JACKSON - Sometimes it takes Eric Claesson a while to get going. Many times his matches are quite lengthy, too.
That was certainly the case for the Ole Miss senior at the River Hills Mississippi Cup, played Thursday night and won by the Rebels 4-0 over Mississippi State.
It was the Rebels' 18th win in a row over the Bulldogs in men's tennis, and their eighth straight over MSU in the Cup. Claesson has never lost to Ole Miss' biggest rival.
"It was big for me (being a senior) to win. It was also important for the new guys to understand what this is all about. Coach (Billy Chadwick) tells us about 10 times a day how important (beating Mississippi State) is," Claesson smiled and said. "There's nothing like the college experience, and winning (against Mississippi State) is a big part of it."
Claesson beat Ivan Bejelica at No. 2 singles 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to clinch the match as the Rebs led 3-0 prior to his win.
"He played well in the first set, and then in the second set I started moving better and playing better," Claesson said of his MSU foe. "When I got a break back in the second set I started feeling much better and knew I would have a chance to bring it home."
Claesson continued to pound away at his opponent.
"I thought he got really tired in the third set," Claesson said. "When I got a break in the third set, I felt sure I was going to win."
Chadwick said the fact that Claesson played and won as he did was no surprise to him.
"Eric did an outstanding job of persevering," Chadwick said. "But that's what he's done his entire career. He starts out slow at times and then he just gets stronger. He's such a great competitor."
Ole Miss started the match off right by winning the doubles point as Erling Tveit and Claesson took their match at No. 1 doubles 8-3, while at No. 3 doubles it was Robbye Poole and Jonas Berg winning 8-6.
"The key was taking that doubles point," Chadwick said. "We were playing a young (MSU) team. We didn't want them to get up on us early, because then it would have been an uphill battle for us. And then I felt it was extremely important for Erling to finish his match off early and give us a 2-0 lead. At that point it became an uphill battle for State."
Tveit defeated Philippe Frayssinoux 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles.
Poole, playing at No. 3 singles, won an important match to take the Rebel lead to 3-0. He beat Artem Kuznetsov 7-6(1), 6-3 to set up Claesson as the match-winner for the Rebels.
"I played really tight the first set," Poole said. "I got up 4-1 but I didn't really relax and play well until I got to the tie breaker. Coach Chadwick told me to relax, and I started playing better. He pulled me through that first set. In the second set I was up a set, so I was able to go for a few more shots."
Poole had some special people pulling for him in the match.
"I've played at this club a lot, and I had a lot of support here," Poole said. "My mom actually made the drive from Charleston (S.C.) to come watch me play. She used to live right down the street from here, so it was nice for her to be here."
The Rebels are now 6-0 on the season and ranked No. 5 in the country.
#1 Tveit/Claesson (OM) def. Beljecia/Frayssinoux (MSU) 8-3
#2 Klaeson/Rea (OM) vs. Kuznetsov/Necajevs (MSU) 5-4, MSU
#3 Poole/Berg (OM) def. Benechetrit/Doerr (MSU) 8-6
#1 Erling Tveit (OM) def. Philippe Frayssinoux (MSU) 6-3, 6-2
#2 Eric Claesson (OM) def. Ivan Bejelica (MSU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
#3 Robbye Poole (OM) def. Artem Kuznetsov (MSU) 7-6(1), 6-3
#4 Jakob Klaeson (OM) vs. Pjotrs Necajevs (MSU) 6-6, sus.
#5 Kalle Norberg (OM) vs. Edouard Bechetrit (MSU) 5-3 OM sus.
#6 Jonas Berg (OM) vs. Ryan Farlow DNP
UM men's tennis gets past State - again
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