OXFORD, Miss. - It has been said sometimes adversity is what you have to face to become successful. For the No. 10 nationally ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team, this weekend was not what they wanted, as they came away with two tough losses in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the latest, a 4-2 setback to No. 25 Clemson on Sunday at the Gillom Sports Center.
Sunday's 4-2 loss to Clemson went much like Saturday's 4-3 loss to Michigan, with the Rebels unable to win any tiebreakers and very few deciding points.
"It's tough, because we wanted to advance," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "We have a young team at some different positions, especially five and six. We had an injury up at the top with William Kallberg, and he's getting over that. We knew it was going to be tough. I am proud of the guys, they fought hard. We played better top to bottom today than we did on Saturday. The objective with these early matches is to see the weaknesses and what we need to improve on. We know we what need to work on, and the guys are committed. We've got our sights on the SEC season."
Doubles was the Achilles heel again for the Rebels. Clemson won 6-1 at No. 3 doubles and then clinched the point with a 6-3 win at No. 2.
Nik Scholtz, ranked No. 15 in the nation, showed why is one of the best players in the country, capping his weekend with another strong performance in singles. He took out Clemson's Hunter Harrington 6-4, 6-3 to improve to 11-5 overall, 2-0 in dual matches. Johan Backstrom also turned in a great performance this weekend in singles, winning both his matches in straight sets as well. Sunday, he defeated Austin Ansari 6-0, 6-4.
"I played well this weekend in both matches, especially in the first sets," Backstrom said. "I've been working with the coaches in practice on some things, and it was great to be able to show it in the matches."
Sophomore Stefan Lindmark won a big three-setter Saturday against Michigan, but came up short Sunday after dropping a tough tiebreaker to Clemson's Alejandro Augusto. Augusto was able to win the tiebreaker 9-7 and then used that momentum to win the second set 6-1 giving his team the lead.
"Nik Scholtz played really well. He has really proven himself to be one of the best players in the country," Chadwick said. "Johan played absolutely great. The person I thought fought the hardest this weekend was Stefan. He fought hard in both matches, but he got a little unlucky in today's match. With the no ad scoring, the difference in winning and losing comes down to a point here and there."
The match came down to courts five and six again with the Rebels needing to win both to win the match. Vinod Gowda, playing just his second dual match for the Rebels, was on the verge of winning, when Clemson clinched. After dropping the first set 6-1, Gowda came back to win a second set tiebreaker 7-4 to keep the Rebels alive. He was leading 5-3 in the third when the match ended.
In the deciding match at No. 6, Oxford native Zach Wilder served for the first set up 5-4, but CU's Fernando Sala broke to force a tiebreaker. Wilder held a set point there, but Sala won three straight points to win the set 6-5(6). In the second set, Sala jumped to an early break, but Wilder battled back. Unfortunately, at 4-4, he was broken again and Sala served it out 6-4 to clinch the win for the Tigers.
"Vinod was much improved, and was about to win," Chadwick said. "Even though Zach lost, he played much better than he did the day before. He doesn't quite have the experience to step up and deliver in this type situation. I think he lost at least three 3-3 all points in the second set, but if you play enough matches, that evens out. Overall, we just didn't win enough of the big points as Michigan did the first day and Clemson did the second day."
The Rebels will be back in action Feb. 7 when they host Southern Miss.
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