LEXINGTON, Ky. – With singles wins from No. 23 Tom Jomby, Kevin Lai and Grant Roberts, coupled with domination of the doubles point on all three courts, the eighth-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team surpassed a challenge from Western Michigan, as the Wildcats blanked the Broncos 4-0 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship to advance to the regional final on Saturday. No. 8 Kentucky will take on No. 41 Virginia Tech on Saturday at 2:00 pm. ET for a spot in what woule be the Wildcats’ fourth-consecutive Sweet 16.
“Well, you have to give credit to Western Michigan," UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said, who collected his first-career NCAA Tournament win on Friday. "They played a little bit better singles today than I thought. They played hard. Going back to doubles, I thought our intensity was really, really good. I think it is hopefully going to carry on to tomorrow. After having to go inside after playing outside for a couple of weeks was a little bit of rust and dust, but I think we can take some positives and be ready for a confident Virginia Tech team tomorrow.”
Kentucky got off to a fast start in the doubles, taking major leads on all three courts, and keeping them throughout the duration of the point. The Wildcats tandem of Juan Pablo Murra and senior Anthony Rossi took the early spotlight, capturing an 8-1 win on court three to get Kentucky on the board early in the match. The Wildcats would clinch the point on court two, where the newly-formed team of Beck Pennington and Ryuji Hirooka won 8-3.
Hirooka and Pennington first played together only dating back to March 29, where they picked up their third win of the season as a team. Murra and Rossi played for the first time together at the Southeastern Conference Tournament two weeks ago in Oxford, Miss., as they are now 2-1 on the season.
After doubles, No. 23 Tom Jomby eased his way through a 14-minute first set taking his match 6-0, 6-4 and giving the Wildcats the early 2-0 lead overall. Jomby with the win collected his 20th win of the season, joining Rossi as the only team member to reach 20 wins. Jomby took the first set with three breaks and three holds, before Western Michigan’s Ross VanderPloeg made the second set tough. After eight-straight games of hold, Jomby broke at 5-4 to close the match and take the 6-4 second-set win.
Kevin Lai, playing on court four for the third time this season, earned Kentucky’s third point as he took a 6-2, 7-6 (3) win to give UK the 3-0 lead. Lai marched his way through the opening set, breaking at 5-2 to capture the set and take the early lead in the match. After being broken to start the second set, Lai rallied from down 5-4 to force a tiebreak in the second frame. In the tiebreak, the freshman from Taiwan rushed out to a 4-0 lead, before seeing it evaporate to a 4-3 margin just a few points later. Lai then collected himself and served out two points to take the 6-3 edge, and won a point on his opponent, Ruben Greiner’s serve to take the tiebreak, and the match, 7-3.
Grant Roberts, the Lexington, Ky., native and Tates Creek High School graduate then stepped up and clinched the match for the Wildcats with a 6-1, 6-1 obliteration of Andrew Cahn to secure the 4-0 win and a spot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Roberts was not broken at all during the match, and won 12 of the 14 games played. After falling behind 0-1 to start the first set, Roberts would proceed to rattle off the next 11 games in a row before Cahn held to make Roberts serve out the match at 5-1. This was one of five clinched matches for Roberts on the year, including top-10 wins over Oklahoma and Georgia.
Senior Anthony Rossi took the opening set from Nadin Indre in dramatic fashion, collecting the tiebreak, 7-5. Rossi was up a break for the middle part of the first set, before Nadin battled back and got things on serve heading into the tiebreak. After falling behind 3-1 in the tiebreak, Rossi battled back to win seven of the last nine points to take the tiebreak 7-4. In the second set, Rossi surrendered an early break in the second set, before battling back again to force a tiebreak. Rossi was down 1-4 and 2-5 before Indre served for the set and was broken by Rossi. Rossi then held serve his final three opportunities and forced the second-set tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Indre was ahead 2-0 when Roberts clinched the match for Kentucky.
Beck Pennington’s match with Pablo Mora was on serve at 1-1 at the time of clinch at court No. 6.
Both matches of the Lexington Regional were moved indoors on Friday due to inclement weather. Skies are expected to clear for Saturday’s regional final between No. 41 Virginia Tech and No. 8 Kentucky.
Virginia Tech used powerful singles play to pull the upset of No. 23 Michigan in Friday’s opening first-round match. VT collected wins at positions number two, three, four and five to power past the Wolverines.