LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky men’s tennis team showed tremendous resilience fighting back from a 3-0 hole to win 4-3 over Clemson and advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 on Saturday inside the Hillary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.
UK overcame losing the doubles point and on its top two singles courts to begin the match. The Wildcats advanced to the last 16 of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships, which will be held next week in Athens, Ga.
“I’m going to have to look at the stats since I’ve been here the last seven, eight years, but I’m sure the times we’ve won matches after going down 3-0, including on singles courts one and two, is in the first or second percentile,” head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “Just the way it happened, I think we lost some air. We saw Tom (Jomby) kind of get hurt a little bit. You lose one of your leaders and then (Alejandro) Gomez on two loses so we’re down.
“I think Beck (Pennington) was kind of finishing around the same time so we’ll say we’re down 3-1 with some courts to go with one of our leaders being hurt, that kind of was really, really tough. We knew as a coaching staff we had to win Kevin (Lai) or Gomez’ court. We trust Grant (Roberts) with our lives at six, so we knew we had to get it done there. I just thank my coaching staff. I think they did a tremendous job today.”
Kentucky’s Nos. 5 and 6 singles players – Kevin Lai and Grant Roberts – clinched the match collectively for all intents and purposes. The two courts started later than the first four singles matchups after the action was moved into the four-court Boone Indoor Center due to weather.
Roberts cruised in straight sets to finish off the Tigers, but Lai’s match – which finished fifth – kept UK alive. The sophomore (from Kaohsiung, Taiwan) battled back from a set down to even the dual match at 3-3 and set up Roberts’ clincher.
The No. 15 nationally-seeded (No. 1 regional seed) Wildcats won the Lexington Regional for the fifth straight year. UK has now made the Sweet 16 in six consecutive seasons overall.