By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor Men’s Tennis is headed back to the NCAA tournament round of 16.
After failing to make it out of its opening regional a year ago, Baylor tennis looked strong in defeating Lamar 4-0 on Friday in the opening round and 4-0 Cornell Saturday in the second round.
In the opening round on Saturday, No. 1 Baylor Men’s Tennis was tested but defeated the No. 4 seed in the Waco regional Lamar 4-0 at the Hurd Tennis Center.
Baylor head coach Matt Knoll said his team handled the difficult conditions extremely well in advancing to the second round.
“You can’t expect to play your best tennis on a day like today,” Knoll said. “The conditions were not easy, and they did a good job managing that.”
The Bears claimed the doubles point as the No. 2 position doubles team of senior Max Tchoutakian and freshman Bjoern Petersen scored an early break in running away with their set 6-2. The No. 3 position team of sophomore Johannes Schretter and freshman Constantin Frantzen got the break of serve with the set tied 5-5. Schretter then served the set out to win 7-5, clinching the point for the Bears.
In the singles circuit, it was the outer courts that served the Bears well against Lamar.
Playing on court No. 5, sophomore Will Little earned the first singles point for the Bears with a 6-3, 6-3 win.
Little found himself cruising in the second set, up 5-0 when Lamar junior Benny Schweizer then reeled off three straight games and pushed Little to deuce in his service game before the sophomore finally put him away.
Little said that after not playing for two weeks, it was good to finish strong even if he didn’t get off to a fast start.
“It’s okay to start a little bit slow as long as you finish alright,” Little said. “I hadn’t played in almost two weeks and it was a little windy. But, I’m hitting the ball great.”
Immediately following Little’s clinching point, on court No. 3, directly adjacent to Little, Schretter earned the second singles point for the Bears playing from the third singles position.
Schretter ran away with the first set 6-1, after breaking senior Jeandre Hoogenboezem all four times he served. He jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set before dropping three straight games and saving a game point that would have put the match back on serve. Schretter then was able to hold serve to close out the match.
Frantzen earned the clinching point for the Bears, 6-3, 6-3 from the sixth position out on court six.
In the second round on Saturday, the Bears were a lot sharper against Cornell —something that according to Knoll, was a result of their focus.
“You know it was just a matter of focusing a little bit better, executing a little bit better, moving a little bit better, taking their time, being in their routines, doing all the things we talk about all the time and just doing a better job of it,” Knoll said. “Much better tennis match today.”
Sophomore Jimmy Bendeck and Schretter at the No. 2 spot helped the Bears secure the doubles point with a 6-1 win over Cornell freshman Lez Kazakov and sophomore David Volfson.
Tchoutakian and Peterson secured the point for Baylor with a 6-3 win on court No. 3 against sophomore Juan Jose Rosas and senior Bernardo Casares.
Tchoutakian said the key to the team’s success in the singles competition was the energy they opened with during doubles.
“We started off in doubles really good,” Tchoutakian said. “We were all pumped and we came out with a lot of energy, and that helped us a lot throughout the singles.”
It was straight set victories across the board for Baylor in the singles competition. Sophomore Juan Benitez took charge from the top position with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Volfson.
On court No. 6, after not competing in singles in the first round, Bendeck downed Casares 6-4, 6-3 to bring Baylor within one point of closing out the Big Red.
The final point came on the far end of the court, on No. 5 as Little kept up his solid play from the day before in beating freshman Pietro Rimondini 6-3, 6-3 to send the Bears to the round of 16.
The first two rounds have served as redemption for Little as he missed most of the 2016 season with injury.
“For me personally, it just means the world to me, because I fought so hard in the offseason to get back,” Little said. “I could have easily quit, but I decided to put my head down and just keep working. So, this today means a lot to me.”
Baylor will now travel to Athens, Ga. for a Round of 16 matchup against a familiar foe, No. 10 Texas.
Baylor defeated Texas 4-1 in Austin back on April 12 but with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line, this is the one that counts.
The Bears and Longhorns will meet again beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.