OXFORD, Miss. – Five matches in 10 days for the Ole Miss men’s tennis team and so far so good, as the No. 4 Rebels battled No. 19 Baylor to a 4-2 win here Thursday on a beautiful day at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
The Rebels improved to 11-2 on the season, but they must regroup fast, as they welcome No. 10 Kentucky Friday at 1 p.m. for another big SEC match. It’s “Popped Collar Day” to honor head coach Billy Chadwick, who is in his 30th season with the Rebels. Anyone wearing their collar “popped” will receive free POPcorn and sodaPOP. Fans can also participate in POP culture trivia between doubles and singles.
Ole Miss captured the doubles point in a tiebreaker at No. 2, and then picked up a quick win at No. 6 singles from Adrian Forberg Skogeng to take a 2-0 lead. After Baylor tied it up, Nik Scholtz finished off a three-setter at one, and then Johan Backstrom clinched his second straight match at five to give the Rebels their eighth consecutive victory.
“This was a big win. Baylor is one of the top teams in the country, and we knew that coming in,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “I was impressed that we were able to find a way to get the doubles point and then to play really well at No. 6. Great to see Backy finish it out and of course Nik had to dig down deep. This team just fights from top to bottom, and that’s what we did again today.”
As Chadwick said, the Rebels found away to get the doubles point for the 10th time in 13 matches. After Baylor won at No. 3 doubles 8-2, Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen, ranked No. 6 in the nation, broke Baylor’s Tony Lupieri and Mate Zsiga to win that one 8-6. All eyes then turned to court two where Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark, now ranked No. 40 in the country, had just begun a tiebreaker against the Bear duo of Julian Lenz and Patrick Pradella. At 3-3, Lindmark and Backstrom won six straight points to take it 7-3 and clinch the point.
Forberg Skogeng made quick work of BU’s Roberto Maytin in the first set 6-1and then managed to get the second set 6-4 as the Rebels went ahead 2-0.
Baylor tied it up with wins on courts three and two in that order. Lupieri defeated Lindmark 6-3, 1-6, 6-0 at three. In a battle between two players very familiar with each other-both being from Germany-Pradella held off 13th-ranked Lutjen 6-4, 7-6(3) at two.
The remaining three matches all went three sets, including the No. 1 contest, which featured 14th-ranked Scholtz against 49th-ranked Lenz. Lenz won the first set 6-2, but Scholtz kept battling and actually had numerous break points in the second set. Each time Lenz would come up with the goods, and the two eventually went to a tiebreaker. Scholtz had four set points up 6-2 in the breaker, but Lenz got it back to 6-6 and was serving. Scholtz regrouped to win the final two points and the set 7-6(6). With momentum on his side, Scholtz broke to take a 3-1 lead in the third and went on to win it 6-2 to give the Rebels the 3-2 advantage.
Within moments of Scholtz winning his match, Backstrom finished off Baylor’s Marko Krickovic 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to clinch the 4-2 win.
“It was a huge team effort today,” Backstrom said. “We fought really hard from the beginning. Getting that doubles point was huge, two really close doubles matches and we managed to get them. I won the first set, but it was close with a lot of long games. It was a grind. In the second set, he got off to a good start and won the small battles. I got off to a good start in the third and managed to keep my lead all the way through. It was rough, but it was a lot of fun. It was an unbelievable match with the crowd and my friends and family here. It was so much fun.”
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