FAYETTEVILLE – The 47th-ranked Razorback men’s tennis team got on top of No. 48 Vanderbilt early and didn’t let up as they won their SEC opener, 4-3, to move to 9-2 on the year. The win was not only the Hogs first conference win of the year, but it was also their third straight victory. Arkansas was, once again, the stronger team in doubles as they won at courts one and two and then proceeded to win on courts three, five and six in singles to take the victory.
“It’s great to open the conference season with a victory,” head coach Robert Cox
said. “Vanderbilt is a tough team, but our guys got out in front early and really showed what they were made of. We won the points when it counted and I couldn’t be more proud of our players and how they showed up today and took care of business.”
Arkansas was able to rely on their top doubles team to get the ball rolling for the eighth time this year as junior Hall Fess
and senior Matt Walters
scored a solid victory at the No. 1 position. Their 8-5 win over Gonzales Austin and Blake Bazarnik was their eighth dual win of the year and moves them to 13-2 overall on the year.
The Razorbacks got an almost identical match at No. 2 as sophomores Mike Nott
and Manfred Jeske
moved up a spot, but still got the job done with their Vandy counterparts. They defeated Charlie Jones and Anton Kovrigin, also by the score of 8-5, and are starting to get on a roll this season as well. The duo has now claimed victory in four straight matches and are 6-1 this spring as today’s match was their first at the two spot.
The win gave Arkansas two quick doubles victories and allowed them to have the 1-0 lead heading into singles. Arkansas has benefited from almost all of its doubles victories this season as they have won the first team point in all but one match. With the exception of the Purdue match, the Hogs have translated a doubles win into an overall win.
Now that the Razorbacks had the early momentum they continued that strong play over into singles as they won first sets on five of the six courts, including a 6-0 first set win from Walters over Austin. Even with Walters’ stellar first set, it would be Nott, who came out with the first singles win. He dominated his match from start to finish defeating Michael Retta, 6-3, 6-1 to earn his 10th win of the year and became the fourth Razorback this season to earn at least 10 singles wins.
The win by Nott gave the Hogs a 2-0 team lead as they continued to hold their own on the remaining five courts. Not long after, junior Mike Ward
moved to 9-6 on the year as he took the win over Joe Dorn, 6-4, 6-1 and gave the Hogs a more than comfortable 3-0 lead. Ward has quietly built up a strong record over the past three weeks as he has now won four matches in a row and will go for win number ten on Sunday against Kentucky.
Vanderbilt did win at court one to cut the lead to 3-1, but the Hogs got their clincher from none other than the senior Nikolas Zogaj
at court three. Zogaj had one of his best matches of the season as he defeated Blake Bazarnik in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 to give Arkansas the victory. The Belgian now has 12 wins on the year and five wins in dual play.
Arkansas’ 9-2 start continues what is their best start since the 2008 season. The Hogs will look to move to double digit wins on Sunday when they face No. 7 Kentucky at 11:30 a.m. at the Billingsley Tennis Center. They will then face Cowley County Community College roughly an hour after the conclusion of the Kentucky match. Live stats and the live blog will be available during the match. A full recap and complete results will be posted online following the day’s play.
No. 48 Vanderbilt 3
No. 47 Arkansas 4
Complete Doubles Results
Order of Finish: 1, 2*, 3
Complete Singles Results
Order of Finish: 6, 5, 1, 3*, 2, 4
No. 2 Gonzales Austin (VU) def. Matt Walters
(ARK) 0-6, 6-3, 6-3
No. 4 Anton Kovrigin (VU) def. Manfred Jeske
(ARK) 2-6, 7-5, 1-0(4)
No. 5 Mike Ward
(ARK) def. Joe Dorn (VU) 6-4, 6-1
No. 6 Mike Nott
(ARK) def. Michael Retta (VU) 6-3, 6-1