Nov. 9, 2013
NEW YORK -- Tennessee's Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese toughed out a three-set semifinal victory Saturday to preserve a chance to make history at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
Libietis and Reese defeated the fourth-seeded Illinois team of Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to the title match at the USTA/ITA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"Today was a hard-fought match," Tennessee associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. "I can't say we played exceptionally well, but we did a pretty nice job of banding together down the stretch. The one thing that really impressed me is that under pressure, we came up with some shots. I think that's the mark of a good player."
With the win, the Vols' No. 1-ranked pair have a rare opportunity to sweep both fall national doubles championships. Libietis and Reese won the ITA All-American Championships on Tulsa's outdoor courts in October.
No Tennessee team has ever won multiple majors, let alone two consecutive titles.
Tennessee faces the home team in the final: Columbia's Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur. The match starts at 10 a.m.
To start the semifinals, Libietis and Reese were ahead for much of the first set against the Illinois duo. The Vols broke the Illini serve at 2-1 and staved off multiple break points before Libietis eventually served out the set at 6-4.
Illinois took control of the second set on Libietis' racquet. The Vol junior received a game penalty for racquet abuse, giving the Illini a 3-1 lead. Guignon and Kopinski maintained that lead and did not face a break point the rest of the set.
"It was unfortunate we got a game penalty," Woodruff said. "That was not a very opportunistic time by any means, especially on our serve. What I told them after the second set is that we hadn't had any break points since the first set. We hadn't been making any returns. Ben (Testerman) and I formulated a pretty good plan. Part of that was to make returns, and we did that twice in the third set."
The Vols started making better service returns against Guignon and Kopinski down the stretch. UT and the Illini exchanged breaks midway through the third set, but the Vols stayed on serve after that. With Illinois serving down 5-4, Libietis and Reese found an opening to finish the match.
Guignon and Kopinski took a 30-0 lead in the game, but the Vols won the next two points to tie the game score. Reese hit a deep shot that Illinois called out but was overruled by the chair umpire to set up match point at 30-40.
It was the only match point Tennessee needed. Reese hit a return backhand deep, the ball bouncing just inside the line to seal the victory.
Libietis and Reese are the third team in program history to reach the finals of National Indoors. Chris Mahony and Pablo Montana won the tournament in 1996, and Paul Annacone and Mark Herrington reached the finals in 1984.
After doubles, Reese's day was not over. Not by a long shot.
Reese started the afternoon in the consolation quarterfinals and scored a big 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory over preseason No. 3 Peter Kobelt of Ohio State. Later that afternoon, he lost to UCLA's Marcos Giron, the sixth-ranked player nationally, in a close match 7-6 (2), 6-3.
Reese closed the fall season in singles with a team-leading 12 wins, four against ranked opponents.