OXFORD, Miss. – The No. 7 ranked Ole Miss men’s tennis team, playing without their top player, battled No. 17 Florida in at close match, but came up short to the Gators here Friday night at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
With the loss (4-1), the Rebels fell to 13-6 overall and 6-4 in the SEC. Florida improved to 11-8 and 5-4 in league play. Ole Miss will host No. 20 South Carolina Sunday at 1 p.m. on Senior Day. The Gamecocks lost to Mississippi State 4-2 Friday.
Despite sophomore Nik Scholtz being out of the lineup, the Rebels were in it until the end with the last three matches going three sets. When Florida’s Florent Diep finished off sophomore William Kallberg 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, the Rebels were locked in tight battles on courts one and five with seniors Jonas Lutjen and Adrian Forberg Skogeng.
As Chadwick note, the Rebels had to switch up their doubles. Lutjen and Scholtz are ranked No. 4 in the nation, but Friday, Lutjen played with Forberg Skogeng at No. 2 doubles. Stefan Lindmark and Johan Backstrom moved up to No. 1 doubles and lost 8-4 after Florida had won 8-3 on court three.
In singles, everybody moved up a spot, but the Rebels managed to split the first sets. Florida was able to take two of the matches where they won the first set in straight sets to pull ahead 3-0. Lindmark fell to Gator senior Bob van Overbeek 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. Making his singles debut for the Rebels, Oxford native Zach Wilder fell to UF freshman Gordon Watson 6-3, 6-0 at No. 6 singles.
Florida needed only one more point and the Rebels needed to win all four remaining matches. In two of those, the Rebels earned huge first set tiebreakers. Backstrom took his first set 7-6(1) against Gator Michael Alford and then cruised in the second 6-1 to make it 3-1.
Lutjen, ranked No. 12 in the nation and playing his first career match at No. 1 singles, led 4-3 in the third set against UF’s Stephane Piro when played stopped. Forberg Skogeng, after winning the first set tiebreaker 7-6(4), was on serve in the third set against Gator Luke Johnson.
“Jonas has the game and the history to play No. 1 singles, and he was in a good position to win it. Sko was battling, and so was Willie," Chadwick said. "Florida just did a good job of closing it out.”
The Rebels will honor their two seniors prior to the start of the South Carolina on Sunday. Fans will also enjoy free chicken between doubles and singles.
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