Rebs Advance To Super Sunday

Billy Chadwick said this one was going to be tough. After all, it was a battle of two SEC teams. But in the end, the homestanding Ole Miss Rebels outlasted Kentucky 4-3 in the opening round of the National Team Indoor in Oxford.

"I told you guys (the media) before this one how good they are," he said of the Wildcats. "As you looked at it today, every match was really, really tight."

It stayed that way throughout the grueling five-hour ordeal. And what it came down to was the word "tough" again. Chadwick's teams through the years have shown their toughness in close ones and found a way to win most of them. Often that is even after losing the all-important doubles point, which is what happened Saturday.

Kentucky took the doubles point in as dramatic fashion as one could imagine. After the Wildcats posted an 8-5 win at No. 3 doubles, at No. 2 doubles the duo of freshmen Devin Britton and Otto Sauer broke in their match to force a tiebreaker, which they won 7-2 to even things up.

At No. 1 doubles, the senior duo of Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge were down the entire match until they broke and went to a tiebreaker against UK's Brad Cox and Bruno Agostinelli. The top-ranked Reb pair raced out to a 5-1 lead in the breaker, before Kentucky won six of the next seven points to go up 7-6. After Ole Miss tied it up, the Wildcat duo won the final two points to clinch the point.

"Kentucky did a great job of jumping on us early in the doubles," Chadwick said, noting UK had broken the Rebels' serve at each of the doubles positions early. "But I thought we did a fantastic job of fighting back and putting ourselves in position to win. We had a match point for the doubles point.

"That doubles point had the potential to make the rest of the match much easier for us if we'd won it," Chadwick continued. "I reminded the guys at that point that they had to play with urgency now. Everybody has to win."

Everybody didn't. But enough did. And the drama didn't stop until Reb freshman Sauer defeated UK's Alberto Gonzalez in straight sets to clinch the match.

With the overall match tied 3-3, Sauer was able to close out the sophomore Gonzalez 6-2, 6-4 at No. 6 singles. Sauer won the first set 6-2 and at 5-4 in the second, he served it out to send the large crowd of Ole Miss fans home happy. Afterwards he talked about playing in his first big match for the Rebels in front of such a gathering, announced at more than 700.

"I knew it was going to be tight," Sauer said. "I knew I had to win for us to win. It's so much fun to play here. I've never experienced anything like this before."

Chadwick was pleased his freshman found a way.

"It was great to see Otto step it up with the last match on," he said.

After winning the doubles point, the Wildcats had gone up 2-0 when Agostinelli, ranked No. 4 in the nation, handed Britton a 6-2, 6-4 loss at No. 1 singles.

Ole Miss got on the board when junior Kalle Norberg finished off a straight set win against UK freshman Eric Quigley, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 3 singles.

Berg fought off the disappointment of losing the doubles point to take his match in three sets at No. 2 singles, evening the overall match at 2-2. The first set went to the senior All-American 6-3, and he served for the second set at 5-4, before UK's Cox broke to even the set. Cox won the final two games to send it to a deciding third set.

Berg gained an early break in the third set and served at 5-2. Cox broke and held serve for 5-4. Berg got it done the second time, serving out for 6-4.

Ole Miss gained its first lead of the day when senior Bram ten Berge battled to come out on top at No. 4 singles against Wildcat freshman Graeme Dyce. Ten Berge won the first set 6-3 and had a chance to go up a break in the second, but couldn't convert.

After Dyce won the second set 6-4, he seized the momentum to go up 2-0 in the final set. Ten Berge broke back and held his serve to make it 2-2. He later broke to go ahead 4-3 and finished him off in the final two games to give the Rebels the lead for the moment.

"I started out well in the first set," ten Berge said. "In the second set, he improved dramatically and I let it slip away. The match was getting tight, but at the end of the third set I was able to settle down. It came down to who made fewer mistakes, and being a senior helped me."

Ten Berge said he could sense the fans were down after the loss in doubles.

"The audience was shell-shocked after doubles and then at the beginning of singles," he said. "But they got back into it as the match went on. At the end, the crowd really helped us. We knew it would come down to the wire, because they're (Kentucky) deep. We knew it would be tough."

Chadwick said ten Berge's match was filled with emotion.

"Bram was fighting some demons out there," he said. "You could see his match slipping away. He was up a break and could have won it in two sets. But things around him started affecting him as opposed to just playing ball. And to me when he got tough in the third set, he grew up. It will shape him for the rest of the spring. He found a way."

UK's Alex Musialek completed a 6-3, 6-3 win over Rebel freshman Chris Thiemann at No. 5 singles to square it up 3-3 and set up Sauer's heroics.

"Several things happened today that were really good," Chadwick said. "It was great to see Otto and Devin win at No. 2 doubles. They played well. (At No. 2 singles) Jonas Berg was not playing his best tennis, and his opponent was playing as well as I've ever seen him play. Jonas just gutted it out. That's the type leadership we need. And Kalle Norberg is the one guy on the team who played lights out. And for Otto to step up was huge."

Huge as in the Rebels play on.

Ole Miss now advances to Sunday's 2 p.m. match at the Gillom Sports Center between the winner of the Rice-Wake Forest match, being played this evening. The winner of the Sunday afternoon match advances to Chicago and the Sweet Sixteen of this event.

Kentucky plays the loser of Rice-Wake Forest at 9 a.m. Sunday.

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