As one of only two underclassmen left in the field, Ole Miss freshman Devin Britton is making his presence felt throughout NCAA Individual competition.
Despite being matched up against some of the best talent in the country, the ITA Southeast Region Rookie of the Year continued his impressive march Friday against Rice senior Bruno Rosa, winning 6-3, 6-4.
"That player he just beat was ranked 300th in the world ATP," head coach Billy Chadwick said of Britton. "Devin's got a big game. The thing that's impressive with him is you have some players that perform better with the team, but he has the ability to play outstanding tennis no matter the situation. He's been very impressive."
While a victory in straight sets often appears one-sided, Britton was met with a difficult challenge in the field of 16 in Rosa.
Despite breaking Rosa's serve in the second game of the first set, Rosa was able to break back. At 4-3, Britton broke again and held to win the set 6-3. Rosa returned the favor in the second set, breaking Britton and leading 3-0.
But just like he has so many times this season, Britton never flinched, breaking Rosa twice and holding on for the 6-4 win and Elite Eight berth.
"The thing Devin's starting to do is he's taking the good and bad of the match and is still able to play at a high level," Chadwick said. "Today, he went up 2-0 and then went down 2-3. In the past, he wouldn't have been able to play through that. He would experience a challenge and have a hard time getting over the hump. But he went to work. His improvement from a mental standpoint has been huge."
Britton is now the only freshman remaining in the singles draw. In fact, five of the remaining eight players in the field are seniors.
However, the Mississippi native has proven to be unlike most newcomers to collegiate tennis, after he became the first freshman to earn All-American honors and the 24th Rebel in school history.
"Devin played great," Chadwick said of Friday's match. "When gets down, he never misses a beat. He comes right back and takes the set and the match. It's fun to watch."
After finishing the regular season with an overall record of 23-9, Britton has been on a tear in postseason play.
Friday's victory over Rosa marked the 11th straight for Britton, which followed a win over Virginia's Dominic Inglot, ranked No. 14 nationally.
He also made quick work of Wisconsin's Mortiz Baumann in the first round, and now sits with 26 wins on the year.
"Devin is playing unbelievable tennis," said Chadwick. "(Friday) was probably the best match he's played all year. He's playing as well as anyone in the tournament right now. But now you're down to the top eight in the NCAA, and the road doesn't get any easier."
Next up for Britton is a meeting with Stanford's Alex Clayton Saturday at 10 a.m.
Ranked 21st nationally, Clayton knocked off No. 12 Nate Schnugg of Georgia 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the Sweet 16.
Also notable, Clayton downed Baylor's Jordan Rux 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the opening round on Wednesday, then followed with an upset victory over No. 3 Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 in the second round.
Chadwick said while the team wasn't able to gain a national championship in College Station, seeing Britton perform at such a high level has been rewarding.
"It does take the sting away, but the final polls came out (Friday) and we finished No. 4 in the country," said Chadwick. "It shows what a great year we had. The leadership from the seniors, as well as the other returning players and then our freshmen, played a huge role in us finishing fourth in the nation."
Note: Ole Miss Athletic Media Relations contributed to this report.
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