With arguably the most difficult road to an NCAA championship of any team in the field, the No. 2 nationally ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team has had to play flawless tennis to claim victory throughout tournament play.
But as they've done all season, head coach Billy Chadwick and company continue their impressive march to the crown after defeating host school Texas A&M 4-1 Thursday.
"When you have two very good teams, at their place, where they've been working for three years to prepare for this moment, it doesn't get much better," said Chadwick of the win. "The crowd was into it and hanging on every point. The guys did a tremendous job of focusing and just playing tennis."
In a tightly contested doubles contest, Britton and Tucker Vorster defeated Marcus Lunt and Wil Spencer 8-4 to get Ole Miss on top. Then, in a battle of top 10 foes, eighth-ranked Conor Pollock and Austin Krajicek defeated the top-ranked duo of Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge 9-7 to pull even.
However, Kalle Norberg and Otto Sauer persevered in a tight battle, topping Colin Hoover and Alexey Grigorov 8-6 for the point.
"Texas A&M has a very good doubles team," Chadwick said. "We were down, but fought back and won it. We knew we had to take No. 3 doubles. Kalle (Norberg) and Otto (Sauer) found a way to win. It was great tennis."
The Aggies found the equalizer when Pollock, ranked 17th nationally in singles, handed Berg, ranked 16th, a 6-2, 6-1 loss at No. 1 singles.
The Rebels regained the lead 2-1, however, when Sauer defeated Lunt in straight sets on court five. Ole Miss then went ahead by two, as freshman Marcel Thiemann claimed his ninth victory in a row with a win over Colin Hoover 6-3, 6-3.
"We felt like we had to take five and six singles, so that was a lot of pressure on the freshmen," Chadwick said of Sauer and Thiemann. "But again, those guys put us in a position to win with everyone else battling for the final point."
Norberg, ten Berge and Britton were each caught in their respective singles battles, until Britton broke through in his third set against Krajicek.
In similar fashion to his comeback victory in Baton Rouge, the Mississippi native dropped the first set (6-4), only to storm back in the second (6-3). In the third, Krajicek had double match point at 15-40 on Britton's serve, but the ITA Southeast Region Rookie of the Year summoned a great serve and eventually held for 6-6.
Britton raced out to a big lead in the breaker and held to win it 7-3.
"Tonight was just an outstanding tennis match," Chadwick said. "It was a matter of our guys fighting top-to-bottom. There were two heavyweights battling it out and the difference was Devin Britton. He played fantastic tennis and really won it in the tiebreak. There was hardly any margin for error. If you lose your serve, you lose the match. It was a clutch effort by Devin."
The Rebels are in the Elite Eight for the ninth time and will face a UCLA team who beat Miami 4-0 in the third round. The two teams last met in NCAA play in the semifinals in 2005, also in College Station.
"They're probably the most talented team in the country," Chadwick said of the Bruins. "We'll certainly have our hands full. But we've now beaten LSU at their place and beaten Texas A&M in College Station. We'll be ready for them. I know the guys are pleased with the way they've played and rightfully so. This has been a lot of fun."
***Note: Ole Miss Athletic Media Relations contributed to this report.
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