LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 9 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team defeated the No. 56 Indiana Hoosiers, 6-1, on Tuesday afternoon at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center behind winning the doubles point and five of the six singles matches played.
“Overall, this was a very good match for us today against an NCAA Tournament team,” second year head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “We have a lot of work to do in doubles play, still. We came out flat. We will probably look at changing our warm-up, but we didn’t come out to play and our No. 1 team is really carrying us right now.”
Kentucky (4-0) sealed the doubles point with wins on courts one and three to pick up the all-important point for the third time in the opening four matches of the year. Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai combined to win the match on court one, 6-1, over Sven Lalic and Dimitrije Tasic. Jomby and Lai never dropped serve in the match and broke on two different occasions to cap off the win.
Newcomer Nils Ellefsen teamed with senior Ryuji Hirooka to clinch the doubles point on court three, with a tiebreaker win at 9-7. Hirooka and Ellefsen were down abreak for most of the match, but fought back to force a tiebreak at five all. After falling behind early again, Hirooka and Ellefsen picked up the minibreak at 8-7 and an Ellefsen ace closed out the match.
With the 1-0 lead, Kentucky came out fired up in singles play, winning four of the opening six sets of play and putting themselves in great position early. The quickest to pick up the first set was Alejandro Gomez, who won his first set in 17 minutes at 6-2. After another quick set win at 6-2, Gomez quickly put Kentucky up over the Hoosiers, 2-0.
“This was a great match for Alejandro,” Kauffmann said. “He played as well as he could and he also played the best match of any of us today. I am really happy for him. He beat a really good player today and his opponent, Tasic, is a tough out. This will help his confidence going forward. I’m really proud of him.”
Jomby, ranked No. 68 in the nation, also had a solid match for the Wildcats, convincingly taking care of No. 80 Sven Lalic, 6-3, 6-0 in straight sets. Jomby was great with his power serve, only getting broken once in his eight service games, and recording five breaks of serve in the match. Jomby is 4-0 at the No. 1 position for the Wildcats and collected his 71st-career win on Tuesday.
“Another outstanding match for Tom,” Kauffmann said. “Tom is playing really well right now. He is not waiting on any points to come to him, and is really focusing in on every point. Great stuff out of Tom today and a good start to his season.”
After Kentucky pushed the lead to 3-0, Indiana (0-1) recorded its only point of the match with a three-set win on court four. Daniel Bednarczyk knocked off theWildcats’ Jerry Lopez 6-5 (6), 3-6, 6-3 to retract the Kentucky lead to 3-1. Lopez was down early in the second set, and fought his way back to win the last three games of the second set to force a decisive third set. Lopez dropped his serve early in the final set, and never was able to break.
“Jerry had a tough match today,” Kauffmann said. “After coming over here in January, I think Jerry is a little bit tired. We will get him some rest this week and we know that he will play better this weekend in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.”
Sophomore Beck Pennington clinched the match with a great three-set, come-from-behind win on court two, recording his first singles win of the season. Pennington played his fourth-straight tiebreak set of the season to open the match, falling 7-2 in the tiebreak. Pennington then exchanged service breaks in the second set and won another tight set in a tiebreak 7-4 to force a decisive third set. In the third, Pennington broke two times to win the set 6-2 and clinch the match for the Wildcats.
“Beck played well today,” Kauffmann said. “This was a good win for him coming from behind. He had some chances to win the first set, but we will get that cleaned up. I’m happy for him and the effort he showed to come from behind and win the match in three.”
Grant Roberts and Hirooka both saw no problems with their singles matches to finish out the day, as Roberts increased the Kentucky lead to 5-1 with a 6-2, 6-2 win, and Hirooka dominated the Hoosiers’ Chris Essick 6-2, 6-3 on court six to take the 6-1 win.
“Grant and Ryuji both played really well,” Kauffmann said. “Ryuji has played two really good matches in a row now, and I am proud of his continued growth.”
The win on Tuesday pushed Kentucky’s record to 4-0, and pushed Kentucky’s undefeated record against the Hoosiers to 7-0 since the 1997-98 season. TheWildcats are undefeated at home against their border rivals since the series resumed back in 1992-93.
“I was really proud of our singles effort today, and I thought overall we played well. We will have to come out with more intensity in the doubles this weekend against three really good teams in the ITA Kick-Off.” Kauffmann said.
Kentucky’s three-match homestand continues this weekend as it will host No. 29 Notre Dame, No. 39 Minnesota and No. 45 BYU for the annual Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Kick-Off Weekend, with a spot in the ITA National Indoor Championships on the line. UK faces BYU at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, with Minnesota and Notre Dame playing at 5 p.m. ET. The winners will play on Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET.