FAYETTEVILLE– The No. 50 Arkansas Razorback men’s tennis did not back down to the No. 2-ranked Tennessee Volunteers on Sunday afternoon at the Dills Indoor Tennis Center. The Hogs played with all heart and determination but were unable to overcome the highly touted Volunteers. The match was competitive on every court but Tennessee pulled away with a 6-1 victory over the Hogs.
“Tennessee jumped on us early with the doubles point,” head coach Robert Cox said. “We played well and were able to close the gap in some tight matches but Tennessee maintain control and closed strong. All credit to Tennessee, they proved they deserve to be ranked second in the nation.”
The Volunteers took the early advantage taking the doubles point with wins at the No.1 and No. 2 positions. The newly found tandem of sophomore Matt Walters and freshman Michael Ward battled in a tight match on court three but lost in a tiebreaker, 8-7(3).
The match quickly heated up as a well-spirited Razorback team returned to the courts for singles action prepared for battle. Freshman Gregoire Lehmann stormed the court to even the score one-all with his win over No. 95 Matt Brewer at the No. 5 position. The Volunteers answered with wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions to edge a 3-1 lead over Arkansas.
Tennessee needed only one more point to clinch the match but Arkansas was not ready to roll over. The crowd was on their feet as Arkansas’ sophomore Nikolas Zogaj and Tennys Sandgren fought hard in a heated match at the No 4 position. The duo continued to exchange the advantage as both players held serve. Zogaj seemed to have the magic touch, placing the ball all over the court on command, but Sandgren found a way to win, 7-5,7-5. The Volunteers extended their five game winning streak in conference play.
Tennis action continued as Walters and No. 49 Christopher Nott forced third sets at the No. 6 and No. 1 singles positions. Nott dropped the first set 6-0 to No. 2 John-Patrick Smith but Nott regained control of the match and forced a third set. Nott and Smith continued to grind and each point was well earned but Smith eventually won in the third set, 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Full attention was on the only remaining match of Walters and Matteo Fago on court six. Walters dropped the first set and was down in the second but rallied back to win the second set, 6-4. Walters fire was not enough and Fago closed out the match in the third set, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1.
“I am proud of our guys they fought hard, “ Cox said. “We gained momentum just a little too late but we proved to ourselves that we are tough competitors. We are going to regroup and gear up for a tough doubleheader on against Tulsa and Oral Roberts.”
Arkansas will travel for a doubleheader in Tulsa, Okla. on Tuesday against Tulsa and Oral Roberts at the Michael D. Case Center. The Hogs first matchup is against Tulsa at 2 p.m. before playing Oral Roberts at 6 p.m.
Tennessee 6 Arkansas 1
Order of Finish: 5, 3, 2, 4*, 1, 6
#2 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. # 49 Christopher Nott (UA) 6-0, 4-6, 6-3
Boris Conkic (UT) def. Matthew Hogan (UA) 6-1, 6-3
Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Dmitry Lebedev (UA) 6-1, 6-2
Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. Nikolas Zogaj (UA) 7-5, 7-5
Gregoire Lehmann (UA) def. #95 Matt Brewer (UT) 6-3, 2-1(inj.)
Matteo Fago (UT) def. Matt Walters (UA) 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1
Order of finish: 1, 2*, 3
#1 Smith/Sandgren (UT) def. Hogan.Lebedev 8-2
R.Williams/Conkic (UT) def. Nott/Zogaj (UA) 8-2
Ed Jones/Matteo Fago (UT) def. Walters/Mike Ward (UA) 8-7(3)