By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
In a familiar matchup of longtime Big 12 conference rivals, the Texas Longhorns got the best of the Baylor Men’s Tennis team on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 matchup in Athens, Ga.
After losing the regular season battle 4-1 to the Bears, the Longhorns returned the favor, eliminating Baylor 4-1 and ending its season.
In the doubles circuit, the Longhorns jumped out early with a 6-1 set victory at the No. 2 spot. The Bears responded on court No. 3 with the team of senior Max Tchoutakian and freshman Bjoern Petersen breaking a 3-3 tie to win the final three games and take the set 6-3. Sophomore Juan Benitez and sophomore Will Little then clinched the doubles point for Baylor by holding serve at love and claiming the set 6-4.
Baylor head coach Matt Knoll said the doubles looked strong from the opening gate, but the excitement of winning the first point may have led to a hangover in play entering the singles portion of competition.
“I am proud of our doubles,” Knoll said. “We might have been a little bit over-juiced after the doubles. You know it’s one point and I feel like we put a lot into it and did well, but then didn’t really get off to a good start in singles. Their guys are good. We knew that coming in.”
In singles, Baylor was no match for Texas as the Bears fell behind early and often as holding serve became a major issue.
Knoll said his team’s inability to settle in early led to a difficult battle against Texas in the singles competition.
“The guys just didn’t settle in early, but some of them got back in there and had some chances, but again they were just too good,” Knoll said. “In a lot of areas we weren’t very poised. That is part of going through the process of becoming a championship team.”
Texas tied the match at one after Petersen was only able to take one game in losing 6-0, 6-1 on court No. 4.
After being a bright spot for the Bears in their two victories last weekend, Little was the next to fall, losing 6-1, 6-4 on court No. 5.
On court No. 2 Tchoutakian dropped the opening set 6-3 then battled in the second to a 5-5 tie before ultimately getting his serve broken and losing 7-5, putting Texas up 3-1.
Benitez was the final domino to fall for Baylor, dropping a 7-6, 6-3 match on court No. 1.
Baylor finishes the team portion 23-8. Although the loss to a conference rival is not the way that Knoll and the Bears intended to go out, Knoll said he still believes the season was a memorable one and something they can build off of moving forward.
“I am really proud of the guys. What a great season we had. We started off ranked low and we worked our way up,” Knoll said. “We got better and better and I think it sets a great foundation for next year with all of these guys coming back. We are going to try and be better.”
Benitez, Tchoutakian and sophomore Johannes Schretter will compete in the NCAA Singles Championships while Benitez and Little will participate in the NCAA Doubles Championships as well.