Men’s tennis caps BNP championship with comeback over USC

Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

With Baylor baseball off to its best start in years at 16-4 and ranked No. 15 in the country and softball opening the season 25-5 and shooting its way through the NCAA rankings, both teams have been focal points thus far in the spring.

However, the Baylor men’s tennis team is putting together an impressive season of their own. The Bears are 16-4 and find themselves at No. 6 in the country.

Perhaps Baylor’s most impressive feat of the season came over the weekend when it rallied to beat No. 7 USC 4-3 to claim the 2017 BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Palm Springs, Calif.

The Bears rallied from a 3-0 deficit to clinch the victory over the Trojans.

Baylor head coach Matt Knoll said this win shows the team’s toughness and will be a great building block moving forward.

“It was a match that was really good for us, and I would have said that had we lost. I think it was a tough, hard-fought match,” Knoll said. “I am really pleased with how much we are improving. I think we are a way better team than we were even a week ago. This has been a real good week for us in terms of our preparation before we came out here. I feel like we are heading in the right direction and continuing to improve.”

USC claimed the point for the doubles competition as the No. 1 doubles team of sophomore Juan Benitez and redshirt sophomore Will Little for Baylor were upset by the Trojans’ freshmen Brandon Holt and Riley Smith 6-4. Baylor senior Max Tchoutakian and freshman Constantin Frantzen dropped the second doubles’ set 6-4.

In singles play, Baylor once again found itself playing catch up against the Trojans. Both sophomore Jimmy Bendeck and Frantzen were defeated in straight sets, giving USC what seemed to be an insurmountable lead heading into the final few matches.

Down 3-0, Baylor began to find its groove.

It started with sophomore Johannes Schretter downing Trojans senior Nick Crystal 6-4, 6-3. Benitez then put the doubles disappointment aside to take down Holt in three sets, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Little also got back on the horse after falling in doubles to put together a straight sets win over junior Thibault Forget 6-3, 7-5.

With the score now tied at 3, the tournament championship fell on the racket of Tchoutakian as he battled with the No. 45 singles player in sophomore Logan Smith.

Smith got an early break in the first set to cruise to a 6-3 win. Tchoutakian quickly evened the match, capturing a double break en route to a 6-1 win in the second. Tchoutakian then got the break of serve with the set tied at three games apiece. He was then able to hold serve twice to close out the match and complete the comeback for Baylor.

Matt Knoll said there was no greater feat for a senior to be able to close out such a huge match.

“I am really proud of Max. It was his first time to clinch in that situation. That is really special for any player,” Knoll said. “We talk about that a lot. We want every guy walking up to every match hoping they get to be in that position. It is a really special thing as a college tennis player to be last match on with both teams cheering. I am really happy for Max that he got that opportunity as a senior and did a great job.”

With the victory over USC, Baylor completed a sweep of three ranked teams in three days. The Bears defeated No. 13 California 4-0 and No. 33 SMU 4-1 to advance to the championship round.

Baylor was also able to avenge a 4-2 loss to USC back on Feb. 19.

The Bears will return home for a dual-match doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Hurd Tennis Center. Baylor will take on Memphis first at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. against Prairie View A&M.