By Cody Soto
No. 6 Baylor men’s tennis bounced back after its loss on Wednesday to roll over No. 61 Tulane 4-0 at the Hurd Tennis Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Bears are coming off a tough 4-3 loss to No. 11 Illinois after Baylor went up 3-1 in the match before dropping the final three singles matches.
“Tulane competed hard. They’re a well-coached team and really came at us,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “Nothing was easy, but I thought we came through pretty well. With the shorter format [of non-conference matches], our guys have really embraced the dynamic of coming out and playing a short set to six games. They’ve come in really pumped up and the energy is set. They’ve shown a lot it today.”
Senior Mate Zsiga and sophomore Max Tchoutakian swept their opponents on court three to easily win 6-0 in doubles play to start out the match. Senior Diego Galeano and junior Julian Lenz were able to shake off losing the first game and cruised to a 6-2 win on court one, giving Baylor the 1-0 lead heading into singles play.
Galeano rested and did compete in a singles match, so freshman Juan Benitez was the No. 6 spot on the Bears’ roster.
While several games were a lot more heated, senior Tony Lupieri took a 6-3, 6-3 win over Alex Van Cott on court three to earn a point for his team. Lupieri captured three out of the last four games to win the match in two sets.
“I just came out as always with a lot of energy, and I think I played well,” Lupieri said. “However, there are a couple of things I can improve on. My serve wasn’t good enough today but overall it was good. I’m happy that we won today and we will be better tomorrow.”
Tchoutakian was the second to finish but did it after holding off Tulane’s Sebastian Rey in the first set after he was up 5-4. A service ace by Tchoutakian ended the second set as he took the match 7-5, 6-3 to inch Baylor closer to the victory.
While three out of four games remaining went to a third and final set, Benitez fought off the possibility of extending the match as he fought back in the second set after being down 5-2. The Medellin, Columbia native forced a second set tiebreaker where he drilled a cross-court shot to win the match 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) and earn the final point for the Bears. The win was Benitez’s first collegiate match as a Baylor Bear.
“I heard a lot of noise [on court one], and that’s what you want to hear,” Knoll said. “We love Juan and love having him in our program. The guy is a fighter. He’s plays in the moment, and I’m really happy for him.”
No. 5-ranked Lenz was having some trouble on court four as he faced No. 9 Dominik Koepfer. While he is used to being on top, Lenz dropped the opening set 6-2 and was forced to fight back in the next few sets.
“If you look at [Tulane’s Dominik Koepfer’s] ranking, that guy is really good,” Knoll said. “He did some things that made Julian uncomfortable, and Julian was confused.”
The Giessen, Germany native took a 6-3 win in set two to force a third set and led in set three 2-1 before the match was won by Benitez.
“Once we were able to get some clarity of the patterns that he needed to play, then we were in good shape,” Knoll said. “It was a great match for Julian because he was pushed outside his comfort zone, and he still maintained his concentration and poise.”
As part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the Bears will face either No. 40 Drake or No. 52 Miami tomorrow. If the Bears win, they will earn a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Chicago, Ill. on Feb. 13-16. First serve is set for 3 p.m. at the Hurd Tennis Center tomorrow afternoon.