By Phillip Ericksen
In a high-intensity event involving a rain delay, sportsmanship warnings and the biggest win of the season for the Baylor men’s tennis team, the No. 38 Bears defeated the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats 6-1 Friday at the Jim and Nell Hawkins Tennis Facility.
This win brings the Bears to 10-1 this season and extends their win streak to eight.
The match began with a thirty-minute rain delay and a change of venue from the Hurd Tennis Center to the indoor facility.
In doubles play, the 53rd-ranked team of freshman Julian Lenz and junior Patrick Pradella won two early breaks and the rest of the match 8-4.
The win to clinch the doubles point came from the team of sophomore Marko Krickovic and sophomore Diego Galeano. After winning a break at 4-3, the Bears won another to take a 6-4 lead after an emphatic volley from Krickovic. The final match score was 8-4.
The last match on Court 1 was unfinished but held a fair share of drama. The team of sophomore Tony Lupieri and sophomore Mate Zsiga, taking on the 19th-ranked team of Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai, won an early break but then lost it, resulting in a 5-5 game count. The game featured multiple deuces and both teams angrily questioning calls from the referee. Both teams held serve for the remainder of the match.
The five singles winners were, in chronological order, Tony Lupieri, No. 78 Mate Zsiga, No. 43 Julian Lenz, No. 77 Marko Krickovic and No. 122 Patrick Pradella.
Lenz defeated No. 18 Tom Jomby, who stands much taller than Lenz at 6-feet-6 inches, with a final score of 6-4, 7-5.
“I’m not thinking about the guys, how they are ranked,” Lenz said. “We just focus on playing one point at a time. It doesn’t matter who we are playing, just keep focusing on your game. The main thing why we are here at college is to win as many games as possible, but we also want to see a process, and we are all in a process right now and we’re just focusing on getting better.”
Lenz hit a forceful forehand winner to take a 5-3 lead in the first set and went on to win it 6-4. A visibly upset Jomby struggled at the beginning of the second set, losing the first break. He came back, however, to tie the second set at 5-5. Lenz then broke him and served out the last game, clinching the fourth win and victory for the Bears.
“He certainly played with a big heart today and fought his tail off and did a good job to get the win,” head coach Matt Knoll said of Lenz.
Tony Lupieri won 6-2, 6-3 on court 3, hitting a variety of strong ground strokes and winners in a strong victory.
No. 78 Mate Zsiga dominated his opponent 6-1, 6-3 and No. 77 Marko Krickovic won 6-3, 7-6 (0).
No. 122 Patrick Pradella continued his match with No. 21 Anthony Rossi on court 1 after the victory was already clinched for Baylor. In the choppy third set, a line judge gave fans behind the court two warnings, the second significantly harsher, for showing poor sportsmanship. A number of questionable calls from the referee led to the incident.
Nevertheless, Padrella held on for a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) upset over Rossi.
The Bears will take on the No. 2 UCLA Bruins at noon Sunday at the Hurd Tennis Center and the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers at 3:00 Monday at the same location.
“These are the two best teams in the country that we’re going to play now,” Knoll said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us to bounce back and play another good match in a couple days. We have a ton of respect for UCLA. That’s all we’re thinking about right now. They beat the tar out of us last year, so we’re going to have to step it up.”