JACKSON, Miss. – The No. 21 nationally ranked Ole Miss men’s tennis team won the doubles point against 14th-ranked Mississippi State in the annual Mississippi Cup here Thursday night at the River Hills Club, but the Bulldogs came out firing in singles and hung on for a 4-2 win in a six hour battle.
The match came down to a three-setter at No. 5 singles between a pair of seniors in Ole Miss’ Chris Thiemann and MSU’s George Coupland. Coupland broke twice to start the set and held to win it 6-1 to clinch the 4-2 victory.
When the match was stopped sophomore Johan Backstrom led State’s Antonio Lastre 2-0 in the third set.
The victory marked the first time for Mississippi State (6-2) to win back-to-back matches against the Rebels (2-2) in more than a decade. The Bulldogs won the River Hills Cup in 1998, the regular season SEC meeting in 1998 and the 1999 River Hills Cup. Since that time, the Rebels had won 26 in a row until last year’s regular season loss in Starkville.
“It was pretty close to what we thought that it was going to come down to one match. We had a couple of good looks on Marcel’s match. I thought that was a key match. Nik did a good job of winning at one, we did a good job in the doubles, and we were up 3-0 in the third at No. 6. We needed one more point, and Chris gave a great effort. Give State a lot of credit, they’re very solid through the middle of their lineup.”
Ole Miss got on the board first by taking an exciting doubles point. Head coach Billy Chadwick changed up his doubles from the first three matches, including splitting up the senior duo of Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann. Mississippi State’s Coupland and Artem Ilyushin defeated Chris and William Kallberg at No. 2 8-5 and then Marcel and junior Jonas Lutjen picked up an 8-4 win at No. 1 against State’s Louis Cant and Malte Stropp. All eyes then focused on court three, where the Rebel tandem of Nik Scholtz and Johan Backstrom gained a break at 7-7 and then Backstrom served it out for the 9-7 win against James Chaudry and Ethan Wilkinson to clinch the point.
State’s Stropp evened the match with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Lutjen at No. 3 singles. After losing the first game, 90th-ranked Stropp won six straight to win the first set and then got up 5-2 in the second, before Lutjen won two games. Stropp then served it out.
Scholtz won a three-set affair at No. 1 singles against MSU’s Chaudry to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead. The South African won the first set 6-3, but Chaudry, ranked 79th in the nation, came back to get the second set 6-3. Scholtz gained an early break in the third and dominated 6-1 to improve to 2-1 at No. 1 singles.
The Rebels saw that lead go away with losses at No. 4 and 2 singles in that order. Kallberg dropped a straight set 6-3, 6-2 decision to State’s 45th-ranked Cant and then Marcel lost his match to Bulldog, Ilyushin, in three sets. After winning the first set 6-3, Thiemann got down 4-1 in the second. He battled back but lost his serve again and the set 6-3. Ilyushin won the decisive set 6-2.
Ole Miss heads to Brownsville, Texas next weekend for the USTA Futures event. Their next collegiate match is Feb. 28 at home against Memphis.
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