JACKSON - Ole Miss will put its nationally-prominent men's tennis program back on display in the state capital here later today as the ninth-annual Mississippi Cup takes center court at River Hills Club beginning at 5 p.m.
The Rebels are hoping to continue the success they've had for the past six years in this event, winning all six encounters with arch-rival Mississippi State starting with the 2000 match.
In addition, Ole Miss has won 15 straight matches overall in this series. Rebel head coach Billy Chadwick says, however, that every day is a new day, and every match a different match. Today's meeting will be another battle between two good tennis programs.
"We have been successful in this event," he said. "Because of our recent success against them, sometimes people forget just how good Mississippi State is. We know that if we're not at our best, we're not going to win. Our guys are excited and are looking forward to it."
Ole Miss is off to a 2-0 start this season with wins over the Louisville Cardinals and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, both ranked in the Top 35 of collegiate tennis.
"We've had two very good matches against two quality teams in Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette," Chadwick said. "Now, let's put that in perspective. They're not as good as Mississippi State. We're getting better with every match, and the guys are jelling as a team. We are moving in the right direction and that is a good thing at this point in the season."
Sophomore Erling Tveit leads the Rebels, in his first season playing the at No.1 singles spot. Ranked No. 26 in the nation, the All-SEC performer has won nine of his last 10 matches dating back to the fall and is 2-0 at the top spot this season.
Junior Eric Claesson, ranked No. 22 in the nation, has clinched both wins for his team this season and is 21-6 on the school year.
Sophomore Bram ten Berge, who clinched last year's Mississippi Cup for the Rebels, is ranked No. 83 with a 16-6 overall record, 2-0 at No. 3 singles.
Senior Juan Pablo Di Cesare is ranked No. 43 with a 2-0 record at No. 4 singles. Sophomore Robbye Poole will get his first taste of the Mississippi Cup this Thursday, but if early results are any indication, he'll be ready. Poole owns a 4-1 record, including 2-0 at No. 5 singles. At No. 6 singles, the Rebels are likely to send sophomore Jakob Klaeson to the court.
The Rebels have not necessarily been a strong doubles team in the recent past. Chadwick believes this year's team has a chance to be improved in that area.
"We lost the doubles point against Louisville and still won the match," he said. "Against Louisiana-Lafayette we won the doubles point and won the match. I feel like we've got the potential to be a real good team in doubles.
Mississippi State, ranked No. 23 in the country, comes into the meeting with a 1-0 record after defeating UAB 4-0 last Thursday to open their season. The Bulldogs are led by No. 74 ranked Ivan Bjelica, who owns an 11-6 overall record.
"Mississippi State has its best team that I've seen there in five or six years," Chadwick said. "They finished top 20 last year, and they're even better this year. It's always a tough match against them, and I think you'll see another great match."
*** Kim Ling of Ole Miss athletics media relations also contributed to this story.
Men's tennis plays State today in Jackson
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