OXFORD, Miss. – Freshman Zalina Khairudinova won a second set tiebreaker to close out a straight set win against Kentucky’s Aldila Sutjiadi and clinch a 4-2 victory for the No. 38 ranked Ole Miss women’s tennis team against No. 24 Kentucky here Sunday at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis.
With the win, the Rebels split the weekend and improve to 8-5 overall and 2-4 in the SEC. Kentucky dropped to 14-4 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.
Ole Miss has now won six straight against Kentucky, including three in a row in Oxford. The Rebels won the doubles point and picked up wins at No. 6 and No. 4 singles before Khairudinova closed it out at No. 1.
“We were able to get a quick doubles point, but then they came back in singles,” head coach Mark Beyers said. “We didn’t play quite as well as we did on Friday, but we fought back in some matches. Mai came back in her match, Iris fought back from a set down and 5-3. Those are important for the overall score, so Kentucky doesn’t get another point. It came down to a tiebreaker. Overall, I thought Kentucky fought really hard, and we were fortunate to come away with a 4-2 victory.”
The Rebels came out of the lockerroom on fire in doubles. Kentucky was forced to retire after playing only one game at No. 2 doubles when their No.1 player, Nadia Ravita, hurt her back. With the Rebels needing only one of the remaining two matches to clinch the point, Erin Stephens and Iris Verboven finished off an 8-3 win over 56th-ranked CeCe Witten and Caitlin McGraw at No. 1 doubles. The Rebels were leading 7-3 at No. 3 doubles.
Both teams split the first sets in singles. The coaches switched the lower part of the lineup, moving Stephens down to No. 6 singles this weekend, hoping to get her confidence back after some tough losses. She responded Sunday, downing Stephanie Fox 6-2, 6-1 to make it 2-0 Rebels.
Kentucky got on the board when Edmee Morin handed Julia Jones her second straight loss, 6-2, 6-3, at No. 3 singles. Mai El Kamash, one of three Rebels to drop her first set, picked up her game in the second set and rallied to win her match 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 at No. 4 singles to give the Rebels the 3-1 lead.
The Wildcats would not go away though, as Kelsey Dieters finished off a comeback of her own, defeating Rebel senior Caroline Rohde-Moe 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles to make it 3-2.
With Iris Verboven having just started her third set against UK’s McGraw on court five, Khairudinova made sure her match would not be needed.
Khairudinova served for the first set against Sutjiadi at 5-3, but didn’t get it. She broke again at 5-5 and served it out 7-5. Once again in the second set, Khairudinova built a 5-3 lead and served for the match. She had three match points, but Sutjiadi staved off all three to stay it in and eventually get to a tiebreaker. Khairudinova won the first two points of the tiebreak, but then Sutjiadi won four straight for a 4-2 lead. Khairudinova answered with three straight points of her own to regain the lead 5-4. Sutjiadi netted the next point, leaving Khairudinova with two more match points. She got the second one to clinch the 4-2 victory.
“It was definitely a tough match,” Khairudinova said. “She was a good player. She was playing well, but I stayed disciplined and was able to close it out. I am really proud of my team. We beat a good team; it was a great day for the Rebels.”
The Rebels will now hit the road for their next three SEC matches beginning with Arkansas Friday, March 21 in Fayetteville.
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