Libietis, Collins Take Singles Titles at Home

Oct. 14, 2012



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Sophomore Mikelis Libietis remained the champion while senior John Collins won his first title in his new home Sunday at the Tennessee Fall Invitational.

Libietis won his second title in the top singles flight of the Vols home tournament, overcoming a slow start to beat sophomore teammate Brandon Fickey 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a rematch of last year's final.

Playing in his first tournament at Barksdale Stadium, Collins also had to beat a teammate to claim the title in the second flight of singles. He rallied late in the first set and pulled away in the second in a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win against fellow senior Edward Jones, who was playing in his first career singles final.

Tennessee also took home one of the doubles titles. Fickey and sophomore Hunter Reese teamed up to beat Collins and Jones 8-5 in the top flight final.

"When you enter a tournament, you maybe have seven or eight guys in it and you're always hoping that the last day is the easiest day and they're playing each other," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We were lucky enough to do that. It doesn't always happen that way.

"They've really improved, and I've seen the improvement, which is great. The fact that we can do it at home makes it a little sweeter."

The home tournament served as a final tune up for the Vols before the team heads out to the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships in Memphis next week.

The finals in the top singles flight featured a rematch of last year's title match, but the quality of play was much higher than it was a season ago when Libietis and Fickey had squared off as freshmen just beginning their careers.

From his passing shot winners and solid play around the court, Fickey kept pace with 15th-ranked Libietis in the early goings of the final. The Vols from Knoxville broke Libietis' serve at 5-4 to win the opening set.

"I knew he was going to make a lot of balls, and I was just missing my shots in the first set," Libietis said. "I tried to focus on what I'm doing on the court, try to distract his rhythm. He knew where I was going to go with my shots.

Libietis started cutting down the errors and changing up his game plan in the second set to help turn the tide against Fickey, who played at the 2 and 3 positions in the lineup for the Vols as a freshman last year.

Fickey broke Libietis' serve to open the third set, but Libietis returned the favor in the next game on his way to winning six of the final seven games of the match and earning the 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory.

"This week was really good," Libietis said. "Every match I think I played better and better. Today I struggled a little bit at the start, but in the end, I got the W. I'm pretty happy for that."

With five wins this weekend, Libietis improved to 7-1 this fall. Fickey has also put together a solid record of 8-4 through three events. Libietis has now won two career singles titles -- both at the Tennessee Fall Invitational -- in addition to a pair of doubles titles.

Jones and Collins, two of the Vols' most experienced players, took to the court in the finals of the second flight of singles.

Collins, a senior transfer from Maryland, made the most of his first weekend competing on Tennessee's home courts. With Jones serving for the first set at 5-4, Collins got the break and eventually won the opening set in a tiebreaker 7-6 (4). He eventually pulled ahead int he second set 6-2.

All weekend long, Collins stayed on the offensive. He won four sets by a score of 6-0 and at one point had won 24 of 26 games.

Collins has a 10-2 singles record with at least one fall tournament to go. He is already two wins away from matches his entire junior season win total.

Jones had played his way through two long three-setters on Saturday to earn a spot in his first career final. His four-win weekend was one of his best fall tournament performances as the Vol improved to 8-4.

Fickey and Reese have had plenty of experience playing doubles together on their own time during the last two summers, but this weekend marked the first time the sophomore pair had been in official collegiate action as a team.

The sophomore duo jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against the senior team of Collins and Jones, another new pairing the Tennessee coaches debuted at Barksdale Stadium.

Collins and Jones tied the match up at 4-4, but Fickey and Reese kept on the offensive and pulled away for the 8-5 victory.

Fickey also won a flight of doubles last season at the Tennessee Fall Invitational, doing so with graduated senior Bryan Swartz. While his tournament ended in a loss, Jones has continued to put together a remarkable fall in doubles with a 9-2 record and one title.





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