May 23, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Tennessee freshman Mikelis Libietis fell behind at start and never got his rhythm going in a 6-0, 6-1 loss to 10th-ranked Chase Buchanan of Ohio State on Wednesday in the opening round of the NCAA Singles Championships.
The loss ends the first year in singles for the Vols' leading freshman, who stepped into a role at No. 1 singles and doubles following the departure of current top-300 pros John-Patrick Smith and Rhyne Williams. Currently ranked 28th nationally, Libietis ended the year with a team-leading 20-14 record.
"Mikelis had a great year playing as a freshman at No. 1, earning his way into the NCAA tournament," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "That's a really good accomplishment. We're proud of that, but obviously he did not play very well today.
"He was a little nervous. His opponent is very good. He's one of the favorites in this draw and Mikelis had to play well to compete. Chase was able to get a stranglehold early on in the match."
Libietis' opening service game proved to be the early turning point at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. In a 10-minute game where both players had multiple game points, Buchanan hit a deep lob to the ad side that Libietis could not retrieve to break and take a 2-0 lead.
"When you get the first break, you settle in," Winterbotham said. "When you go down a break, you have to feel like you need to do more. That was the case. Mikelis from that moment on never settled in."
Buchanan, a senior who has spent a majority of his career in the top 10, took command from there as errors plagued Libietis' game all morning. The Vols' top freshman finally picked up his first game when trailing 5-0 in the second set, three of his points coming off his serve.
Libietis and fellow freshman Hunter Reese open the NCAA doubles tournament Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against Texas Tech's Raony Carvalho and Gonzalo Escobar.