournament, Rea was 0-2 for his career against MSU's two-time All-America, No. 35-ranked Romain Ambert. After the players split sets, Rea managed to break Ambert's serve while the Bulldogs senior was serving at 5-5 in the third. Rea then held service to win the match and tie the team score at 3-3.
As Rea and Ambert shook hands at the net, Oosthuizen was fighting valiantly against Pinto at the No. 2 spot. UT's South African rookie fought off four match points before finally falling by a score of 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
"Mississippi State played well against us today," UT head coach Michael Fancutt said. "The highlights for us were obviously a couple of great matches by our seniors, with Simon Rea beating one of the top players in the country (No. 35-ranked Romain Ambert), and we also got a great win from Wade Orr."
The No. 6-seeded Volunteers began the day exhibiting fine form in doubles. Mississippi State won the doubles point against Tennessee when the two squads met in the regular season, but on Thursday, Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Guichard chose to field three doubles teams that had not played together all season.
Tennessee's All-SEC tandem of Simon Rea and Damien Spizzo dealt the first blow to the Bulldogs, notching an 8-4 win over MSU's Luiz Carvalho and Florent Girod at the No. 1 position. UT's Mark Dietrich and Wade Orr then clinched the doubles point by defeating Matt Armstrong and Jose-Carlos Pinto by the same score on court No. 3.
Mississippi State tied the match at 1-1 when Max Fomine downed UT freshman Matt Berry 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 5 singles position. The Bulldogs then took a 2-1 lead courtesy of Carvalho's 6-4, 6-3 victory over Dietrich at the No. 3 spot.
At the No. 6 position, Orr edged MSU's Arnaud Roussel 6-4, 6-2. The Bulldogs then reclaimed the lead as Girod outdueled Vols freshman Kiril Tcherveniachki 7-6(6), 6-3 on court No. 4, leaving Rea and Oosthuizen as the Vols last hopes.
The Vols (13-8) now turn their focus to the NCAA regional, which takes place May 14-16. Regional host sites have yet to be determined.
No. 39/No. 11 Seed Mississippi State 4, No. 17/No. 6 Seed Tennessee 3
1) No. 6 Rea/Spizzo (UT) def. Carvalho/Girod (MSU), 8-4
2) Oosthuizen/Rogers (UT) led Armstrong/Pinto (MSU), susp. (5-4)
3) Dietrich/Orr (UT) def. Ambert/Provenzano (MSU), 8-4
Order of finish: 1, 3
1) No. 44 Simon Rea (UT) def. No. 35 Romain Ambert (MSU), 6-2, 4-6, 7-5
2) Jose-Carlos Pinto (MSU) def. No. 115 Ockie Oosthuizen (UT), 6-3, 4-6, 7-5*
3) Luiz Carvalho (MSU) def. Mark Dietrich (UT), 6-4, 6-3
4) Florent Girod (MSU) def. Kiril Tcherveniachki (UT), 7-6(6), 6-3
5) Max Fomine (MSU) def. Matt Berry (UT), 6-3, 6-4
6) No. 105 Wade Orr (UT) def. Arnaud Roussel (MSU), 6-4, 6-2
Order of finish: 5, 3, 6, 4, 1, 2*
* Clinching point