COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The University of Arkansas’ Blake Strode was knocked out of the NCAA Singles Championship with a semifinal loss to Mississippi’s Devin Britton, 7-6(9), 6-4 on Sunday.
“We have to give credit to Britton,” head Razorback coach Robert Cox said. “He served extremely well and anytime Blake had break points, Britton seemed to come up with a great serve. I take my hat off to Britton, he was very clutch when he needed to be.”
Shaky in the opening game of the match, Strode (25-12) allowed Britton (28-9) several break opportunities although he was able to come back and take the game for a 1-0 lead. The first break of the game came on the Rebel’s serve, putting fifteenth-seeded Strode up a break at 5-3. Faltering on the ensuing service game, Britton returned the break of serve and the two eventually headed into a first set tiebreak.
In the tiebreak, the two Southeastern Conference foes traded breaks early and often with Britton earning the last one for a 11-9 tiebreak win and the one set lead.
It was more of the same in the second set, although Strode appeared to have found his stride, earning several break chances in Britton’s first service game, although he was unable to convert them into a lead.
Broken at 3-4, Strode refused to back down, returning the break, down 3-5, to put the set back on serve. Yet, Britton had one more push in him, breaking Strode’s serve for the 6-4 set win and securing the match victory.
“Blake had a great run here this week and a fabulous career at Arkansas,” Cox said. “What a great young man Blake is. He gave this Arkansas Razorback team a great lift while he was here and it’s been great watching him compete and represent the Razorbacks so well over the years. We’re all so proud of him.”
Only the third Razorback to ever reach the NCAA semifinal round, Strode ends his career at Arkansas as a three-time All-SEC honoree with a double major in international economics. The three-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honoree will play professional tennis for a year before attending Harvard Law School.
“Being at Arkansas has been great,” Strode said. “I just want to thank all my teammates and my coaches for all their support. Coach Cox and (assistant) coach (Eduardo) Rincon have really helped me, especially in the last year, to get to where I am now.”
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