STARKVILLE, Miss. – The No. 10 Ole Miss men’s tennis team won the doubles point, but lost five of the first six sets in singles against No. 13 Mississippi State, before a three-plus hour rain delay changed the momentum entirely. After the delay, the Rebels came out firing in singles on their way to a 4-2 win at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
With the win, the Rebels improved to 13-5 overall and 6-3 in the SEC upped the season series to 2-1 in their favor. With Texas A&M’s loss at Tennessee, the Rebels are tied with the Aggies atop the SEC Western Division in the loss column.
After William Kallberg gave Ole Miss a 3-2 lead with his come-from-behind win at three − and with freshman Stefan Lindmark locked at 1-1 in the third at four − senior Jonas Lutjen finished off a rally to defeat long time nemesis Malte Stropp in three sets to clinch the team victory.
“It was a great comeback by the guys; we knew that it was extremely important to get the doubles point,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “This was a great Mississippi State team, and it’s extremely difficult to beat them in Starkville. We are very proud of the guys for battling back to get the win.”
The Rebels took the early lead in the match by winning the all-important doubles point. Johan Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark got back on the right side, downing State’s Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson 8-2 at No. 2 doubles. William Kallberg and Zach Wilder teamed up for their first win together, 8-4, against MSU’s Romain Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont to clinch the point. The Rebels are now 11-1 this season when they win the doubles point.
State took back the momentum by winning five first sets, before the rain came and stopped play at 3:27 p.m.
When play resumed at approximately 6:45, the Bulldogs closed out two of the matches they led in to take a 2-1 lead. Dumont defeated Rebel senior Adrian Forberg Skogeng 6-2, 6-3 on court six to put the Bulldogs on the board, and then Bogaerts finished off Nik Scholtz 6-2, 6-4 at one.
At the time of those Bulldog wins, the Rebels were battling back on two, three and four and winning at five. Backstrom led State’s Zach White 3-2 in the second on court five at the delay, but with that court slow to dry, the two moved to court six when that match ended. The change of court did not alter the outcome, as Backstrom closed White out 6-1, 6-2 to square the overall match at 2.
Kallberg lost a close first set to Jordan Angus at three, but rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win to give Ole Miss the 3-2 lead.
At court two, Stropp led Lutjen 6-1, 4-2, but the two Germans have played numerous three-setters, and Friday would not be any different. Stropp had triple game point for a 5-2 lead, before Lutjen worked it back to break point when play stopped. Coming out of the stoppage of play, Lutjen broke back and went on to win a second-set tiebreaker, which propelled him to a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 win for the team victory.
“State played really well at the start of singles,” Chadwick said. “It was extremely windy, and they were able to play better in the conditions than we did. The thing that helped us more than anything is the guys stayed focused. We knew that if we came out strong to start with like we did in the doubles, we could turn the match. The conditions were much better after the delay, and we were able to get things going our way.”
When play was suspended, Lindmark was at 1-1 in the third against Bulldog James Chaudry on court four, after the Rebel freshman had won a second set tiebreaker to stay alive.
“We really appreciate the nice crowd of Ole Miss fans who came to support us, they were a huge boost,” Chadwick said. “We want to see a big crowd next weekend for our last regular season SEC home matches.”
The Rebels host Florida Friday April 5 at 4 p.m. at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center followed by South Carolina April 7 at 1 p.m.
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