UK men's tennis advances in NCAA

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After a thrilling doubles point in which the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team took 8-6 on court three, the Wildcats used strong singles play, not dropping more than four games in a set the entire match, to sweep fourth-seeded Denver, 4-0, in the Lexington Regional semifinal on Friday afternoon at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Center in the opening day of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships.

“I’m very pleased,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said after the match. “You’re always a little nervous after two and a half weeks of not playing and examsthrough this week. I felt in a bad spot. Our guys did a good job. I didn’t think we played great in doubles and I think it’s going to help us to get this tight doubles for tomorrow. We are going to have to play a lot better, and we can play better. I’m very glad we clinched the doubles and focused on the singles. I think everybody won their first sets and I was really pleased with that.”

With the win over Denver, the Wildcats advance into the Lexington Regional final on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET against the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers got a 4-1 win over third-seeded Purdue earlier in the day with the doubles point, and singles wins on courts one, two and four.

For Kentucky, the doubles point was tight, as the Wildcats needed a third court win to seal it after the Pioneers grabbed court two. On court one, No. 31 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai broke at 4-4 to take the 5-4 lead in the match and go up a break. Jomby and Lai then did not drop their serve in the final six games of the match, and closed out Denver’s Henry Craig and Alex Gasson, 8-6, on court one.

On court two in doubles, Diogo Rocha and Fabio Biasion for Denver won 8-7 (5) on court two to split the first two courts with a win over Alejandro Gomez and Beck Pennington. Gomez and Pennington were ahead 0-40 at one point in a service game, but were unable to break, and the Pioneers took the match to a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, UK was ahead 4-3 before falling 7-5 in the tiebreak.

On court three, what would end up to be the deciding court in doubles, Kentucky’s Nils Ellefsen and Ryuji Hirooka broke at six all in the match, to take the 7-6 lead and gain the right to serve for the match. With the match on their racquet, Ellefsen and Hirooka found themselves down0-30 before battling back to win the next four-straight points to take the match 8-6 and give the Wildcats an 8-6 win on court three, and seal the doubles point.

Kentucky entered singles play at 13-2 this season when winning the doubles point, and would up that mark to 14-2 when taking the opening point of the match, as UK got singles wins from Jomby, Gomez and Pennington to seal the match.

“I did not know this team,” Kauffmann said. “They’re not in our conference, we don’t play them, we don’t know a lot of people that they play so we couldn’t get a lot of scouting. I thought they were a good doubles team and we did not play very well at the beginning, so I was not nervous, but I was a little worried. We’re very happy to win the doubles point and to be advancing in this tournament.”

Kentucky started off strong in singles, winning the first set on all six courts to take the early advantage and never let off the gas petal.

The first match to finish was Gomez knocking off Diogo Rocha of Denver, 6-1, 6-2, on court two to give the Wildcats the 2-0 lead. The Cali, Colombia, native has now won his last six singles matches, and has not lost a singles match since April 2, a span stretching over a month. Gomez got up a double-break lead in both sets early before serving out both sets to win.

No. 15-national seeded Kentucky would then go up 3-0 as No. 13 Jomby would take out No. 106 Henry Craig of Denver, 6-1, 6-2 on court one. Jomby had no problems in the match, as the Wildcats did not drop serve in either of the first two singles matches that were completed. After the Pioneers’ Craig served out a hold at 5-2 in the second set, Jomby dropped the first point of the eighth game of the frame, before rallying to win the next four points and clinch out the match and a 3-0 win for Jomby.

Saturday could be a special day for the senior from Nantes, France, as he will walk in the University of Kentucky’s Commencement ceremonies at 1 p.m. ET, before making his way to the courts for a 3 p.m. ET match with Clemson, in what could potentially be his 100th-career singles win. Jomby with the win today, is now sitting on 99-career singles wins.

