No. 45 Alabama Men’s Tennis Drops Final Regular Season Match at No. 27 South Carolina, 4-3
SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA ATHLETICS
The Alabama men’s tennis team’s comeback fell just short after dropping a hard-fought match 4-3 to No. 27 South Carolina at the Carolina Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon and then continued on Monday morning. With the match tied at 3-3, it was up to freshman Riccardo Roberto to win the match for the Crimson Tide (16-11, 2-10 SEC), but he could not best the Gamecocks’ (17-7, 7-5 SEC) Harrison O’Keefe, falling 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-2.
Roberto and O’Keefe were in the middle of the third set of their match on Sunday with O’Keefe leading 4-2, before weather postponed the match until Monday morning. O’Keefe finished out the match winning the final two games to clinch the win.
“It was a tough match that came down to the wire,” head coach George Husack said. “Riccardo (Roberto) put us in a position to win as did Mazen (Osama), Edson (Ortiz) and Zhe (Zhou). We’ve been achingly close on many occasions this season and we have more tennis to play. We will push forward and prepare for an exciting conference tournament at home.”
Alabama started doubles play on the right foot with the No. 51-ranked doubles pair in junior Mazen Osama and sophomore Edson Ortiz defeating No. 49 Dennis/O’Keefe, 6-2. The Gamecocks bounced back by winning in the No. 2 and No. 3 spot to clinch the doubles point and go up 1-0.
In singles play, USC added to its lead with No. 61 Paul Jubb moving past freshman Patrick Kaukovalta, 6-0, 6-2, to make it 2-0 Gamecocks. Alabama answered when sophomore Zhe Zhou cruised past Wood Benton, 6-2, 6-4, to trim the deficit to 2-1. Moments later, USC added to its lead when Yancy Dennis defeated sophomore Alexey Nesterov, 6-3, 6-4.
The Tide responded with two-straight wins, first from No. 26 Osama picking up his sixth win over a nationally ranked opponent, when he defeated No. 32 Gabriel Friedrich, 7-5, 6-4. Ortiz followed with a 0-6, 6-4, 6-2, come-from-behind win over Thomas Mayronne to tie things up at 3-3.
With match all knotted at 3-3, Roberto and O’Keefe were set to finish the match before a two hour rain delay put things to a halt in the third set with O’Keefe leading 4-2. After the 21-hour delay, play resumed with O’Keefe finishing off Roberto, 6-2 to seal the win.
For the first time since 2006 Alabama is hosting the SEC Men’s Tennis Tournament on April 25-29. The No. 12-seed Crimson Tide will play in the first round of the tournament against in-state rival the No. 13-seed Auburn on Wednesday, April 25 at 4 p.m. CT in Tuscaloosa, Ala.