LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 14 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team used a magnificent comeback in the doubles point, two straight-set wins in singles, and a come-from-behind, three-set singles win from No. 13 Tom Jomby to catapult past No. 1 Ohio State, beating a top-ranked team for just the fourth time in school history, on Wednesday afternoon at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.
Wednesday’s win marks just the fourth time in program history that the Wildcats have recorded a win over the nation’s top-ranked team. Kentucky previously had dethroned No. 1 Georgia, 5-4, in 1986, No. 1 Stanford, 5-3 in 1989 and mostrecently a 4-3 win over No. 1 Stanford in 1997. The win for Kentucky is itsthird all season against a top-10 team, as UK has previously knocked off No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Texas A&M earlier in the regular season.
“You always get excited to play the No. 1 team in the country,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “I thought the first 20 minutes of the doubles were not very good. I was a little worried. It may have been nerves, I don’t know, but I thought we were ready to play in the warmups. I thought the doubles point was going to be very important.”
In the doubles point, things were looking bleak for Kentucky in the early going, falling behind at least one break on all three courts within the first fivegames of each match. The largest discrepancy on the scoreboard was on courttwo, where Hunter Callahan and Chris Diaz of Ohio State found themselves leading Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez 5-0 inside the first 20 minutes of the match. Pennington and Hirooka then battled back to get the match level at 5-5 and even found themselves leading 7-6 and serving for the match just a handful of minutes later.
Leading 7-6, Gomez and Pennington were broken after a match point, and the match would be decided by a tiebreak after Ohio State had already clinched an 8-4 win on court one. In the tiebreak, Pennington and Gomez were down 4-6 before rallying to save a match point, and won the final four points of the match to take it 8-6.
On court three, Ryuji Hirooka and Nils Ellefsen were also down a break early, and battled back to force a tiebreak to decide the doubles point after 75 minutes worth of doubles action. After taking the 3-0 lead and collecting the mini-break in the opening point, Hirooka served out the final and clinchingpoint with a serve and volley, giving Kentucky the tiebreak, 7-4.
“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole early, but were able to fight back and win the match.” Nils Ellefsen said.
“It was a good momentum-builder for us to win the doubles point,” Hirooka said. “I am really happy that we were able to come out with the win not only in our doubles match, but the match overall as a team.”
By winning the doubles point, Kentucky went up 1-0 overall in the match, and took a stranglehold on the lead, as the Wildcats have now won the doubles point in five of the last seven matches this season.
In singles, Kentucky won two first sets, with courts two and three leading blue, with courts one, four, five and six all going the Buckeyes’ way after the opening frame. Kentucky would need to flip a court in order to be able to complete the upset, and court one was the clinching court for Kentucky.
UK took an early 2-0 lead overall in the match as No. 95 Alejandro Gomez quickly threw a point up for Kentucky with a straight-sets 6-2, 6-2 win on court two to increase the Wildcats’ lead. Gomez broke early in both sets, including right off the top of the second set and broke to bookend the set, and collect a 6-2, 6-2 win. The win for the No. 95 ranked player in the nation was Gomez’s fifth this season over a ranked opponent.
Freshman Nils Ellefsen fell on court six in straight sets, 6-0, 6-3, after battling back from down 0-3 in the second set to push things to 3-3 back on serve in the second stanza and even the second set up. The Oslo, Norway, native then wasbroken right back and lost the set, 6-3 – and the match.
Kentucky’s lead would be increased to 3-1 overall when Beck Pennington would record another win for the Wildcats on court three, where he has been dominant allseason long. With the win, the sophomore is now 12-7 on the season, and 8-1 in Southeastern Conference action this season. Pennington notched a 6-4, 6-4 win on Wednesday afternoon. The Bowling Green, Ky., native broke to start off the match and raced out to a 3-0 lead in the opening set. After a couple of service breaks, and facing a few break points, Pennington closed out the opening set 6-4. Pennington would jump up another early break at 4-1 in the second set,before his opponent, Chris Diaz, broke at 4-3 for the 4-4 score in the second frame. Pennington then promptly broke back at 5-4 and served out the match at love for the 6-4, 6-4 win.
The match would then come down to Kentucky needing one more court, with No. 13 Tom Jomby, senior Grant Roberts and freshman Jerry Lopez all still alive in their matches.
On court five, Grant Roberts was one of the two players that UK boasts that lost their first set, but flipped their court, and forced a third set. Roberts dropped the opening set 3-6, before winning the second set 6-1 to force a third set. Roberts and his opponent, Ralf Steinbach, broke each other all six games of the final set, as the match was stopped at 3-3 and Roberts serving in the final set. Roberts was serving, and up 40-0 looking good to hold at the time of the clinch.
“I was really proud of Grant today,” Kauffmann said. “He is playing a lot better with a lot more confidence and he is one of the key players for us down thestretch. I thought he was going to win that match with the smart tennis he was playing in the second and third set. We’re really proud of Grant today for fighting.”
On court six, Jerry Lopez, a freshman from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, did not see his match finish either, as it was stopped in the second stanza. Lopez, and his opponent, No. 104 Kevin Metka did not exchange any service breaks in the opening set until the tiebreak, as Metka won the tiebreak, 7-1. In the second set, Lopez was down a break at 3-4 before breaking back to put the second set back on frame at the time of the clinch for Kentucky.
Court one would be the deciding match, as No. 13 Tom Jomby, the senior from Nantes, France, came up with another clutch moment for the Wildcats, flipping his first set result, and taking down No. 9 Peter Kobelt, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
“I talked to everybody that lost their first sets,” Kauffmann said. “I talked and we had two win a third set to be able to win this match. I talked to Tom and I told him that it might come down to you, and it may not. I think he understood, looked at the scoreboard, settled down and I think he played a little smarter also.”
Jomby broke in the second and third sets quite early with his power serving and smart shotmaking, outdueling Kobelt from the baseline in the later stages of the match. Jomby broke at 2-1 in the final set to take the 3-1 lead, and then broke again at 4-1 to take the 5-1 lead, and gain the double-break advantage, guaranteeing himself two chances to serve not only for his singles match, but the overall match as well.
Ohio State’s Kobelt served out a hold after falling behind 15-30 at 1-5, and forced Jomby to serve for it all. Jomby then held at love, serving out the final point with a huge serve that Kobelt was barely able to get his racquet on, and clinch the 4-1 win for the Wildcats, and a 6-2 third-set win for the senior. With the win on Wednesday, Jomby has now knocked off three top-10 ranked singles players this season, and upped his 2014 record to 17-5 overall, and collecting his 95th-career win.
“This was an awesome win for the team,” Jomby said. “We got off to a little bit of a rough start, but we were able to fight. After the first set, I looked up and saw that (Alejandro) Gomez and (Beck) Pennington were going to win their matches, so I knew if I could win the third set, I would be able to clinch the match. This gave us great motivation and confidence to get this win. I’m really proud of the team.”
Kentucky will return to Southeastern Conference action on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center against No. 35 South Carolina.
“We’re just going to take this one match at a time. We’ll play Morehead State later tonight first. I think physically, that’s going to be the most important thing. We’re playing five matches in six days, so we’re going to have to take care of our bodies and all of that stuff. I told them in the locker room that we can beat a team like Ohio State, but we can also go down to South Carolina at home. We always have to be prepared.”
UK beat Morehead State in the second match of the day, knocking off Morehead State, 4-0.