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NCAA road leads Strode to semifinals

BY ANDRES FOCIL
NCAA road leads Strode to semifinals

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – University of Arkansas senior Blake Strode will make his first appearance in the NCAA Singles Championship semifinal round on Sunday after upsetting No. 10-seed, and host-school favorite, Texas A&M’s Conor Pollock in three sets Saturday, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

“It was an outstanding tennis match today,” head Razorback coach Robert Cox said. “Blake never got discouraged and kept fighting through the entire match. Pollock presented him with several opportunities and Blake took advantage of them.”

A three-time All-Southeastern Conference honoree, Strode is only thethird Razorbackto ever reach the Final Four of the NCAA Singles Championship. Former Razorback All-Americans Joey Blake (1986) and Marcus Hilpert (1994) advanced to the semifinals.

His serve jumping off his racket in the opening set, fifteenth-seeded Strode (26-11) got his first break of serve tied at 3-3. Strode earned his second break off Pollock’s (30-14) serve at 5-3 to take the one set lead without allowing a break of his serve.

The two foes continued to challenge each other in the second set, with Strode making the only mistake in the set, a break of serve with the score tied at 3-3. Pollock rode that break and five service games to even the match at one set apiece and force a third and final set.

“It was a big match for Blake and he showed great poise and was never discouraged during the match,” Cox said. “Pollock is a great player who is capable of anything. He’s had a great season and we knew how tough he would be.”

As they did in the early sets, the Aggie and the Hog stayed with each other, Pollock earning the first break of serve at 1-1 only to drop his next service game.

It appeared the match would come down to a third set tiebreaker until Strode, up 5-4, surged ahead 40-30 with Pollock serving, earning the match point which he converted for the win.

“Today was a great win for Blake and hopefully he can continue to play as well as he has up to this point,” Cox said.

It will be a Southeastern Conference showdown in the semifinal match on Sunday when Strode takes on Mississippi’s No. 2 singles player, Devin Britton.

“Tomorrow will be another great match for Blake against a very talented Ole Miss player,” Cox said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Britton, unseeded at the tournament but ranked No. 30 in the country, is a familiar face for Strode, though the two have never played each other. Britton, who finished the regular season 23-9, defeated Hog Chris Nott in the Rebels’ 5-2 victory over the Razorbacks in the regular season.

Sunday’s match is set for10 a.m.at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the Texas A&M campus.

For updated results and live video coverage from the 2009 NCAA Singles Championships, log on to http://www.aggieathletics.com/ncaa2009/tennis/index.html.

For more information and for complete coverage of Arkansas men’s tennis, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.



Sports Category : Tennis (M)