“The doubles point is always really important,” Jomby said. “Even if the singles didn’t seem tough, this was a tough match for us. We have to keep our focus, we have to keep our momentum. It’s not really easy when you win 6-1 to stay focused in the second set. (Alejandro) Gomez and I did a great job, and they did a great job. We are going to enjoy the night, get ready for tomorrow and keep getting better and better.”

Sophomore Beck Pennington, a Bowling Green, Ky.,native, clinched the match on court three, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Alex Gasson. After taking the first set, Pennington was down 2-4 in the second set before capturing a break to pull back on serve at 3-4 and squared the set at four all after a service hold. Pennington then broke again at 5-4 to win the match and send the nearly 300 fans that were at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center home happy, as the Wildcats wrapped up a 4-0 win.

Saturday’s regional semifinal will begin at 3 p.m. ET with a spot in the 2014 NCAA Sweet Sixteen on the line. The Wildcats will be facing the Clemson Tigers, as UK looks to punch its ticket to Athens, Ga., for a school-record sixth-straight season, and second under Kauffmann.

“Clemson was one match away from hosting. (Clemson) was (ranked) 16 entering the last match. They lost to Notre Dame 4-2 in a tight match, and we lost to Notre Dame. Can they beat us? Yeah, if our guys don’t come to play or if one or two players don’t show up it will be tough.”

Tickets will be available for purchase at the main gate on Saturday morning.

2014 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship
Lexington Regional Semifinal #1
(2) Clemson 4, (3) Purdue 1
Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center – Lexington, Ky.
Friday, May 9, 2014
Match Duration: 3:10

Doubles (Order of finish: 1, 3*)
1- No. 9 Dominique Maden/Hunter Harrington (CU) def. Aaron Dujovne/Diego Acosta (PUR) 8-1
2- Alejandro Augusto/Robert Dudley (CU) led No. 58 Szymon Tatarczyk/Ricky Medinilla (PUR) 5-3 DNF
3- Luke Johnson/Austin Ansari (CU) def. Mateus Silva/Mark Kovac (PUR) 8-4

Singles (Order of finish: 2, 1, 3,
1- No. 48 Hunter Harrington (CU) def. Szymon Tatarczyk (PUR) 6-2, 6-2
2- No. 80 Dominique Maden (CU) def. Ricky Medinilla (PUR) 6-0, 6-4
3- Mark Kovacs (PUR) def. Alejandro Augusto (CU)6-4, 7-5
4- Austin Ansari (CU) def. Aaron Dujovne (PUR) 7-6 (5), 6-3
5- Luke Johnson (CU) led Diego Acosta (PUR) 6-1, 3-0 DNF
6- Mateus Silva (PUR) led Brent Lett (CU) 3-2 DNF

2014 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship
Lexington Regional Semifinal #2
(1) Kentucky 4, (4) Denver 0
Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center – Lexington, Ky.
Friday, May 9, 2014
Match Duration: 2:42

Doubles (Order of finish: 1, 2, 3*)
1- No. 31 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) def. No. 67 Henry Craig/Alex Gasson (DU) 8-6
2- No. 79 Diogo Rocha/Fabio Biasion (DU) def. Alejandro Gomez/Beck Pennington (UK) 8-7 (5)
3- Ryuji Hirooka/Nils Ellefsen (UK) def. Eric Marbach/Yannik James (DU) 8-6

Singles (Order of finish: 2, 1, 3*)
1- No. 13 Tom Jomby (UK) def. No. 106 Henry Craig (DU) 6-1, 6-2
2- No. 86 Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. Diogo Rocha (DU) 6-1, 6-2
3- Beck Pennington (UK) def. Alex Gasson (DU) 6-3, 6-4
4- Jerry Lopez (UK) led Alex Clinkenbeard (DU) 6-4, 2-0 (DNF)
5- Kevin Lai (UK) led Yannik James (DU) 6-3, 3-4(DNF)
6- Grant Roberts (UK) led Aidan Talcott (DU) 6-2, 3-2 (DNF)

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