OXFORD, Miss. – Freshman Ricardo Jorge won his first home match on Sunday, and William Kallberg looked as good as he has this year, but unfortunately the Ole Miss men’s tennis team dropped a 4-2 decision to Alabama at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center to close out the opening weekend of conference play.
With the loss, the Rebels fell to 2-5 overall and 0-2 in league play. Alabama improved to 7-6 and 1-1 in the SEC.
“It’s the tough SEC,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “We are improving with each match, and that’s the thing we have to take away from this weekend. We have some tough road matches coming up. This is what you’ll see across the league, they’re all 4-3 matches back and forth. The guys know that they are just a little shy of the mark, but if they work hard and pick it up, they’ll see good things.”
For the fifth time in the first seven matches, the Rebels dropped the doubles point, which proved to be tough to overcome. Alabama won 8-4 at No. 3 doubles, but then Jorge teamed up with Nik Scholtz for an 8-3 win at No. 2 doubles. The point came down to No. 1, with Daniil Proskura and Becker O’Shaughnessey winning 8-6 against Johan Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark to clinch the 1-0 lead.
In singles, the Rebels started a little slow at a couple positions, but got early breaks at the rest of the courts. However, two of those courts where they had leads, Alabama came back, including No. 3 where Lindmark watched his lead slip away and the match 7-6(2), 6-2 to Stuart Kenyon.
William Kallberg got better as the match went on, rallying to defeat 75th-ranked O’Shaughnessey 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Backstrom saw his lead go away on court four and then he lost a first set tiebreaker and the match 7-6(4), 7-5 as the Crimson Tide took a 3-1 lead.
“The first sets at three and four that we let slip away, probably ended up being the difference in the match,” Chadwick said. “But like I told the guys, they position themselves to get them, but when it gets into those tight spots, we just need to be a little better.”
Jorge’s win made it 3-2 as he took out Sean Donohue 7-6(3), 7-6(1) at No. 5 singles. He has now won two of his four matches played, with one being suspended.
The match ended when Vinod Gowda lost his third set to Bama’s Andrew Goodwin at No. 6 singles. Gowda won the first set 6-4, but then Goodwin took the second set 6-4. He broke the first game to take an early lead 2-0 and held 6-2 to win it.
“Vinod and [Goodwin] were very similar in that both hit a lot of balls,” Chadwick said. “Vinod has to have a plan b as to how he is going to attack when he plays a player like that. Goodwin did a good job of hitting some drop shots and coming into the net. It’s one of those where when we get the first set, we have to find a way to get the second set.”
When play was stopped, Scholtz was on serve against 17th-ranked Daniil Proskura after a back and forth match. Scholtz lost the first set 6-4, but rallied to win the second 7-5.
“Proskura is one of the best players in the country, he’s been ranked as high as No. 12, and it was great to see Nik dig down deep and match him shot for shot,” Chadwick said.
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