Sunday matches in the round of 32 have become serious business in the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament. If you don't believe it, listen to Ole Miss head coach Billy Chadwick.
"These round of 32 matches to reach the final 16 all across the country are like the final 16 matches were five or six years ago," said Chadwick, whose team beat Florida State 4-2 Sunday to advance to this weekend's Sweet Sixteen in Palo Alto, Calif. "There's just so much depth now, and you have matches like we had today being played all over the country."
The one Ole Miss played today was a fight to the finish between the top-seeded Rebels and the second-seeded Seminoles here in the Oxford Regional. A crowd of about 500 mostly Ole Miss fans roared its approval throughout the three-hour exciting but grueling match.
Ole Miss won the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead, and it's a good thing. FSU played competitively in every singles match except one.
Erling Tveit had no trouble with his No. 1 singles opponent, eliminating the Seminole in a short time to the tune of 6-0, 6-1.
"Erling obviously played great at one," Chadwick said. "He was just overpowering today."
The Rebels led 2-0 at that point, but the outcome was anything but decided. Florida State actually tied things at 2-2 with wins at No. 4 singles and No. 5 singles.
Then came the thrillers. At No. 2 singles, Eric Claesson won the first set 6-2 but had to fight for his life in set two and finally managed to take it. But it wasn't easy.
After breaking his Seminole opponent to take a 6-5 lead in the back and forth affair, Claesson served out the match and won set two 7-5.
At No. 3 singles, Bram ten Berge won a first-set tiebreaker 7-3 to take control of his match. In the second set it appeared ten Berge would coast as he led 3-0. But the Seminole foe bounced back to take a 4-3 lead. That's when ten Berge picked it back up to win it, claiming the last three games and a 6-4 second set.
That match gave Ole Miss a 4-2 lead and the victory.
"What you saw was Eric go to work, and you saw also Bram beat what might have been their best position player," Chadwick said. "That was really exciting to see and helped us win this match."
Chadwick said there was another key moment earlier in the match, also involving ten Berge.
"I thought the turning point of the match might just have been when Bram won his first-set tiebreaker (at No. 3), and Jakob Klaeson won his first-set tiebreaker at No. 6," Chadwick. "Both basically happened at the same time, and I thought that really tilted the match in our favor."
Claesson said his match at No. 2 was a difficult one Sunday, but he stayed with it and basically dug down deep.
"It was very tough," he said. "Their guy made some really unbelievable shots. It was hard to get into a rhythm. I was really nervous in the second set. It was one of the hardest matches I've played."
Ten Berge said after he fell behind 4-3 in set two, he also found a way to reach down and help lift the Rebels to victory.
"He is a good player, and I went up 3-0 (in the second set)," ten Berge said. "I had a game-point to make it 4-0, but he nailed a couple of returns past me. I didn't feel that from up 3-0 to down 3-4 that I did many things wrong. He just started playing really, really well.
"Winning that next game to make it 4-4 gave me my confidence back," ten Berge continued. "It would have been tough to lose another game. I got back on track, broke him, and was able to serve it out."
The Rebels play Saturday morning in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen at Stanford. They will play either Texas or Rice, which were in a weather delay in Austin late Sunday afternoon.
"We played great in doubles and that set the tone today," Chadwick said. "Then we did a great job working hard at every position. This was a really good Florida State team that we just beat. Now it's on to Palo Alto and the final 16."
#1 Tveit/Claesson (OM) def. Abougzir/Westerhof (FSU) 8-3
#2 ten Berge/Di Cesare (OM) vs. Chang/Sucupira (FSU) 7-5
#3 Poole/Klaeson (OM) def. Sykut/Andrew Bailey (FSU) 8-2
#1 Erling Tveit (OM) def. Ytai Abougzir (FSU) 6-0, 6-1
#2 Eric Claesson (OM) def. Jonathas Sucupira (FSU) 6-2, 7-5
#3 Bram ten Berge (OM) def. Sam Chang (FSU) 7-6(3), 6-4
#4 Maciek Sykut (FSU) def. Juan Pablo Di Cesare (OM) 6-1, 6-4
#5 Chris Westerhof (FSU) def. Robbye Poole (OM) 6-3, 6-1
#6 Jakob Klaeson (OM) vs. Chris Cloer (FSU) 7-6(4), 4-4, sus.
Rebels win NCAA Regional; head to Sweet 16
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