May 14, 2009
College Station, Texas - In classic back-and-forth tennis match, the No. 12 Texas Longhorns pulled off a stunning upset of the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers, 4-3, in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Tennis Championships at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M.
Texas' 80th-ranked Kellen Damico defeated Tennessee's Matteo Fago in three sets, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3, at the No. 3 slot to clinch the match for the Longhorns (22-6) who advance to Saturday's quarterfinals against the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs, a 4-3 winner over No. 13 Illinois. Tennessee finishes the season with a 23-7 mark.
"I am really proud of our guys and the way they competed and fought all year and today," said Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham. "They have a love for this University and played with that kind of pride today."
For the entire season, Tennessee lived by the doubles point, posting a perfect 19-0 mark when capturing the lead into singles action. But today, Texas took the valuable point forcing Tennessee to play from behind the rest of the afternoon. The Volunteers tied the match three times at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3, but was never able to grab the lead.
After seeing Damico race out to a 5-2 lead and win the first set, 6-3, Fago regrouped and dominated early in the second, taking a 3-0 advantage. Damico fought back to tie it at 4-4 and 5-5 before forcing a tiebreaker in which Fago blitzed him by scoring the final five points to win 7-2.
With the momentum seemingly in Fago's corner heading into the third set, Damico took the first game quickly and broke Fago's serve to go up 2-0. Fago returned the favor to make it 2-1, but Damico was too strong as he won the next three games to go up 5-1. Fago made a push by winning the next two games to cut the gap to 5-3. Then, trailing 40-30 on match point, Fago's cross-court return up the line was just wide as Damico came up a winner for Texas to send them onto the next round.
"Matteo is a guy we like in that situation with the match on the line," Winterbotham said. "We thought he had some momentum. He's come through in the past for us in just these types of situations. In a match as close as this, it's the little things that make the difference and their guy (Damico) came up with some good plays at the end."
Tennessee failed to gather any momentum after Texas clinched the doubles point at the No. 1 spot where 27th-ranked Ed Corrie and Damico snapped Tennessee's third-ranked tandem of Davey Sandgren and John-Patrick Smith's five-match winning streak, 8-5.
Texas' No. 60 pair of Dimitar Kutrovsky and Josh Zavala led 7-5 over No. 42 Boris Conkic and Fago when the doubles point ended.
"I felt we didn't play well in doubles," said Winterbotham. "We came out played a bit passive. Texas has a tough lineup in doubles and once they got up, they stayed up."
The Vols' fifth-ranked Smith got Tennessee on the board with his easy 6-4, 6-1, win over No. 19 Dimitar Kutrovsky. For Smith who has defeated six consecutive ranked foes, including five in the top 20, posted his seventh straight singles victory, one shy of his career-high, set earlier this season.
Texas retook the lead at 2-1 when Olivier Sajous downed Sandgren, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 4.
Conkic took out No. 69 Ed Corrie, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 2 as Tennessee evened the match at 2-2 to make it a best-of-three down the stretch. The 37th-ranked Conkic faced little resistance from Corrie as he raced out to 4-1 leads in the both sets.
Christian Hansen seemed to be on the verge of forcing a third set at the No. 5 position against Josh Zavala, as he was up 4-3 in the second after dropping the first set 6-2. But Zavala was able to win the final three games and win 6-4 to put the Longhorns up 3-2.
Tennessee tallied its final point at No. 6 where Brewer won a second-set tiebreaker over Jonah Kane-West to once again even the match at three apiece. After winning 6-4 in the first, the two players slugged it out like a heavy weight fight in the second. Kane-West got up 4-1 and seemed to be in control, but Brewer won the next three games to tie it at 4-4. Despite Kane-West going up 5-4 and 6-5, Brewer would answer the bell to force the tiebreak. Once there, he dominated from the outset, jumping out 5-1 before settling at 7-3.
Up next for the Volunteers is the NCAA singles and doubles championships which take place May 20-25 in College Station. Smith and Conkic are entered in the singles draw, while Smith and Sandgren will play in the doubles tournament. Smith is seeded No. 6, while the doubles team is seeded No. 2. Those official draws will be announced next week.
|No. 12 Texas 4, No. 5 Tennessee 3|
|1. No.5 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. No. 19 Dimitar Kutrovsky (TEX) - 6-4, 6-1|
|2. No. 37 Boris Conkic (UT) def. No. 69 Ed Corrie (TEX) - 6-2, 6-2|
|3. No. 80 Kellen Damico (TEX) def. Matteo Fago (UT) - 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3|
|4. Olivier Sajous (TEX) def. Davey Sandgren (UT) - 6-3, 6-3|
|5. Josh Zavala (TEX) def. Christian Hansen (UT) - 6-2, 6-4|
|6. Matt Brewer (UT) def. Jonah Kane-West (TEX) - 6-4, 7-6(3)|
|Order of Finish: 1,4,2,5,6,3|
|1. No. 27 Ed Corrie/Kellen Damico (TEX) def. No. 3 Davey Sandgren/John-Patrick Smith (UT) - 8-5|
|2. No. 60 Dimitar Kutrovsky/Josh Zavala (TEX) vs. No. 42 Boris Conkic/Matteo Fago (UT) - 7-5, unfinished|
|3. Olivier Sajous/Miguel Reyes Varela (TEX) def. Matt Brewer/Bryan Swartz (UT) - 8-1|
|Order of Finish: 3,1|