UA Drops 4-3 Heartbreaker to SMU in NCAA Tenni
BY ANDRES FOCIL
DALLAS, Texas – In a battle that came down to the third set of the final match of the day, the No. 8 Southern Methodist University Mustangs outlasted the No. 27 Arkansas Razorbacks and recorded a 4-3 win in the second round of the 2001 NCAA Tennis Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
The Hogs (16-10) battled the Mustangs (22-2) to the wire despite playing on the SMU campus.
With the victory, SMU advances to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Athens, Ga. while the Hogs turn their focus to the individual national championships set for later this month.
“It was a great college tennis match,” Arkansas head coach Robert Cox said. “We gave SMU everything they could handle on their home courts, but they found a way to win. You have to give them credit. But I’m proud of the way we played and the way these guys fought not just today, but all season long.”
Arkansas got off to a flying start capturing the doubles point by winning two of three doubles matches. The 26th-ranked UA doubles tandem of seniors Oskar Johansson and Henrik Tofft made quick work of SMU’s third-ranked duo of Jon Wallmark and Johan Brunstrom recording an 8-2 victory. Aleksey Bubis and Oggie Kolev clinched the doubles point for the Hogs with a 9-7 win over Genius Chidzikwe and Ryan Mauck.
“We played some unbelievable tennis in doubles,” Cox said. “SMU has had strong doubles play all year and we were able to get two out of three matches. That really gave us some momentum heading into the singles.”
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the momentum didn’t last long as the Hogs’ top player and the fourth-ranked singles player in the country, Oskar Johansson, injured his back in the second game of the first set of his match against sixth-ranked Chidzikwe. Johansson battled, but his injury was too much to overcome as the Malmoe, Sweden native fell in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 to even the score at 1-1.
The Mustangs took the lead 2-1 when Alexis Rudzinski downed UA junior Magnus Kullenberg 6-3, 6-3 in No. 4 singles play. SMU then took a 3-1 advantage with a 6-4, 6-4 win from Johan Brunstrom at No. 6 singles over Razorback sophomore Eddie Pacheco.
Arkansas wouldn’t go quietly however. Junior Oggie Kolev captured the first set in his match against Krystian Pfeiffer 7-6, but then dropped the second set to his SMU counterpart 5-7. The Sydney, Australia native battled back to take the third set 6-4 and tie the match at 3-3.
All eyes turned to the No. 2 singles match between UA senior Henrik Tofft and SMU senior Jon Wallmark. Tofft appeared to be on the ropes after dropping the first set 7-6 and falling behind in set two, but the 86th-ranked singles player in the nation rallied to win the second set 7-5.
Tofft had an early 4-1 lead over 30th-ranked Wallmark in the third set, but the SMU standout fed off the home crowd and vaulted himself to an emotional 7-5 third-set win clinching the individual match and team outcome for the Mustangs.
“If you would’ve said it would come down to the last set of the last match after Oskar got hurt, I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” Cox said. “Our guys just fought all day. In the end, Wallmark made some great shots down the stretch to win the final match. Henrik didn’t lose the match Wallmark won it. It was just their day today, but you can’t take anything away from our guys. They were outstanding.”
With the loss, Arkansas ends its season at 16-10. While the Razorbacks won’t advance to Athens, Ga. in team play, two UA individuals will travel to the NCAA Championships later this month.
Johansson will compete in the NCAA singles draw. Johansson will also team with Tofft in the doubles bracket.
“It says a lot about this team to have both a singles and doubles entry at the NCAA Championships,” Cox said. “It will take a little bit of time to get over this tough team loss, but I think both of them will be ready to go when it is time to play. They are both seniors and want to end their collegiate careers on a high note.”
No. 8 SMU 4, No. 27 Arkansas 3
Haggar Tennis Stadium
No. 1 – Genius Chidzikwe (SMU) d. Oskar Johansson (UA) 6-1, 6-4
No. 2 – Jon Wallmark (SMU) d. Henrik Tofft (UA) 7-6, 5-7, 7-5
No. 3 – Oggie Kolev (UA) d. Krystian Pfeiffer (SMU) 7-6, 5-7, 6-4
No. 4 – Alexis Rudzinski (SMU) d. Magnus Kullenberg (UA) 6-3, 6-3
No. 5 – Aleksey Bubis (UA) d. Lukasz Senczyszyn (SMU) 7-5, 6-3
No. 6 – Johan Brunstrom (SMU) d. Eddie Pacheco (UA) 6-4, 6-4
No. 1 – Johansson/Tofft (UA) d. Wallmark/Brunstrom (SMU) 8-2
No. 2 – Bubis/Kolev (UA) d. Chidzikwe/Ryan Mauck (SMU) 9-7
No. 3 – Pfeiffer/Senczyszyn (SMU) d. Kullenberg/Pacheco (UA) 8-5
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