Nov. 7, 2013
NEW YORK -- Junior Mikelis Libietis defeated the top seed in singles and the Vols rolled on in doubles Thursday to start the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
Ranked No. 1 nationally in the preseason poll but unseeded in the tournament, Libietis rallied in a tight first set on his way to a hard-fought victory over Patrick Pradella of Baylor 7-6 (7), 6-4.
"Everybody here is good," Libietis said. "If you want to win the tournament, you have to win five matches in a row. I actually liked it that the first match was really hard for me, so I can get ready for the next match."
Libietis and junior Hunter Reese, the top seeds in doubles, made good on their high billing in a quick morning victory. With three breaks of serve in the match, the Vol duo cruised 8-1 over Virginia Tech's 17th-ranked team of Amerigo Contini and Andreas Bjerrehus to advance to Friday's quarterfinals.
Reese also played in singles, falling to Georgia's Nathan Pasha 6-2, 6-3.
Despite his top ranking at the start of the fall season, Libietis was unseeded entering the this weekend after compiling a 6-2 record through two tournaments shortened by illness and injury. When the draw came out, he was pitted against top-seeded Pradella, a semifinalist at last month's ITA All-American Championships and one of Baylor's five ranked players.
Libietis was down a break of serve twice in the first set, which featured powerful ball striking from both players. Pradella served for the set at 6-5, but Libietis bounced right back to force a tiebreaker.
Pradella fought off a set point and had a set point of his own at 7-6, but Libietis forced a backhand error long from the net. Libietis won the next two points, beaming in an ace on set point to take the tiebreaker 9-7.
In the second set, Libietis broke serve at 3-3 and held serve twice to earn the 7-6, 6-4 win.
"I didn't serve well at the start of the second set," Libietis said. "I missed a lot of first serves. In the last two or three service games, I got focused on where I needed to serve."
He faces Southern California's Ray Sarmiento on Friday. If he wins, he will play another match later in the day.
In doubles, the Vols had no trouble moving onto the quarterfinals, the best performance by a UT team at National Indoors since 2010.
Libietis and Reese jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and never looked back, breaking serve three times against the 17th-ranked Virginia Tech team of Contini and Bjerrehus. Libietis served out the 8-1 win.
The Vols' top duo is looking to sweep the fall major college tennis championships. Libietis and Reese overcame illness to win the ITA All-American Championships in October.
"We're playing really well after All-Americans," Libietis said. "We had a close one there in the final. We feel really comfortable playing. I like those courts. I feel like they're great for us."
Round of 16
Libietis/Reese , UT, def. Bjerrehus/Contini, VT, 8-1