OXFORD, Miss. – After a big win over No. 19 Baylor on Thursday, the No. 4 nationally ranked Ole Miss men’s tennis team looked to keep the spring break momentum going against No. 10 Kentucky and remain undefeated in the SEC. However, the Wildcats won the doubles point and two three-setters at the bottom two courts to secure a close 4-1 win on a gorgeous Friday afternoon at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
With the loss, the Rebels are now 11-3 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. They will host No. 23 Vanderbilt Sunday at 1 p.m. Vanderbilt knocked off No. 13 Mississippi State 4-3 in Starkville to improve 12-4 overall and 3-1 in league play.
The Rebels have struggled to find a good combination at three doubles, and on Friday, redshirt freshman Zach Wilder made his dual match debut at No. 3 doubles with William Kallberg, but they lost 8-4. With the 6th-ranked duo of Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen up 7-6 about to serve for their match, Kentucky clinched the point when Ryuji Hirooka and Alejandro Gomez finished off 40th-ranked Stefan Lindmark and Johan Backstrom 8-3 on court two. Lindmark and Backstrom had won six in a row and three in a row since moving up to No. 2 doubles.
In singles, three of the matches went three sets, but at No. 2 singles, UK’s 32nd-ranked Tom Jomby took out 13th-ranked Lutjen 6-1, 6-4 to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
With the Rebels battling to stay in the matches, Kallberg, ranked No. 69, finished off Charles Minc 7-6(7), 7-5 at No. 4 singles to put the Rebels on the board.
It was those three-setters at the lower two courts that the Rebels needed to win at least one to still have a chance, with Scholtz holding a set point to get to a third at one and Lindmark splitting sets at three.
Backstrom, the clincher in the Rebels’ previous two wins over Tennessee and Baylor, won his first set against Grant Roberts 6-4, but Roberts stormed back to take the second set 6-0. Backstrom held a 2-1 40-15 lead to go ahead in the final set, but Roberts would rally and go on to win it 6-3 as Kentucky took a 3-1 lead.
The match ended when Adrian Forberg Skogeng got broken at 4-4 in the third to UK’s Kevin Lai. Lai served it out to clinch a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win and the team victory.
Fans coming to Sunday’s match against Vanderbilt will get free “Kiss me I’m a Rebel” buttons and green beads for St. Patrick’s Day.
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