OXFORD, Miss. -- It was a classic down to the wire SEC battle between two of the nation's best, No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 7 Georgia, here Friday at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. Sophomore William Kallberg rallied to win his match at No. 4 singles to clinch the 4-3 victory for the Rebels.
With the win, the Rebels improved to 9-2 overall and 3-0 in the SEC, while Georgia fell to 9-4 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Ole Miss will host No. 10 Tennessee Sunday at 1 p.m. Fans will enjoy free hot dogs between doubles and singles.
"Big day for the Rebels. Any time you beat Georgia in tennis, you've accomplished something, and we are so proud of the guys," head coach Billy Chadwick said.
For the third straight league match it came down to the last player on court for the Rebels to beat the Bulldogs for the first time since 2009. The Rebels trailed 3-1 before consecutive wins from All-Americans Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz tied it up.
With the match all square, everyone else descended to the lower courts for the final match at No. 4 singles with Kallberg in a third set against Bulldog freshman Austin Smith. Kallberg lost the first set 6-1, but rallied to win a huge second set tiebreaker, 7-6(7). He gained an early break in the third set, but Smith broke back to make it 4-4. Kallberg broke again and then served it out, including an ace on match point.
"It was another close match and an important win," Kallberg said. "We showed that we are a tough team, everybody fights from top to bottom. Today it was my turn to clinch the final win. Everyone has been fighting hard every point and that is how you walk away with three straight 4-3 wins."
Ole Miss got on the board first by winning the doubles point, which proved to be the difference yet again. The Rebels changed up their doubles slightly, allowing freshman Adriaan du Toit to make his debut alongside Kallberg at three. Georgia won that one 8-3 though. In a top-10 matchup, Scholtz and Lutjen, ranked No. 5 in the nation, downed sixth-ranked Ben Wagland and Hernus Pieters 8-4 at No. 1. All eyes then turned to court two where Johan Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark secured an 8-6 win over 32nd-ranked Nathan Pasha and Garrett Brasseaux.
Georgia rebounded to win four first sets. Pasha defeated Lindmark, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, 6-4, 6-1 at No. 3 singles to tie it. It was Lindmark's first match at that spot and his first SEC loss.
The Bulldogs took the lead when Brasseaux downed senior Adrian Forberg Skogeng 6-1, 6-2 at No. 6 singles. They increased their lead to 3-1 as Pieters topped Backstrom 6-4, 6-0 at No. 5.
Lutjen, ranked No. 5 in the nation, followed up with a 7-5, 6-1 win over 95th-ranked Wagland at No. 2 singles to pull the Rebels within one. Not long after Kallberg got his match to a deciding set, Scholtz, ranked No. 12, finished off 11th-ranked KU Singh 6-2, 7-6(2), setting up the final outcome.
"It was key getting the doubles point," Chadwick said. "We did an excellent job at No. 1 doubles, like we've been doing all year. We had to move our No. 3 team to No. 2, and they came through. We switched up the No. 3 and 4 singles to give them a little bit different look than in Seattle. Both guys are very equal, so we've got the ability to do that.
"We have another tough one on Sunday against Tennessee. We'll enjoy this one for a little bit, then it's back to work."
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