Tennis ready for run to SEC, national honors

A new season begins Friday for Ole Miss men's tennis as Southeastern Conference play arrives.

The Rebels did very well in the indoor portion of the 2007 spring schedule. They opened the outdoor part Wednesday with a 7-0 thrashing of Memphis.

But Friday at 5 p.m. at the Palmer-Salloum Tennis Center (weather permitting or it will be played at the Gillom Sports Center indoors), the Rebels and Florida will serve things up toward conference and national titles. Both teams will be in the mix in both races.

Ole Miss is currently ranked sixth nationally, while the Gators check in at No. 13. There's an underlying current to this important SEC West-East rivalry, too. Former Mississippi State head coach Andy Jackson, at State from 1984-2001, has led the Gators program since then. He and Ole Miss head coach Billy Chadwick's teams have always had some "friendly but heated" battles, both when Jackson was at State and since at Florida.

"This is another very good Florida team," Chadwick said of Jackson's latest outfit. "They beat Baylor (on Feb. 4) when Baylor was No. 2 in the country. They took the doubles point (against the Bears), and then won No. 1, 2, and 3 singles. They're very capable of doing that against anybody."

With the win Wednesday, the Rebels improved to 10-1 on the year. After sweeping the doubles, Ole Miss took all six singles matches in straight sets for the win.

"It was a good day, and we played well," Chadwick said. "It was our first outdoor match of the season, and that showed. But our guys were very determined to win and to get the most out of the match in preparation for the match against Florida."

Florida is 4-2 on the spring season. The Gators are coming off a 4-3 win over South Florida this past weekend. They are led by freshman Jesse Levine who is ranked No. 45 in the nation with a 5-0 record at No. 1 singles. Their No. 2 singles player, Greg Ouellette, comes in ranked No. 18 with a 4-1 record at No. 2 singles. Levine and Ouellette also team together for a 5-0 record at No. 1 doubles.

Ole Miss heads into the start of SEC play with an experienced squad. Leading the way for the Rebels are All-Americans Erling Tveit and Eric Claesson, who have combined for a 16-3 record at the top.

Juniors Robbye Poole, Matthias Wellermann, Jakob Klaeson and Chris Rea, sophomore Jonas Berg and freshman Kalle Norberg, have accumulated a 33-4 record in the Rebels' first 11 matches.

Ole Miss plays well at home. The Rebels have won 38 of their last 39 regular season matches dating back to April 6, 2003. Ole Miss finished the 2006 season 10-1 at home. The Rebels are 6-0 at home this season.

Chadwick and the Rebels are hosting their first-ever night match. Only in tournament action in the past has Ole Miss played matches at night at the Palmer-Salloum Tennis Center. But Chadwick said he wants to give it a try and see if more fans will come out to watch and support his team.

"They've done this around the league some," he said of night regular season matches. "We hope this will allow more of our fans who work during the day to come out and support this team. They certainly could be the difference in helping us win this match and any match we play."

Chadwick said he is impressed with his own team and believes another run to glory is likely in store.

"I really like this team. I like how hard they work. They're a close-knit group," he said. "They take nothing for granted. They respect every opponent we play. They know this match against Florida is going to come down to one or two shots either way."

The Florida match is the first of two on the weekend. On Sunday the Rebels host South Carolina in a 1 p.m. match.

Admission to both matches is free and live scoring will be available at

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