By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer
No. 12 Baylor men’s tennis has advanced to the ITA Indoor Championships for the 12th-straight time after a pair of hard fought ITA Kickoff Weekend tournament wins.
Baylor opened up the weekend with a 4-2 win in chilly weather against Arizona State University on Friday evening at the Hurd Tennis Center.
In the first round of the tournament, the Bears (5-1) came out hot and took the doubles point before snatching singles wins from sophomore Marko Miladinović on court three, sophomore Ethan Muza on court six and junior Tadeas Paroulek on court two.
All eyes were glued to Paroulek as he battled back from losing the first set 6-3, to taking back-to-back sets 6-1 and 6-2 to clinch the match for the Bears and advance to the second round against No. 9 Florida State University.
All momentum was on the Bears’ side against ASU and head coach Michael Woodson was excited to see his team matching the energy of a packed out stadium.
“We talk about looking like you’re winning, which sounds silly but it really matters,” Woodson said on Friday. “What Marko did in the middle, what Ethan did in the end in singles, what Luc [Koenig] did in doubles; We were winning, but we looked like we were flying way above the competition. That is infectious. It picks our guys up and it pulls the other team down, and it gets the crowd involved.”
After weathering the conditions Friday night, the Bears’ match against FSU (5-1) was moved to the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center on Saturday night. The green and gold showed out in front of a standing-room only crowd.
Baylor continued its dominant doubles play at home and stayed undefeated after the No. 3 duo of fifth-year senior Finn Bass and senior Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi beat down on FSU to grab the doubles point before singles play.
In singles play, Miladinović made quick work for the second-straight night, as he took down his opponent in back to back 6-1 sets.
The Bears then gained their third point on court five after freshman Zsombor Velcz won a tiebreaker in the first set 7-6(3) before he turned on the jets in the second, winning by a score of 6-3.
After Bass and Mazzuchi dropped their singles matches, the Bears looked for one final point. Once again, the match of the day was on court two as Paroulek went to three sets again, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and came aways with the winning point after a well-placed return forced his opponent to hit the ball out of bounds.
“I feel we were just tougher than them,” Paroulek said. “I was cramping, too. Some people were saying we were underdogs [in] this match even though we were playing [at] home. So we are glad we proved a lot of people wrong.”
Following an eruption from the crowd and a dogpile on the court, the Bears walked away with their 24th-consecutive win in the ITA Kickoff Weekend and extended their home winning streak to 13.
“They love each other more than any other team in the country,” Woodson said. “I would go as far as to say that. So, when we talk about how it’s going to get hard somewhere, and things aren’t going to go exactly as expected, you have to keep going.
“Off the court, stay focused. On the court, stay focused. Doesn’t matter if you’re 6-0, 5-0, keep fighting. Stay out there as long as you can, and we saw that.”
Baylor will be back in action at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center on Friday versus No. 4 University of Michigan.